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I really enjoyed The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, because it is very different to most other novels with a female heroine from this time. The plot centres on the mysterious Mrs Graham, who comes to live at Wildfell Hall in a small village, with her son. Naturally, everyone is very nosy, particularly because she keeps herself to herself and is not afraid to voice her opinion. Gradually, however, she becomes friendly with a local farmer called Gilbert Markham, and eventually she gives him her diaries to read so that he will understand her past.
The second part of the book is a flashback of her previous life and marriage, as told through the diaries. In summary, she has run away from an abusive husband. In the final part of the book there is a clash between her growing love for Markham and her feelings of duty towards her husband, with various complications.
The book is unusual because it focusses on life after marriage, and the fairytale gradually goes sour, until the wife has had enough of the abuse and runs away. Rather than condemning her, Anne Bronte is sympathetic.
This book is much more readable than her previous effort 'Agnes Grey', and the characters have much more depth and very believable.
A young woman and her child arrive as the new tenants of a semi-derelict hall in the Yorkshire moors and immediately become the focus of local suspicion and interest. This is exacerbated by the woman's reclusive lifestyle.
It is through her growing friendship and love for a local yeoman farmer that the reader is quickly enveloped by the story of Helen Huntingdon and it is soon evident that hers is a story of domestic violence, alcoholism, adultery and escape.
I found 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' to be an incredible, moving and absorbing tale. I also think it has often been - unfairly - overshadowed by the work and success of her sisters. On a personal note, I enjoyed this novel far more than Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, although they too are good. To this day, this novel remains one of my favourite. Simply put, 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' is well-crafted, dramatic and a mature exploration of humanity.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Following on from reading Emily Bronte?s Wuthering Heights recently, and having enjoyed it, I decided to read some of the other Brontes? work and picked up a copy of Anne Bronte?s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Plot The story consists of a man called Gilbert Markham who is deeply intrigued by the past of a young woman called Helen Graham who arrives in the area a widow, with a young son in tow. He becomes infatuated with her and her mysterious past and strives to find out the details of her earlier life. Through Gilbert?s narrative and a series of diary entries written by Mrs Graham, we begin to piece together her life and the reason for her sudden appearance at Wildfell Hall. Characters The novel is told with two different narratives. At the start of the book, we see everything through Gilbert?s eyes ? those of a naïve young man who cannot believe the country gossip around him. The focus then shifts to Helen and her diary which tells the tale of her life previous to living in Wildfell Hall. It is an emotive, at times shocking tale, which as it is in diary form, allows us to see life completely through her eyes and witness the despair that she encounters. She is a strong woman who is not scared of challenging traditional female stereotypes and ideas of womanhood which state that a woman is only a wife and mother and belongs to her husband. She stays focussed on her goals and aims to give her son the life which she believes he should have. Themes There are several themes running through the novel, of which tow of the main ones are Religion and the place of women in society. Although you can read this just as an enjoyable novel, there is a hint of religion which forms a strong undercurrent of the book. Helen is highly religious and thinks her way of living is the only way of living and others should follow the rule she adheres to. However, this religious aspect of the book is only
a small aspect and it is possible to overlook it and concentrate on other aspects of the novel. The theme of woman and their place in society also occurs as this was written when women were second-class citizens without the same rights as men which they enjoy these days. They were the possession of men and therefore had to do as they said, and as a consequence, found it very difficult to obtain a divorce. Helen?s struggle against men and the role of women in which they were subservient to men is shown in great detail and in such a way as which you really emphasise with her struggles and her feelings. My overall opinion I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it a very moving account of a woman?s struggle against the all-dominating role of men in society. Although there are religious aspects to the book, these can be overlooked and should not put any readers off if they are thinking of reading this. In my opinion, this is solely a story of a woman?s life and how she tries to better this life for her son. I found the characters entirely believable, from Helen as the wronged ?widow? to the country gossips who are keen to spread rumour and malice everywhere. However, there were a couple of negative points. The names of all the characters and their tenuous connections to one another did prove a little confusing at times ? mainly as all their names started with the letter H! And I did find the ending rather predictable and a little disappointing. Maybe it is because I have read quite a lot of nineteenth century fiction and I am used to how they are written or perhaps it was just very predictable. All in all, I would recommend this book, especially to those who have read Pride and Prejudice and the like as it provides a startling and powerful insight into life in the Victorian era.
