While reading the proposal scene in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, I was reminded of the Garden of Eden. This image specifically came to mind while reading Henry Lennox’s response to Margaret’s rejection on page 30. Here, he paints Margret as an evil temptress, similarly to the way Eve has been portrayed for centuries. He is the helpless victim to this romantic seductress, just like Adam was. However, being able to read this story from the third person perspective, we see that Henry is no Adam..
Mr. Lennox’s response paired with the scene taking place in a garden, an obvious reference to the iconic Bible tale, exposes an important characteristic of gender roles at the time. A man was not supposed to be strongly affected and “carried out of his usual habits by the force of passion” (Gaskell 30). Here, he is pushing any chance of emotional vulnerability onto the woman. However, once again, being able to read this book in the third person allows us to see into the mind of Margaret. This view shows us that she is not forcing any passion on him at all. It is entirely Mr. Lennox who actually even “annoyed her” (Gaskell 30) with his romanticism. If anything, it is Henry who is the temptress of the situation. It is he who takes “sudden possession” (Gaskell 28) of her hand and begs her to marry him.
There is one part of this parallel which is perplexing to me. Mr. Lennox says that giving into this passion and temptation is always met with “rejection and repulse” (Gaskell 30). Here, he likens his rejection to the first humans’ banishment from paradise. This is disconcerting to me because he is giving Margaret a God-like power over him. So in one allusion, he is forcing Margaret into but the typical womanly role as well as admitting she is so much more. This shows that Margaret cannot fit into the typical woman’s role at the time, something that Mr. Lennox cannot comprehend.