In North and South there is a clear role of the family that plays a part in shaping the identity of our two main characters, Margaret Hale and Mr. Thornton. Not only are their families of the utmost importance to them, but they are also the ones that influence their decisions and are the bias for many of their opinions. In the beginning of the novel, we see that Margaret is deeply concerned for her father’s well-being and mental state. She explains that they have a close relationship, she is able to relate to him much more easily than her mother. The two share a special bond in that way, and as a result she monitors everything from his speech to his facial expressions. In the case of Mr. Thornton, he is incredibly loyal to his mother. She is the central figure in his life and he himself is very similar to her in both likeness and personality. They both share a cold demeanor and a bluntness of speech that is somewhat foreign to Margaret and her family.
Margaret and Mr. Thornton clash for obvious reasons, he perceives her as haughty at first and she believes that he has a cruelness about him that she cannot overcome. However, it is clear that these personalities have been influenced by their families. Margaret may just be a preacher’s daughter, but she has always been told that she is of a high class and thus acts in that way. Her mother is not a very strong figure in her or her father’s life and as such she takes responsibility for many of the different tasks his wife might have normally undertaken. As a result, Margaret has an air about her that is perceived as haughty by others—notably Mr. Thornton and his mother. Mr. Thornton seems cold and impassive, however he believes that he must behave this way in order to be a successful businessman, as his mother has groomed him to be. For each there is a degree of familial loyalty that is inherent in all that they do. Their differing attitudes, the difference between her growing up in South and him in the North, present itself as a constant and almost insurmountable divide. Only through intervention of some kind will they ever be able to come together. However, with Mrs. Thornton being asked by Mrs. Hale to look after Margaret has a surrogate mother, things may begin to change.