Study Guide

Mr. Hale in North and South

Mr. Hale

Mr. Hale means well, and you have to admire him for sticking to his principles and resigning from his job. But the dude is pretty weak-willed and not really the most supportive father. When he explains to Margaret that he can no longer be a clergyman, he tells her that "You could not understand it all, if I told you—my anxiety, for years past, to know whether I had any right to hold my living—my efforts to quench my smouldering doubts by the authority of the Church" (1.4.18). So yes, the guy probably has a good reason for leaving the church. But his anxiety causes him to act in irresponsible ways.

Mr. Hale doesn't deal well with people contradicting him, saying, "I cannot stand objections. They make me so undecided" (1.4.48). This is probably why he won't tell Margaret or his wife about his real reasons for leaving the church—he's afraid that they'll convince him to stay.

Also, he asks Margaret to break the terrible news to his wife, even though he's the one responsible for moving the family. He leaves the house for an entire day while Margaret delivers the news. When Mrs. Hale gets sick later in the book, "Mr. Hale was utterly listless, and incapable of deciding on anything" (1.21.36). Mr. Hale's weakness essentially makes all responsibility for the family fall on the shoulders of young Margaret. Not the best Daddy.

At the end of the day, Mr. Hale sticks to his guns and tells his friend, Mr. Bell, "As I think now, even if I could have foreseen that cruelest martyrdom of suffering, through the sufferings of one whom I loved, I would have done just the same as far as that step of openly leaving the church went" (2.16.26). He'd do it all again if he could. That said, he probably could have done more to support the household along the way, rather than leaving everything to Margaret.