The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 
by Anne Bronte
Gilbert Markham is a young man falls for a woman who has moved into a large house in his neighborhood. Her background is a bit of a mystery. As Gilbert becomes more attached her past is slowly revealed in the form of a journal. 

The titular character, Helen Graham, escaped from an abusive marriage with her young son. I was in awe of Anne Bronte’s ability to tell such a relevant story in 1848. There are so many women who find themselves in the same situation today. She was young and naïve when she married Arthur Huntingdon and by the time she learned his true character it was too late. 

The writing is wonderful and for me that story pulled me in completely. The author tells the story from Gilbert’s point-of-view at times and from Helen’s at other times. The changing narrative flowed well and never rang false.
Bronte covers some intense subjects in the book. In addition to infidelity and alcoholism, she makes some disturbing observations about women’s rights during this time period. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come in the last few years. 

BOTTOM LINE: For me, this Bronte novel fell right under Jane Eyre in my ranking. The characters aren’t as likeable, but the story is powerful. 
“If you would have your son to walk honorably through the world, you must not attempt to clear the stones from his path, but teach him to walk firmly over them - not insist upon leading him by the hand, but let him learn to go alone.”

“When I tell you not to marry without love, I do not advise you to marry for love alone: there are many, many other things to be considered. Keep both heart and hand in your own possession, till you see good reason to part with them; and if such an occasion should never present itself, comfort your mind with this reflection, that though in single life your joys may not be very many, your sorrows, at least, will not be more than you can bear. Marriage may change your circumstances for the better, but, in my private opinion, it is far more likely to produce a contrary result.”

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