*clears throat again*
“I once had a mini orgasm watching the last scene of a 19th-century-period film.”
My male friend (not a boyfriend, just a completely platonic married male friend who dishes with me about my newfound singlehood as a recent divorcee) … was incredulous.
“What did he do, rip off her corset and ravage her before the closing credits?”
“Um, no. He reached over and held her hand.”
“He held her hand? Nothing else?”
“Well, then he kissed her, but I had the mini orgasm when he held her hand first.”
My friend couldn’t get his brain around this. Men, of course, do that thing with the visual imagery, but I have my own Big Bang Theory about women. They love a romantic mystery. And “North and South” and its star-crossed lovers Margaret Hale and John Thornton give every girl the thrill ride of longed-for sexual tension, complete with all the innuendo of brooding eyes, nervous glances, fidgety hands, quavering voices … you get the idea.
“He held her hand,” my friend repeated.
“He held her hand,” I affirmed.
Now if you’ve never seen “North and South,” or read the book, for that matter, you may be as flabbergasted at my revelation as my friend was. But here’s the thing: the Margaret-Thornton romance does take hold on the imagination, in more ways than one.
Why is that?
When I first saw the film, I literally shut it off mid-way. For five days. I told myself I wouldn’t finish it. I was furious at Margaret for refusing the first marriage proposal. But then curiosity got the better of me, and I gnashed my teeth through the push-me-pull-you relationship until its blissful consummated ending.
We love this romance, because despite all odds, they pull it off. Despite the cultural clash of Southern propriety with Northern frankness, despite the misunderstandings about something as simple as shaking someone’s hand (I, for one, wanted to clobber Margaret until I read the explanation for that in the book), despite the irony of saving someone’s life from an angry mob and then refusing his marriage proposal the next day, and despite that AWFUL scene in the train station where Thornton thinks Margaret’s brother is her lover … they pull it off.
By the end of the story, she sees that what she mistook for pride and arrogance was a façade for hard-won success in a brutal existence. He sees that what he mistook for haughty vanity was in fact resoluteness and courage of a girl who had lost her home (and later, both parents and brother), and who was just trying to survive unexpected life tragedies.
Both of these characters are survivors in their own right.
Both of these characters are lonely outsiders before the story begins, looking in on society (she, the poor child of a minister, visiting her wealthy cousin’s London life, and he, the orphaned son of a speculator, working to regain the family’s place and honor).
Both of these characters feel love has passed them by.
And by the end of the tale, one character has swapped places with the other in wealth and fortune. But the one thing that would have separated them earlier because of their different places on the social rung now becomes the thing that can bring them together, as Margaret offers to save Marlborough Mills.
When John Thornton in gratitude and love reaches over and takes Margaret Hale’s hand in that train station before planting on her the absolute best kiss I’ve ever seen on film … that’s cause for a mini orgasm.
The Big Bang Theory: Overcome all obstacles, love win out, truth shines brightly … and holding hands sends off fireworks and sparkles and flashing lights and … okay, I’ll stop now.
It’s not hard (pun intended) for a woman’s mind to race to the scene afterwards, although we hit those film credits and the book ends with its last sentence. I can tell you that I, for one, would not be sitting placidly in that train car looking out the window starry-eyed if that delicious man were within 2 inches of my elbow.
But on the other hand, that’s precisely why the Margaret-Thornton romance is the bang we crave. That’s why, when Thornton grabs Margaret’s hand, we shout, “Yes! Yes! Yes! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”
And if you doubt me, here’s the clip from the last scene of the movie:
Today’s post was written by Heidi Rafferty, a freelance journalist. Thanks to Heidi for stopping by!