24/11/2012

VICTORIAN HEROES: MR MORAY vs MR THORNTON

Too great a temptation. Comparing them, I mean.  I was thinking: what about making  them compete in a challenge?  John Thornton from Milton, the hero of BBC North and South (2004) facing Mr John E. Moray from BBC The Paradise (2012). But what kind of a competition? Kind of “who makes more money in given time”? The  two men are quite competitive, as a matter of fact.  However, since I couldn't find any good idea for a competition, what about simply comparing them? Without even asking you to choose who’s better  or to pick up a favourite. Well, you can do that, if you wish, of course. Just choose your champion and tell us in your comments. As for me,  I won't do that, I’ll just draw a comparison between the two characters trying to point out  similarities and differences. Don't ask me to choose. 


Not having read Zola’s novel (of which the series The Paradise is an adaptation) but only Mrs Gaskell ‘s work which instead inspired BBC 2004 series , I can’t compare the literary characters the two authors designed.  I’ll focus on the two Victorian gentlemen as they have been depicted in the TV costume series.

I can’t hide that North and South is one of my favourite literary works and the 2004 BBC mini-series  one  I’m definitely fond of.  Regular readers already know this and much more about me & the tall, dark, handsome actor giving life to John Thornton, Richard Armitage. To have an idea what I am talking about, new ones can just have a look at my Richard Armitage page   (click HERE).  Honestly poor Mr Moray starts from  quite a disadvantaged position in this challenge: he must cope with a loyal , years’ long   dedication to Mr RA and his John Thornton. But I’m ready to be magnanimous,  since I didn’t mind him at all.  Mr Emun Elliott  and his Mr Moray have got his talents too.


It has just come to my mind that I have already set a challenge for Mr T. , it was some time ago. I made  fascinating broody mill-owner John Thornton face a romantic myth  like Mr Darcy  and what came out was that Austen dashing baronet was easily surpassed, at least in my heart ( see Mr Darcy vs Mr Thornton).

What now? Why do I want to push him to fight a new duel? Do you remember what happened in the riot scene of North and South? When Margaret spurred  John Thornton  to face the angry mob? He did it! He is a brave hero, indeed. Now, he doesn’t need courage to compete with Mr Moray. It’ll be more like a game of cards between gentlemen. 

Here we go then.

While recently watching  The Paradise I went on thinking and thinking about  North and South, especially noticing  analogies between the two male protagonists.  
When I heard Moray ask Denise: “Will you call me John? I long to be called by my name”   I thought:  “Oh, no! Another John.  A name, a destiny”
It was episode 6, John Moray was in his white shirt puffed sleeves and waistcoat and had loosen his neck tie. Does that remind you anything? A destiny. 
Once the formal jacket is off, tenderness prevails and who can resist a Victorian successful self-made man and his seductive skills and gorgeous looks when caught in a moment of fragility and needing sympathy? This happens in both stories, doesn't it? 

But let’s try to give the matter some order and especially  to achieve our purpose. What do the two men have in common, same name included? They are both

  • Victorian  characters (Thornton 1840s, Moray 1870s)
  • self-made  business men,  coping with financial troubles, dealing with the ups and downs of the market
  • ambition-driven, hard-working, proud, strong-willed, passionate, extremely focused on the success of their business
  • they are thoughtful and take care of their employees  being  sympathetic to them (though Thornton gets to be like that only later on in the story
  •  hide a fragile side when it comes  to feelings and women
  • range  from extreme tenderness to fierce fury,  emotionally

Anyway, the differences are also quite remarkable. 

While Mr Thornton is a successful mill-owner who raised himself and his family working hard after his father went bankrupt and killed himself, Moray is an ex draper's boy with unknown background who has built an empire from nothing: he is now  the manager of a huge department store,  which is a completely new capitalistic  venture for the time.

While Gaskell’s hero is brooding and quite reserved , responsible, cautious and grounded,   Moray is  ironic, self –confident, non-chalant , cheeky, daring and enterprising.

Mr Thornton always wears a black suit and is stiffened in his cravat, Mr Moray exhibits a bizarre,  fashionable , colourful  style and prefers neck ties.

While Mr Thornton sounds quite inexperienced in matters of the heart and feels tense and even awkward when  in   Margaret’s presence,  Mr Moray is always dashing  and alluring in  his ways  with women (though that does not mean he hasn't got troubles in dealing with them!)

While in Mr Gaskell’s story  we can recognize the prudery of the Victorian frame of mind, in The Paradise  sexuality  seems to have quite a modern connotation: women (Clara, Katherine, Denise) declare their love to  Moray or even offer themselves to him - though his being guilt ridden for his wife’s tragic death,  makes him punish himself trying to live a life without feelings or sex.

Charming, fascinating heroes, aren’t they?  Do we really have to make a choice? Being part of our dream world, can’t we say there is space for them both and even  more?



15 comments:

Marie Higgins said...

I absolutely LOVE this post! I haven't ever seen Paradise, but by reading your blog, I think RA wins - hands down!

