Abstract：Elizabeth Gaskell is a celebrated novelist in the 19th century in England. As one of the greatest critical realistic representatives, she uniquely stood out as a prominent women writer. North and South is one of Gaskell’s social problem novels which vividly depicted the English society during the Victorian Era. Despite the profound effects the novel has in evoking people’s thoughts about the then English society, Gaskell also successfully portrayed a group of characters which demonstrate both her thoughts and her skillful writing techniques.
In the novel, Gaskell created an almighty heroine - Margaret Hale. As the leading character of the novel, she is cast in a role seldom assigned to women of the period. Compared with her cousin Edith in appearance, she appears quite mature and strong; as the daughter of her parents and sister of her older brother, she does more than what a young girl of her age can do; facing the seemingly very ideal suitors, she dares refuse them since she won’t play false with her own feelings; a Victorian lady, she prefers to step out of the house and integrate herself into the society by frequently participating in local affairs. In short, in Gaskell’s successful characterization of Margaret Hale, readers can see a maturing girl full of fortitude, uprightness, bravery and social awareness.
Different from most studies which focus on the study of the themes, this thesis mainly dwells on the study of the characterization of the heroine – Margaret Hale. It tries to analyze how Gaskell successfully establishes Margaret Hale as a strong character from the following four aspects: her appearance, behavior, dialogues with others and psychological changes towards the environment. Through a detailed study of the four aspects mentioned above, readers can better their knowledge of the novel, of Mrs. Gaskell and of even the then English society.
Keywords: characterization, Margaret Hale, North and South.