|Posted by S.M. Carrière on October 2, 2013 at 12:00 AM|
Good morning, Readers!
In case you are interested, I'm currently listening to THIS song. It took me a while to get used to it, but now it's one of my favourites of the whole Illusions album.
Well, I decided (or rather, my brain did) that I wasn't up for any kind of work yesterday, so I gave myself some much needed time away from the rush of everything of late. I relaxed by watching the period drama North & South. Again. For the third time in as many days.
Don't judge me.
Alright, judge me.
Oddly enough, I am the least romantic person I know. Genuinely. I think flowers are pretty, but profoundly useless sorts of gifts. They don't thrill me. I dislike holding hands, and any overt displays of adoration make me really, really, really uncomfortable. When couples get all cutesy with each other in my company, my first reaction is to gag. I don't read romantic novels, generally. They make me roll my eyes. Romantic comedies on film are worse. I roll my eyes so frequently I end up making myself dizzy.
I'm not a romantic person.
That said, I have watched and even liked a couple of period romances. Pride & Prejudice (with Colin Firth as Mr. D'Arcy) was the first one I ever watched. I went in with very low expectations and found myself pleasantly surprised. It was bearable. I only rolled my eyes once or twice (Bridget Jone's Diary, based on Pride & Prejudice, did not fair so well. I just didn't like it). It was alright. For a romance.
North & South, the second period romance I've watched pulled me in completely. I never once rolled my eyes. I figured, since I have some time this morning, I would compare the two, because why not?
This might be a long post. Sorry.
Disclaimer: I have not read the books in either case. I'm comparing the for-television (available on netflicks) mini-series based on each book. I'm certain, as with most things, the books are far superior.
Let's get on with it, shall we?
In case you haven't noticed, I much prefer North & South to Pride & Prejudice. There are a few reasons why, and not one has to do with the script or the acting. They were absolutely wonderful in both productions.
Both also suffered from one of the things I hate most about romance stories: they're both terribly formulaic. All romances everywhere, it seems, are written with exactly the same basic plot. The protagonists meet, develop an immediate dislike of one another, love blossoms regardless (and often against their own wishes), both parties are warned away from one another by overbearing family/friends, they end up together despite everything and it's happily ever after... as if marriage is the goal (yawn).
That is the plot of every romance ever. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.
So, now that I've spoiled the plot of both (really, if you couldn't see it for yourself, you have no one else to blame), let's talk about what really drives each story - the characters - and why I found North & South to be much more compelling.
In Pride & Prejudice, the heroine is Miss Elizabeth Bennet (wonderfully played by the absolutely beautiful Jennifer Ehle).
(Image courtesy of Inside Australia)
She is a gentleman's daughter; a bright, lively and intelligent girl with a fondness for reading. She loves her family very much. Her father married outside of the gentlemanly class for love. As a result, they do not have very much money and are not viewed quite so well by other members of the class. I can relate to her love of books and the worries of money that she takes upon herself. I can also relate to her desire to marry for love, even if it means that the family will be less secure.
The heroine of North & South is Miss Margaret Hale (equally as excellently portrayed by the equally as beautiful (seriously, is there something in the water in the U.K.?) Daniela Denby-Ashe).
(Image courtesy of Cindy Swan's Life)
This yound lady is the only daughter of a former clergyman, who is uprooted from her beloved country home in the south by her father, and moved to a dirty and desperate industrial town in the north. On a now very limited income, she gets to work, helping the family's only servant do the chores. She also makes friends amongst the working class, handing out food and coin in their most desperate times. She braves an angry mob to defend someone and displays a general disinterest in marriage at present - there are more pressing concerns. SPOILER ALERT: before the end of the series, she has seen a great deal of death and sorrow.
I'm not saying that Elizabeth Bennet is not a wonderful character, but I found I could relate to Margaret Hale much more. She is fierce in her convictions, brave and compassionate. Though she finds herself in difficult circumstances, she pulls herself up by her boot straps and gets to work to improve the world around her, both in her home and outside of it. I admire that a great deal.
Mr. D'Arcy, played by the most excellent Colin Firth (Image courtesy of Silver Petticoat Review)
Here is where the greatest disparity lies for me. Mr. D'Arcy, the hero of Pride & Prejudice is a gentlemen of great wealth. He has an enormous estate in the country and plent of income. He wants for nothing, and is protective of his friends and family; particularly his younger sister, who by all accounts is quite frail. He also oftencomes across as cold and distant, and people often mistake this for him believing himself to be superior when, as we later find out, it is really just because he's a bit awkward around people he doesn't know.