Then again...I'm like you and I love North & South. :)

Marie

Maria Grazia said...

But I loved watching The Paradise, too, Marie. And also Mr Moray (Emun Elliott) has his talents and his charms. A flaw? He is shamelessly young. Much younger than RA. Is being young a fault? YES! In my eyes ;-)

Anonymous said...

Glad to see the old MG back with this post :)
Unfortunately today I'm not in the mood for a light comment, but I'll be back after having watched the paradise.
Have a lovely w-e everyone,
xx K/V

Maria Grazia said...

Sorry to hear you are not in a positive mood, K/V. Very sorry.**Hugs** Thanks anyway for finding the time to leave a comment.
By the way, old MG (why do you have to call me that? :-( Is that so obvious?) is always here, she's only too busy to write her own posts more often.

Vava, A country dreaming mum said...

Lovely post! I cannot express myself at present as I have not watched The Paradse yet, but you know how much I deeply love N&S and RA/Mr Thornton.
Talking of something else: MG, you have given me a treasure, as Lady De Bourgh would say. I have discovered Filmon, and it's so easy, BBC, ITV and all other english channels are there, that'just MY paradise!!! :-))
Thanks very much for the information and, untill I get to see Paradise, it's Mr Thornton for me please!! Silvana

Maria Grazia said...

Well, I'm glad to hear you've found the app I suggested and you think it is good. I told you, to see our favourite shows on our favourite programmes live is such a thrill!
As for Mr Thornton, he has been a crucial encounter for all of us. What can I say? "I understand you completely"

Servetus said...

I haven't seen the adaption of "Ladies' Paradise", but I teach that book to my western civ students almost every year. I adore Zola but my one complaint about him is that as a naturalist writer, he spends more times on the atmosphere and not enough time on the inner lives of his characters. Gaskell was better at that in her own time. So I vote for Thornton but I am happy to know there's a film adaptation of this. If it's good maybe I can use it in class.

Maria Grazia said...

I think the series is loosely based on the novel, but I'll be able to tell you more after reading the book which is in fact on its way to me. I've recently ordered it since I haven't got it. The Paradise is quite different from North and South. I don't think I'll ever be able to use it in my lessons since Zola is French and I teach English literature.
Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Servetus!

Brooke said...

I am not going to choose between the two because they are both great characters who have difficult lives and intricate personalities. I have to say that I enjoy that both men are not just 19th Century love interests. They are portrayed as real men who were once at the bottom and had to work hard to get to where they are now in their careers.

aurora said...

I enjoyed reading this post. It is so great that there are people who also like Elizabeth Gaskell's North&South.
Thank you for this wonderful post. I am going to read Paradise.

Maria Grazia said...

@Brooke
That is the reason why I love them too. They are men with complex personalities, round characters apparently strong but with moments of great fragility. They had to work hard and suffer in the past to achieve what they have in the present. We don't know much of Mr Moray's background in the TV series so like @aurora I'm going to read the book soon.
Thanks a lot to both of you for your comments.

LadyLukrecja said...

John Thornton is the best!
Kisses from Poland :)

MoonNightish said...

Ho un cuore grande e li scelgo tutti e due... davvero sarebbe arduo dover scegliere. Adoro Thornton e in Moray ho rivisto molto di lui (altezza a parte). Adoro il loro essere uomini che si sono fatti da sè, il loro lottare per qualcosa in cui credono, il loro fascino, il loro tormento interiore, e il loro essere innamorati di donne così forti. Sono personaggi moderni. Ho letto il romanzo di Zola, tutto un altro tono, preferisco la serie BBC, fa sognare di più.

Maria Grazia said...

Hello there, LadyKukrecja! Welcome to Fly High! Glad you like Mr Thornoton so much. Who can deny his great charm?
Ciao anche a te, MoonNightish, benvenuta, e grazie per aver ribloggato i miei post! Anch'io come detto nel post, non ho scelto. Nel mondo dei sogni tutto è possibile. O no? ;-)
Sto aspettando il libro di Zola, che ho ordinato qualche giorno fa. Non so cosa aspettarmi, o meglio, so già che sarà diverso ma non quanto. Ve lo farò sapere.

kailawen said...

I think it's almost unfair to compare Mr Thornton and Mr Moray.
Let's face it, not only is Gaskall's North & South relatively better known, but it's character development is far superior to The Paradise (I can only gather from the tv series as I have not read The Ladies Paradise).
Both John's have beautiful presence on the screen, equally as captivating, but The Paradise IMO fails to really capture the individual characters such as N&S does.
North and South feels like it comes from a novel, where as The Paradise comes across as it was a screenplay written for this particular audience with no real foundation.
I don't know really lol
What I'm trying to say is, the writing of North & South's characters had so much more depth to them, and while I found The Paradise's characters charming, inparticular Mr Moray, the two pieces of fiction fail to fall into the same catagory, so comparing the two main males in them seems almost nonchalant.

As far as looks go though, I must say Mr Moray had me hooked with his beautiful beautiful eyes. *sigh*