Megan Pohl– Margaret Hale’s Twitter

pohl-nands-twitter

For my Remediation project, I chose to focus on the famous strike scene from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, pages 177-180 in our books. To briefly summarize the action that is taking place, this is the scene where Margaret goes to Mr. Thornton’s to request aid on her mother’s behalf while an angry mob of workers forms in the yard below. Mr. Thornton descends to confront the workers and Margaret eventually rushes to place herself between him and the angry crowd. I decided to create a Twitter profile and homepage for Margaret Hale, which depicts her tweets, retweets, and conversations before and after the strike.

People should take note of who does and does not have a Twitter Handle in this remediation scenario. Margaret Hale (@MissHale), Mr. Thornton (@theMASTER), Captain Lennox (@Cptn-Lennox), Henry Lennox (@Lennox_H), and Edith (@Eeeedith) are all shown to have profiles. Those noticeably lacking profiles include Nicholas Higgins and the other factory workers. Tweeting requires leisure time and the ability to garner followers, a fact reflected in the lives and respective ranks of Margaret and her London friends as well as by Mr. Thornton, a prominent member of Milton-Northern society. Workers such as Higgins or Boucher would arguably not have leisure time or means to create Twitter accounts. This mirrors the lack of voice afforded to the workers during the strike and for much of the novel (with the exception of Nicholas Higgins’ conversations with Margaret).

The tweets are shown on Margaret’s profile page and are largely authored by Margaret herself, as the scene unfolds from her point of view. The reason the tweets chronicle the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of the strike rather than Margaret’s actions during the strike is because: (1) Margaret would not have had time to tweet during the heat of the moment; (2) Margaret’s decision to run to Mr. Thornton’s aid was impulsive and not pre-meditated therefore, she could not have tweeted about it; and (3) she would not have wanted people to know that she ran to protect Mr. Thornton or that she was injured in the process.

I would also like to point readers to two specific tweets that I included. First, the one by Margaret that states: “Workers: do not damage your cause by this violence! #Milton Northern Strike.” This is a direct quote that Margaret says to the angry crowd on page 179 in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Yet, it is curious to include this as a tweet when, as already mentioned, many of the workers would not have had access to Twitter. Thus, Margaret’s tweet at the workers suggests that she is implicated in a middle class society and bourgeois capitalist system even though she sympathizes with the workers’ plight. The second Tweet I would like to highlight is Mr. Thornton’s tweet: “@MissHale It was absurd of you to stand before the strikers, but admirable. #WCW #JK #UnlessYouAreIntoIt.”[1] The combination of hashtags that I included is meant to reflect Mr. Thornton’s unwillingness to make himself vulnerable and express the true nature of his feelings to Margaret without certainty of her affirmative reply. Unsurprisingly, however, Margaret’s reply tweet to Mr. Thornton pretty much glosses over this flirtatious attempt to express his feelings and gets back to the pragmatic heart of the matter: the communication (or lack thereof) between the masters and the workers.

As a method of communication, Twitter is very informal. As stated above, we are only able to follow actions of the scene before and after the event takes place since Margaret can only detail what she sees at the time and cannot tweet during an intense standoff. In this way, Twitter fails readers in a way that the novel does not. In the novel, the third person narrator relays the actions of the strike scene to readers and provides a play-by-play. Margaret’s Tweets only reflect what she sees whereas in the novel, we see the depth of Margaret’s thoughts and feelings regarding the actions that she sees unfold before her. Furthermore, and as suggested by her Twitter Handle “@MissHale,” Margaret constantly maintains a dignified and respectable exterior whenever possible in her interactions with acquaintances. This makes it difficult for Margaret to allow herself to fully engage in Twitter as a social media medium because her sense of formality and propriety in some ways prohibits it. On the contrary, the novel allows us to see Margaret’s exterior and interior personas: the modest, often mistaken for proud, exterior and the rich, thoughtful interior. Through the use of point of view and free-indirect discourse in the novel, readers also occasionally have access to other characters’ thoughts concerning various events and conversations. Here on Margaret’s Twitter profile page, these alternate perspectives may be lost in translation.

 

[1] WCW = Woman Crush Wednesday

JK = Just Kidding