What is it about Richard Armitage portraying John Thornton in North & South that we can’t resist? Richard Armitage’s character portrayal pulls at us, he tugs at us, he inhabits our hearts with embuing this man, John Thornton, with qualities of a man’s man, and a man we could love, whom we do love.
Is it John Thornton’s struggle to overcome a childhood shattered by his father’s suicide? Is it John’s uncompromising honor and principles? Or is it John’s realization that for all that he has made of himself, for all that others admire him for, and for all that he possesses materially, that his heart beats only for her, for his Margaret?
Such a love as John Thornton’s and Margaret Hale’s might have been unrequited due to the times of 1850-1851 that the story was set in where notions of romantic love were not as entrenched as they are in our time–and due to their differing social standings. And in Elizabeth Gaskell’s book North & South, there is an 18 month gap between when Margaret Hale returns to London after her father’s death and when John Thornton must give up his lease and travels from Milton to London to relinquish everything that he has achieved.
18 months is a very long time–wherein either John or Margaret might have been persuaded to marry someone else, someone suitable. But they didn’t marry others. John and Margaret remained true to the idea of loving each other, even if that idea had not yet been expressed between them. In the 2004 BBC Mini series North & South (left) starring Richard Armitage as John Thornton and Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale, there is only a few months gap. But even a few months apart from your beloved is torture. My husband and I find it difficult to be apart from each other even for a day–our texting each other repeatedly throughout the day when I joined RA Fan Friends in Chicago last month to see his latest film. So months apart? I couldn’t do it.
And then, for John to see Margaret again and for her to offer him the means to rebuild his life–without any conditions–humbles him and gladdens his heart. He had given up hope of her love. And then, she becomes his love–and he becomes her love–for the rest of their lives. Or, until they breathe their last. And John’s and Margaret’s initial tentative yet passionate kisses (below) leave us breathless and yearning. Their romance is the stuff of timeless romantic period drama stories–and of beautiful modern day realities.
I attended the funeral of a loving husband of over 63 wedded years yesterday. He and his wife were a devoted and loving couple. They were inseparable, and their smiles were infectious. Though his death was not unexpected, it was still unwanted. When you love someone, there can never be enough time together with them. And I saw a dimming of her spark for life in her eyes, now that her beloved is gone from her earthly embrace. Though she has children and grandchildren to help sustain her, it is not the same as having your beloved with you.
Our friend couple’s example of love–as does John’s and Margaret’s storied love–teaches us to cherish the love that we have in our lives. Whether that love is romantic love, family love, friendship love, etc., it is still love. And love, is everything.
Image credit of the beautiful John Thornton Drawing above is by Evankart
And thanks to Richard Armitage France for posting this beautiful Richard Armitage as John Thornton portrait on Facebook–and thanks to Teresa Armitage for sharing it.
2004 BBC North & South image credits thanks to www.RichardArmitageNet.com