1. INTRODUCTIONThe social structure in Victorian England was rigid and fixed, so any drift of changewas highly judged. Gaskell’s novel “North and South” explores that, through situations,through characters, through war and peace. It is a novel about social structures, aboutrespecting authority and tradition or defiance against it.The subject of this paper is the concept of social authority and the constant rebellionagainst it.
Frederick is an example of the greatest fear of the middle class, a man who cannotreconcile his inner personal moral values with social norms and patterns of behavior that havebeen accepted in his society. Frederick as an individual and as a character reviews therelationship between personal and social responsibility and, as a tragic heroic character,accepts his destiny in the end. Frederick is delicate, but strong. He does not think about hisactions thoroughly, but acts impulsively. His actions in th2. FREDERICK’S CHARACTER REVIEW and the CONSEQUENCES of HIS MUTINY’Literary character’ can best be understood in relation to a more fundamental concept, namely’literary characterization’.
The latter is really a pragmatic concept in the sense that it focuseson the relationships between characters and their users. The relationship between thecharacters and the relation to the society is considered. ”The exact social conditions inEngland at this period clearly need to be delineated and an explanation thereof may shed somelight on the particular thrust of Gaskell’s work, in particular North and South”, explains Chen(2017: 494). Therefore this work was the result of the relationships in society at that time.This work speaks about the contrast between the rural and cultural south and the industrialviolent north. Also, author critically describes the consequences of strong industrialization inEngland at that time.”North and South literally embodies social and economic exploitation – in the factory,on the land, in the law, army or navy”, says Uglow, (2003: 372).
The example mentioned isthe exact portrait of Frederick’s character. The main thing is that he impersonates part ofsociety of the nineteenth century he lived in – his personality traits can be extended topersonalities of a lot of people in that society, and explains their thoughts, reasons, actionsand, in the end, the situation in America in the nineteenth century and why it was the way itwas.Frederick acts impulsively. His actions, in the the mutiny and upon his return toEngland could have had different consequences if he had thought them through. His exile inSpain was so hard for him that he feels the urge to change his whole identity, and his actionsin England constantly haunt him. ”Frederick, who was one of the most senior officers, hadbeen among those who had mutinied” (Gaskell, 2008: 24). Here author emphasizes hisparticipation in the mutiny as he was an officer.
As a matter of fact he did not act alone in themutiny.”He had joined the navy some years ago, and had taken part in a mutiny, with theresult that he was now unable to return to England, as he would be arrested if he did”(Gaskell, 2008: 6). Here we can see his reason for going to Spain, because he would most3likely end up in jail if he would return to England. Frederick is not sure whether his views onsocial justice and the sense of principles that guides him are suitable for nineteenth centurylaws or society’s mindset.Furthermore, explains (Mikysková, 2011: 31), ”Frederick is depicted as a “lost” son.
He lives in Spain and cannot go back to England because he would go to prison. His behavioris irresponsible; he does not face the consequences of his acts. But he is also depicted as adevoted son, he comes back to England to see his mother before her death, even if it is verydangerous for him to appear in England again.” Consequences of Frederick’s action are harshand deep. The consequences are visible in their influences on society and the environment.The fate he has brought upon himself is that he is exiled from his native country and family;he has to change his whole identity and person.
His change of identity seemed to be trulyneeded at that time. Also, his family members back in England have to live with his actions -their own attitudes are deeply saturated with his mutiny.2.1. Social authority and justice Frederick’s mutiny in the Gaskell novelIn the mid-nineteenth century, the structure of society was strictly set, the norms ofbehavior were known and had to be respected and followed. Industrial revolution andemancipation of workers had just begun and social justice was not seen in the same sense as itis today.
The multi-century class division of people by the end of the eighteenth centurycomes into question. Multiple consequences of French Revolution led to a re-examination ofthe position of individuals and their active place in society. However, divisions in classeswere no longer inherited, but the material statuses of families were. It was possible to climbthe class ladder, but with great effort and difficulty. The influence of Romanticism on newgenerations and their evolving individuality has led to new reflections on the position ofindividuals in wider society. However, changes were slow and difficult because the vastmajority of lower classes were not educated or self-conscious – their identities were not activeand they were alienated.
But, by the end of the nineteenth century there were significantchanges regarding status and position in the society of the lowest classes of workers and theexploited poor. A new, educated middle class bourgeoisie, retailer and industrialist is at the4expense of expelling their workers and trying to bring social differences to a minimum.Middle class was afraid of people like Frederick. He is an example of a person, which cannotreconcile the inner personal moral convictions with social norms and patterns of behaviour.Frederick as an individual and character reviews the relationship of personal and socialresponsibility and, as a tragic heroic character, accepts his destiny. But a lot of authors havecritiqued his mutiny, his mindset and some of his actions, which is the theme of the nextchapter.2.2.
