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 favorite 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
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?
Discover more about the men behind the characters
Visit Emun Elliott (Mr Moray) at imdb
Visit Richard Armitage (Mr Thornton) at imdb