Paulliver (paulliver) wrote in bookish,

North and South

Reading this novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, I couldn’t help but compare it to “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Both of them deal with a conflict of values concerning capitalism, both have a romantic plotline intertwined with the philosophical plotline, and both have proud main characters.

But I think Gaskell has a better understanding of human psychology, despite the weird ending. It is a common flaw in romance novels to keep up the tension until so late in the game that I find the successful resolution of their relationships awkward. Yet over all Gaskell’s main characters are believable combinations of virtues and flaws, while Rand’s are paragons of her concepts of good and evil.

Ayn Rand had divided her fictional world into rational, atheist, capitalists on one side and everyone else on the other, and definitely takes sides. Gaskell’s novel has three sides, the energetic capitalists, the cultivated old money, and the hard working poor, and tries to be fair to all three, with both praise worthy and blame worthy people in all three groups. She tries to show how the three sides could settle their differences and work well together, and that as long as they are in conflict no one will have their happy endings, while Ayn Rand just barely remembers to have workers who are more than extras in her movie.
Tags: author: g, genre: classic

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