Firstly, some candid initial thoughts: This ending came out of nowhere!! I honestly thought I was missing a chapter! Why is she “not worthy”?!? Hasn’t she learned anything in this four-hundred-page journey?!? Margaret, why are you hiding your face? You’re about to give your man a WHOLE LOAD of money to help him out — hold your head up high, girl!
The ending of “North and South” was in many ways a let-down. There isn’t a proposal (which is really owed to us since we’ve been witnessing Margaret’s change of heart for about fifty pages), and as far as we’re concerned, there may not have even been a marriage. It was strange that Gaskell chose to end the novel this way (did Dickens push a deadline and Gaskell panicked?), especially since we never get to see what other characters think about the union. It is clear, from the novel’s previous work, that Mrs. Thornton isn’t the biggest fan of Margaret, and that Edith and the rest of Margaret’s family hope that she is joined to Henry Lennox. The cynical side of me hoped to see Edith’s idyllic view of the future shot down by Margaret’s engagement to Thornton. But, alas, readers are left somewhat in the dark about the future of Margaret and Mr. Thornton.
Considering that the title “North and South” can allude to the union of Margaret (the South) and Thornton (the North), Gaskell doesn’t give readers much of a resounding finale to this tale. Perhaps Gaskell is more focused on class and the impact of the industrial revolution; but these characters were a vessel through which Gaskell represented the intricacies of the time. By denying them a proper union—which would depict a significant union of classes that was likely occurring frequently during the period—Gaskell underrepresents the important work she does in the vast majority of the novel. Surely Mr. Bell didn’t leave his wealth to a young woman that cowers when expressing a legitimate business proposal and hides behind her hands when she is finally united with her desired companion.
“Oh… I am not good enough!” —The Ending of This Book