Mr. Thornton's character, played by Richard Armitage, is quite a bit darker.
Mr. Thornton, wonderfully portrayed by Thorin Oakenshield (Image courtesy of Fly High (I really wrote this piece just to make that joke. Sorry, not sorry)).
I have to say, I'm a fan of the darker personalities - in fiction. I'm not sure I'd really want to be attached to someone with a bad temper who is prone to violence. That said, there is a great deal I admire about Mr. Thornton. He became head of his household at an early age, taken from school so that he might work to provide for a family left destitute. He feels keenly his responsibility as the Master of a cotton mill, both to provide for his family and for the men who work for him (thought the latter sometimes has a harsh and cold expression). He understands poverty, and he worked all his life to drag his family up from it, and now fights to ensure he can keep them out of desperation (and there is some intimation that, given half the chance, he'd have been a scholar instead of a Master... but that might be my projection). In short, Mr. Thornton has not had, and does not currently have, an easy life. He is a self-made man who works extremely hard. Nothing he has was given to him (as it was with landed gentry like Mr. D'Arcy). There is very good reason behind the scowl he always wears. And, rather touchingly for a man who has so much to be proud of, he's wonderfully insecure about himself, truly believing to be beneath his love interest, Miss Hale.
This is why I prefer Mr. Thornton to Mr. D'Arcy. Mr. D'Arcy has everything he needs and much, much more besides. He is wealthy, healthy and could have his pick of the many women who are likely clamouring to be his wife. He doesn't have any reason to scowl quite so much or be so damned grumpy.
The Mother Figure
Both Mr. D'Arcy and Mr. Thornton have overbearing mother figures. Both of them disapprove of their 'son's' love interests. In Mr. D'Arcy's case, since his parents are both dead, it is his aunt. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a classicist. She disapproves of Miss Bennet as a potential mate for her nephew based solely on the fact that Mr. Bennet's wife comes from a family that is not truly part of the gentry. While I understand at the time it must have been fairly common for people to be like that, Lady Catherine seemed to be a throw-away character just there to place unnecessary complications into the story. She's a cardboard cut-out that's easy to despise (for modern audiences).
Mrs. Thornton, Mr. Thornton's stern mother, is another matter entirely. Yes, she is stern and very severe, and yes, she does disapprove of her son's attachment to Miss Hale, but she is someone I find I much admire, rather than despise. She is proud, certainly. Some might find that disagreeable, but she should be proud. She has much to be proud of. Left destitute, she raised two children on her own, teaching her son well enough so that he is now a Master of a cotton mill and a magistrate. For a long time, she and her son worked hard together, and they're rightly very close. She is fiercely proud of her son and his achievments, and knows him to be worthy. I'd be exactly the same, to be honest. So, naturally, when Miss Hale comes along, acting as a gentleman's daughter (puttin' on airs and graces, as Mrs. Thornton notes), and then rejects her most excellent son, she hates the girl.
A side note as to Mr. Thornton's character: he treats his mother very well, is always honest with her, and clearly respects her a good deal (rightly so).
While we, the audience, happen to know that Maragret Hale is very sweet, that's not what Mrs. Thornton sees at all. She sees a stranger in these parts, a gentleman's daughter, slighting her son. No doubt she sees it as a class issue, and takes exception to it. I would as well, were I in her shoes.
As far as mother figures go, Mrs. Thornton is a wonderfully rich and deeply affecting character; vastly superior, in my opinion, to Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
The End (SPOILER ALERT)
There is also a turn-about in North & South that I love very much. Predictably in Pride & Prejudice, Mr. D'Arcy swoops in to save the Bennet family from financial and social ruin by marrying Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Yawn.
That's not what happens in North & South. In fact, Mr. Thornton's principals get in the way of him making loads of money. As a result, and despite his incredibly hard work, he loses the mill he's worked so hard on all his life. It is Miss Hale, who recently comes into a good deal of money, who swoops in and saves Mr. Thornton's mill, thus his livelihood and family.
While I'm sure that having some white knight come in and solve all one's problems the way Mr. D'Arcy does for Miss Bennet is something many people find terribly romantic (yawn), I just don't. Certainly I wouldn't be adverse to some help, but not a complete fix by someone else. It would bring me quite low, honestly. Miss Hale doesn't swoop in Mr. D'Arcy-style. She comes along with a business proposition that would benefit both parties - a genuine, mutual and equal partnership.
That to me, is truly romantic.
Also, northern accents.
So, there you have it. The reason I prefer North & South to Pride & Prejudice. If you've read or watched both, feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments. I'm off to do things and stuff now.
Categories: Random Musings