From her home ground, her father's comfortably middle-class living in Hampshire and her aunt's establishment in Harley Street, Margaret is exiled to the ugly northern industrial town of Milton. Surprisingly, her social consciousness awakens. It is intensified by a relationship with the local mill-owner, Thornton, that combines passionate attraction with fierce opposition. The novel explores the exploitation of the working class, linking the plight of workers with that of women and probing the myth and reality of the 'north-south divide'.
"North and South" is Elizabeth Gaskell's 1854 novel that contrasts the different ways of life in the two respective regions of England. In the North the emerging industrialized society is sharply contrasted with the aging gentry of the agrarian based South. The plot of "North and South" centers around the main character Margaret Hale, the daughter of a non-conformist minister who moves his family to an industrial town in the North after a split from the Church of England. With important underlying social themes, North and South stands out as one of the greatest novels in the history of English literature.