Conflict overcome by conjugal love

In Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and southThe story shows how, in spite of the many hardships and setbacks, both find the way to overcome prejudices and differences with tenacity and wisdom in order to enter into the commitment of conjugal love.

José Miguel Granados-March 23rd, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
conjugal love

Photo credit: Alex Iby / Unsplash

The background of the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) is the socio-labor conflicts and the dramatic sufferings of the working class environments of the first industrial revolution.

At North and southThe tension between the traditional life of the genteel southern English countryside and the novelty of the powerful but complex development of factories in the cold north is considered. Two figures represent this difficult relationship: John Thornton, a self-made young businessman, forged in the hard task of running a factory with hundreds of workers; and Margaret Hale, a cultured woman, daughter of a professor of humanities, who has to emigrate to the booming, troubled and suffering proletarian city.

Confrontational ideologies

In the history of modern thought, various confrontational ideologies have emerged, such as Marxism, which advocates conflict and rupture in order to achieve a supposed utopian synthesis. Thus, the class struggle, the struggle of the employer against the employee, of man against woman, etc. But these are false explanations of man and society, which have propitiated liberticidal regimes of terror. We are not enemies but brothers and friends, members of the same human family. 

Christian anthropology, overcoming erroneous, irrational and inhuman conceptions, teaches that the human being is not made for rivalry but for a relationship of help and cooperation. Moreover, enriching diversity in common unity is the core of the human condition. 

Complementarity of men and women

Sexual difference is part of the constitutive theological identity of the human being, as a call to live the complementarity of self-giving fruitful love. "Man has become the image and likeness of God not only through humanity itself, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the beginning." (John Paul II).

On the other hand, the so-called "gender ideology" - of materialistic and dialectical matrix - is also contrary to reality. It wrongly denies the objective meaning of human sexuality, according to the original and permanent plan of the Creator, accessible to common sense. Male and female are, one for the other, "adequate and vital help" to escape from sterile loneliness. Both share a common and relational humanity. They complement each other. They are partners. They are ordained to conjugal and family commitment. Their vocation is reciprocal gift. They are oriented to the transcendence of the personal, just and loving relationship with others and with God himself, the foretaste of the destiny of eternal life.

Differences called for enrichment

The original collaboration, damaged by sin, is healed and reintegrated in Christ, through the action of the Holy Spirit and maturing in the virtues. The "proper anthropology", in conformity with the Gospel of grace, makes it possible to overcome conflicts in order to achieve a harmonious relationship, a true community. The differences between men and women are not a cause of inevitable war, but a call to enrichment, growth and personal and social maturation.

"God created man in his own image and likeness: calling him into existence out of love, he called him at the same time to love. God inscribes in the humanity of man and woman the vocation and consequently the capacity and the responsibility of love and communion." (John Paul II).

Confrontation does not have the last word, nor is it decisive. The human being is not doomed to conflict. He has been formed in a family structure of communion. True love demands the gift of oneself to others and the acceptance of the other, in a patient relationship of respect and sincere collaboration.

True love achieves synthesis

Speaking of conflicts between employees and employers, Margaret Hale once reminded John Thornton that "God created us to be mutually dependent on each other." In the end, after much suffering and humiliation, both find with tenacity and wisdom the way to overcome prejudices and differences and thus be able to enter into the commitment of conjugal love, a demonstration that - according to the divine design and with the help of grace - it is possible and good to overcome confrontation so that the alliance between man and woman may prevail. 

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