Secondary Character Saturday — John Thornton (North and South)

First, let me be clear, the North and South of which I speak is the wonderful Victorian novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, not the 1980’s mini series about the Civil War. If you haven’t read it do yourself a favor and put it on your reading list… Click HERE for the free Guttenberg file to read on-line or HERE for the Kindle file


Richard Armitage played John Thornton in the 2008 BBC miniseries North and South.

Richard Armitage played John Thornton in the 2005 BBC miniseries North and South.

Who: John Thornton

From: North and South

Written by: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Date of Publication: 1855

Why: John Thornton is a self-made man whose stoic exterior conceals a heart waiting for the love of the right woman. He has spent his life building a business and taking care of his mother and sister. He’s the owner of a mill in the fictional city of Milton in northern England. He has “never loved any woman before.” His “life has been to busy,” his “thoughts too much absorbed with other things.” But, when a beautiful young woman, Margaret Hale, comes to the city from the rural, gentrified, south  the walls of indifference he has built up around his heart begin to tumble.  …Are the two of them so different in manners and customs…(and is their timing too flawed) for love to bloom?

Pros: Strong, loyal, generous, disciplined, intense, genuinely concerned with both his worker’s health and the mill’s financial viability.

Cons: Hot tempered and initially inflexible with his workers. Bad timing.

Shining Moment: During a strike against the mill (it’s a town-wide strike) he has brought in Irish workers to run the mill. When the town’s workers hear about the scabs they storm the mill. Thornton protects the Irish workers, and, at Margaret’s urging, attempts to talk to the rioters and calm them.  (ALSO: the ending, but I wont give that away.)

Least Shining Moment: When Margaret first see’s Thornton. He’s in the mill and has caught a worker smoking. The slightest flame can set the entire works ablaze and he beats the worker for his carelessness.



Click here to read my Elizabeth Gaskell Thought of the Day.


And you should really watch the 2005 BBC mini series of North and South. (Which has the added bonus of co-starring Brendan Coyle — Downton Abbey’s Mr. Bates — as mill worker Nicholas Higgins.)


About ritalovestowrite

Freelance writer, graphic designer, musician, foodie and Jane Austen enthusiast in Northern Baltimore County, Maryland. As a writer I enjoy both fiction and non fiction (food, travel and local interest stories.) As an advocate for the ARTS, one of my biggest passions is helping young people find a voice in all the performing arts. To that end it has been my honor to give one-on-one lessons to elementary, middle and high school students in graphic design and music. And as JANE-O I currently serve as the regional coordinator for JASNA Maryland and am working on a Regency/Federal cooking project. View all posts by ritalovestowrite

3 responses to “Secondary Character Saturday — John Thornton (North and South)

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