As the daughter of a middle-class parson, Margaret Hale has enjoyed a privileged upbringing in rural southern England. But when her father uproots the family, she is forced to adapt to a new life in Milton - a northern mill town in the throes of the industrial revolution. Margaret is shocked by her new surroundings - the dirt, noise and gruffness of the people of Milton. However, she saves her greatest contempt for the mill-owners. When John Thornton, charismatic proprietor of Marlborough Mills, becomes a 'pupil' of her father, she makes her distaste for this vulgar and uneducated new class abundantly clear. Over time, Margaret's attitude towards the mill workers begin to change and she joins their workplace struggles against poverty and disease. But will she ever change and she joins their workplace struggles against poverty and disease. But will she ever change her view of their employers - in particular, John Thornton who has secretly become her admirer?