power, control, Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South, emotional labor


Critics of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South identify Margaret as an emotional laborer, but they emphasize how this is a detriment to Margaret rather than how she uses it to her advantage. Margaret’s role as an emotional laborer is, indeed, often unwanted and inconvenient, but she reappropriates this work to gain control of undesirable situations. Most notably, Margaret repeats this pattern when telling her mother of their imminent move to Milton, when dealing with the Higgins and Boucher families after familial deaths, and when attempting to stop rioters from hurting Mr. Thornton. Instead of just trying to complete the unwanted task in each situation, Margaret tasks herself with a second responsibility of changing people’s attitudes for the better. Although Margaret experiences many setbacks and failures, she continues to persevere in her efforts without much complaint. Through Margaret’s character, Gaskell blurs the line between success and failure. Margaret gains power and control over undesirable situations by deciding what she will try to accomplish even if she isn’t successful. In this way, Margaret has more control over her frustrating emotional labor than Gaskell herself had over the writing of North and South since it was serialized in Household Words under strict conditions.

Issue and Volume




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