Dear Mr. Darcy,
When I first met you at the tender age of 17, I never imagined that I could ever meet a finer specimen of a fictional man. Your intelligence, wit, and passion completely swept me off my feet and left me breathless. Alas, 8 years have passed, and my affection for you has never wained during that entire time….until now.
Sadly, I have met someone else. Mr. John Thornton from North and South has claimed my heart, and I’m afraid that there is just no going back. I have struggled and agonized over my feelings for months now, however, I can no longer deny the superiority of Mr. Thornton’s character and personality. A piece of my heart will always belong to you, and I hope that we can remain friends, but this is goodbye.
Yes. It’s true. I love Thornton more than Darcy. I can hear your horrified gasps and shrieks from across the internet, but now that I’ve met Mr. Thornton, there is just no going back….
For those of you unaware, Mr. John Thornton is the male protagonist from the novel North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Handsome, intelligent, and passionate, a cursory glance at Mr. Thornton reveals a strong resemblance to the Mr. Darcy that we all know and love. Published 40 years after Pride and Prejudice, there is no denying the influence that Austen had on Gaskell’s writing of North and South. Both novels focus on romance plots clouded by ‘pride and prejudice,’ and contain rejected proposals, but there is just something about Thornton that makes his character completely outshine that of Darcy. To make Thornton’s superiority more clear, I’ll break it down for you piece by piece….
1. Wealth and Status
Both Darcy and Thornton are wealthy men, and well respected by society. The difference? Thornton wasn’t born into his wealth, but achieved it through hard work and determination. Destitute after his father died and left a pile of debts behind, Thornton worked his way up from a shop boy to the owner and manager of his own cotton mill. While Marlborough Mills is dark, smokey, and no where near as grande and elegant as Pemberley, it is something that Thornton built with his own two hands rather than inherited through birth and privilege. I don’t know about you, but I find that far more worthy of my respect.
2. His Heart
Both Darcy and Thornton fall in love and propose to headstrong women who reject them the first time around. The difference? The way that Thornton reveals his heart. Unlike Darcy, whose proposal is antagonistic and reluctant, Thornton’s proposal to Margaret is genuine and heartfelt. Rather than putting her down and saying that he was proposing to her against his better judgement, Thornton simply professes his love, before having his heart completely stomped to pieces.
3. His Actions
After being rejected by Margaret, Thornton sulks….alot…but he continues to take every chance that he can get to show his undying affection for her. While Mr. Darcy’s grand gesture of saving Lizzie’s sister Lydia from ruin is romantic and sweet, Mr. Thornton has him completely beat. Not only does Thornton provide a much needed friend to her father and make sure that her ill mother is kept comfortable, but he also helps to keep Margaret from being the centre of a murder investigation. Seriously. How many guys are willing to help you stay out of jail after you’ve lied and treated them horribly? Not many!
While Mr. Thornton’s treatment of his mill workers is cold and harsh at the beginning of the novel, he slowly begins to change his attitude. Unlike the other mill owners, Thornton gives his workers respect, and listens to their thoughts and concerns. He even goes as far as opening up a kitchen at the mill to make sure that his workers are kept well fed. While I’d like to think that Mr. Darcy would be respectful to the working class, I just don’t see it happening.
Maybe one of the biggest reasons that Mr. Thornton feels so superior to Darcy is that Gaskell gives readers a much better view of his inner thoughts and turmoils than Austen. This inside peek reveals more passion, love, and heartbreak over Margaret than we ever see from Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Thornton is just overflowing with feeling, and I loved it!
So do you still think I’m crazy for loving Thornton more than Darcy? If you haven’t watched the BBC adaptation of North and South starring Richard Armitage yet, or read the actual novel, then I highly suggest that you do! You might just find your own heart slowly slipping over to Thornton’s side too! Trust me. He’s awesome.
And to further solidify my point, I’ll leave you with a clip from my favourite scene in the film adaptation of North and South! I dare you to watch it and not swoon over Thornton!