North and South

The Importance of Unity in Social and Religious Development

The contemporary development in economic, social, and religious spheres are attributed to the ability of human beings to rise above their differences and forge alliances, and mergers that ensure human beings are united in one way or the other. The world has witnessed numerous struggles during civilization culminating in World War II in which weapons of mass destruction were used. Humanity was capable of wiping itself out of existence during that time. Nevertheless, it somehow managed to rise above those challenges and forged a unity that has seen it to the point where we are today. Even though the challenges of the economic divide as well as social and religious differences still abound, it is evident that the unity that human beings seems to exhibit today is far much greater to be devastated again with issues like religious or social differences. This paper explores how history can teach us the importance of observing unity through social and religious tolerance as discussed in Elizabeth Gaskell’s book North and South.

Social and Religious Tolerance

In Gaskell’s social novel, North and South, the heroine of the novel, Margaret Hale, encounters various conflicting incidences that pose threats to unity in the society in which she lives. At the beginning of the novel, there is a tension between the working class and the industrialists. This social tension is a result of poor industrial relationships that England was undergoing during the time of heavy industrialization. The workers were demanding better payment for the work they were doing in industries. The industry owners on the other hand were unable to give what the workers demanded because of the tough economic times. However, they managed to come to agreement and continued with their work. From this part of the history, we can learn that it is not always guaranteed that people will get whatever they want along their way. The contemporary societies that we have today are a result of social tolerance that some people deliberately chose to embrace by letting personal interest go and embrace unity of purpose to ensure that the society continues to thrive.

Equally, religion plays a crucial role in the development of human beings by coalescing human belief systems around a common deity. With this deity in mind, people are capable of enhancing their unity and even work towards protecting it. However, religion has gone down into history as a most divisive subject of all time to human beings. Even in the contemporary world where people are not only civilized but are also technologically advanced, religion is still a source of division amongst them with deadly outburst as witnessed recently in some Middle East countries. The religious division is even witnessed in a faction of religious groups like Protestants within Christianity as a religion or even the controversial emerging churches around the world. However, there are some fundamental truths such as unity and harmony that religion has managed to bring amongst human beings.

For instance, Gaskell addresses dynamism in values and reasoning that otherwise would be doubted following the death of Mr. Hale. Mr. Hale’s decision to leave the church due to “painful, miserable doubts” (Gaskell, 35) concerning church doctrine is iconic in nature as it helps to avoid confrontations in the religious walk of the English people. It sorts to remove the internal wrangles that were within its church members. This is an illustration of how sympathetic characters in societies see disunity and consciously choose to avoid discussion on a controversial relationship in the issues of religion.

This is much dissimilar to what was the common trend during the earlier times when people confronted each other on issues such as labor relations, personal integrity, political instigations, and social acrimoniousness. People questioned the established authority even on the most unspecified issues like the Holy Trinity. Historically, the Holy Trinity has always been a controversial topic to some of the insiders who claim to be Christians yet who do not want to believe in this message as it is. However, from Gaskell’s narration, it is evident that those who have chosen to have a belief in the church doctrines, no matter the number of dissenting voices around them, have been able to do so through unity of purpose. Mr. Hale states that the unions men form would be better if  “ - it would be Christianity in itself - if it was but for an end which affected the good of all, instead of that of merely one class as opposed to another” (Gaskell, 229).


Historical lessons abound on how societies have been developed through unity. The social and economic development that different societies around the world enjoy today is a result of a united people. Disunity brings destruction of what is already built. It is evident that social and religious tolerances are importance ingredients that can foster unity in a divided society. This can only come about when some people decide to accommodate each other irrespective of the difference in views. Rather than fostering a culture of battles, social and religious tolerance will not only bring unity in workplaces but also churches and families.  The ties that bind humanity together are made of strands of unity and therefore social, economic, and political development can only be achieved if unity is fostered among different groups.

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