Critics on Frederick’s mutinyMichael T. DuBroy in his work ”A Reading of Symbolical Aspects of Mrs. Gaskell’sNorth and South” criticizes the mindset of Frederick and Margaret. Both characters expressdeep understanding of social injustices, but are, he claims, melodramatic and don’t think itthoroughly. ”Juxtaposed with the story of the riot is the tale of Frederick’s mutiny.
Althoughthe Union has been rejected, Frederick’s mutiny makes it clear that the strike itself is notunjustified” (Dubroy, 1977: 41). It should be noted that the post-romanticism literary realism,which Gaskell’s novel is a part of, is still unclear whether the heroes are to be realists orromantics. It is a reflection of the transition period of literature and society as a whole.
”Frederick is, in many ways, a rather melodramatic figure: the lost son who gallantlysupported mutineers against the injustice of their captain and is exiled as a result. All thatwould be needed to complete his story would be belated recognition by the government, ofthe justice of his actions, and his safe return to England”, explains Dubroy, (1977: 73). Thewriter explains that modern views on Frederick’s mutiny were positive, but in the light ofearly Victorian age are impossible to comprehend. Frederick seems to be detached from hisrealism, since his strong moral convictions which he is passionate about, defy common senseand the early Victorian period sense of duty. The writer is a part of the society whichtransforms on a rapid, day to day basis, and cannot reconcile its inner moral convictions withfast-growing capitalist realism and exploitations of the poorest classes.
”He does not really care very much about getting a pardon, for he has set down newroots in Spain. Thus, in the world of reality, the heroic figure does not simply wait offstage5until he returns in triumph; his life must continue and does continue. Denying his old life, hestarts a new one. Frederick, therefore, serves to emphasize the gap between Margaret’s heroicaspirations and reality, a split crystallized in Margaret’s lie. Admirable as such intentions are,they have no place in the real world and cannot successfully function in real society.Frederick is really a passionate hero of melodrama, living in a far-away country, and leading astrangely different life from that of Margaret. He does not belong in the realities of NorthernEngland in 1854”, states Dubroy (1977: 74).
The personal tragedy of Frederick’s actions isthat he has to start his life anew, change his entire identity and forget the past, including hisfamily. The author criticizes his actions as products of passionate and unadvised thoughtswhich he explains as pure fiction, not as real actions of a true hero. To reinvent its owncharacter in a remote, backward country, which Spain of the period was being considered as,must’ve been a dreadful perspective to pre-colonial Great Britain, a beacon of civilization andprogress of the Industrial era.Rebecca Parker Fedewa in her dissertation ‘Truth Telling: Testimony and Evidence inthe Novels of Elizabeth Gaskell’ provides criticism of Frederick’s mutiny too. In her work, shecriticizes and analyses the personal moralities of early Victorian age and those of collectivemindset of that time. In the beginning of the age of individuality the author makes rebelliouscharacters as examples of making things right no matter what the socially acceptable actionsare. The sympathy and compassion with lower classes is just in its infancy, and is evolvingthrough literature.
She (Parker Fedewa 2009: 175) says that ”the characters who live truthfully and showmercy to others are those whom Gaskell uses as models for her readers so that they may seeothers the way that she imagines God sees them. Thus, by showing compassion, the readersexperience lasting change that is internal and that, potentially, has eternal ramifications. Inher fiction, she sought to create exemplars of careful judgments, executed with compassionand an eye toward God. She writes of redeemable characters and for redeemable readers.””The question of acting on one’s own authority when faced with injustice, specificallywhen society will disapprove, ties together Mr. Hale, Frederick, and Margaret; as eachnegotiates how to deal with matters of conscience” (Parker Fedewa, 2009: 54).
Each of thecharacters is actually facing their own conscience. Author highlighted the need of justifying6actions in unjustified society through examples of personal morality and questioning socialauthority if needed.By reviewing literature it can be concluded that the main critiques are that charactersof that time make decisions and actions impulsively and without excessive reflection on theconsequences, although their ultimate goal is a great one; to change the society as a whole andstart and era of social justice.73. CONCLUSIONIn the end it can be concluded that this novel gives an example of moralre-examination of the new middle class and also serves as a warning for actions that are notthought through.
However, it gives the example of actions, no matter how reckless, that arefair and for a great cause – for change, which is an aspiration of all writers from that time.Bearing in mind that the novel was intended for the educated part of the society, boththe high and middle classes, messages of individual responsibility and moral convictiontowards the overall society are obvious.Changes in social justice issues, as usual, come from those who were able to makethose changes, in cooperation with the lowest classes and the education of the poor and theneedy. Frederick is a romantic, tragic Byronian hero whose actions can only be appreciated inretrospect, which probably was the intention of Elizabeth Gaskell.