Before I plunge you into any details about "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' I must write a bit about the context, so that my claims for this book's radical nature will make some sense. The novel was written in the 1840s. At this time, a married womanw as generally considered to be the property of her husband, with her wealth belonging to the man she married. A man could not be accused of raping his wife because by marrying him, she had consented to any sexual activities he cared to undertake. Any children in a marriage legally belonged to the husband, the law would not allow women to take their children. Marriages did break up, but to be seperated was a significant cause for scandal. A woman who left her husband could expect to be denied all contact with ehr children. Wome were expected to be chaste, and a woman thought of carrying on affairs was exiled from polite society more often than not. In public discours and literature, sex was not discussed. 'The Tennant of Wildfell Hall' is radical in that it deals with the story of a decent young woman who marries a thoroughly unpleasant man. The man drinks and indulges other vices, he has affairs, and has at least one live in mistress. The young wife leaves him, taking their son with her - the husband had been encouraging the five year old to drink and swear! The book is amazingly open on the subject of sexual infidelity, and there is an undertone of sexual violence. The plot is simple enough - Mrs Graham, a widow, comes to live at Wildfell hall with her small son. She is reculisve, and it is not long before local society starts to make gossip up about her - largely motivated by jealousy. It is assumed that Mrs Graham was never married, that she is a fallen woman. However, a local gentleman farmer, Mr Markham, falls in love with her and is determined both to find out the truth about her and to scotch the rumours. Eventually, Mrs Graham allows him to read her diaries, in which
he discovers the truth about her brutal marriage. The tale is forward looking with a strong moral and femenist agenda. It rages against unfounded prejudice as much as it clearly despises immoral and inconsiderate behaviour. However, the book is deeply flawed, largely in the construction. The central section of the book,the diary section works very well, being a broken account of Mrs Graham/Helen Huntingdon's life - it reads like a diary and the narrative is compelling. Around this as a frame we have letters written by Mr Markham to a close friend, although little is ever known about that friend. The account struck me as being far too personal, comapred to what I've encountered of letter writing of the period. It is hard to work out when, in relation to the story, the letters are supposed to have been written. They read like narrative and not at all like letters and the overall effect is rather artificial. On the whole this is a very good book, the structure is its only real weak point. If you read it with an eye to the historical context, it is a very surprising piece indeed. Anne bronte, being the elast known of the three Bronte Sisters, definitley merits a closer look, which is very easy to do with this book now out as a pound classic.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was written by Anne Bronte her books first appeared under the pseudonym of Acton Bell. This book was first published in June 1848 and was immediately successful, it is now hailed as the first feminist novel. It went against the prescribed submissive behavior expected of women in the 1840`s. The novel is set in Regency times and in this book she draws on her experience as a governess to over-privileged children, and this is clearly seen in some of the scenes depicted in the book. The character of Huntingdon is thought to be based on her unfortunate brother Branwell who drank himself to death. The story is narrated by Gilbert Markham, he is a farmer who lives and works near Wildfell Hall and eventually falls in love with the heroine of the story, Helen Huntingdon (she uses the name Mrs. Graham). Helen arrives at Wildfell Hall with her young son, she supports herself and her son by painting and selling pictures. When she arrives she tries to keep herself to herself and as a result is the subject of much malicious gossip and speculation. Eventually Helen cannot avoid meeting the neighbors although she tries to have as little contact with them as possible. Gradually Helen begins to have feelings for Markham, as does he for her. After an altercation between Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Markham Helen gives Markham her diary for the past few years, and the contents of the diary form a large part of the book (about half) The diary tells how Helen married handsome rogue Arthur Huntingdon because she believed that a good wife could rescue Huntingdon from himself and reform him. She loved him and against the advice of family and friends she married him. Helen pretends happiness for a few years and continues to care for her husband and try to reform him, however eventually Huntingdon begins to have a corrupting effect on their son and so Helen decides to leave him and live in the country where he will not find them. When Helen disc
overs that Huntingdon is dying as a result of his drinking she selflessly returns home to nurse him until his death, after which she gets an unexpected inheritance and Mr. Markham wonders whether or not he is good enough for Helen now. This book has a good plot and interesting characters, Despite this it did take me quite a while to muster the enthusiasm to read it. I did try to start several times but the style of writing especially the wordiness put me off, however it is worth reading and once I got to the beginning of the diary part I found the story much easier to read. This could have been because I had got used to the style of writing or perhaps because the beginning of the book is a little slow. If you can perceiver long enough to get used to the style this book is written in it is a an enjoyable and interesting read with vivid characters and a believable story about society during the regency period. The Penguin Popular Classics version of this book is unabridged and contains the original preface to the 2nd edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It can be bought for around 99p in many places so even if you don't quite manage to read it all it hasn't been an expensive mistake: )
Narrated by farmer Gilbert Markham, this novel first published in 1848 tells the story of Helen Huntingdon, a young widow who arrives with her small son to live at Wildfell Hall under the name Mrs Graham, and soon becomes involved with Markham. Their relationship is hindered by the censorious attitude of his family and the local community, and by Frederick Lawrence, who evidently has more than a passing interest in her himself. After both men have a fight, she gives Gilbert a diary telling the story of her disastrous marriage. Her diary occupies just over half the book. In it she tells of having fallen for the ostensibly dashing rogue Arthur Huntingdon and, convinced her love will cure him of his womanising and excessive drinking she marries him, only to become totally disillusioned. She puts up with his ways for as long as she can, but when she fears he is about to corrupt their infant son into his 'manly' habits she flees to make a new start at Wildfell Hall and try to support herself by her painting. Lawrence, it turns out, is not another admirer, but her ever-protective brother. Not long after Gilbert has read the sorry tale, Helen learns that Arthur's liver is about to give up the unequal struggle, and she returns to him, selflessly nursing him until he dies. She comes into an unexpected inheritance, and Gilbert fears that just as she is free to marry him, she will not think him good enough. But? Overshadowed by her elder sisters Charlotte and Emily, Anne has always been 'the other Brontë'. I originally tried reading this some years ago, having initially become fascinated by the real life story of the family and enjoyed 'Jane Eyre' and ploughed with less enthusiasm through 'Wuthering Heights' - and, I confess, gave up on 'Wildfell Hall'. A vague intention to try it again one day crystallised with a two-part BBC-TV dramatisation starring Tara Fitzgerald as Helen. Like most n
ovels of the era, it can be heavy going and requires plenty of concentration. The insight into each character's personality is vivid, though the general style tends to be rather wordy. (All right, show me a mid-19th century Victorian novel that isn't). Had I not enjoyed it on television, or been so interested in the author and her sisters' life stories, and had some understanding of the autobiographical content - the character of Arthur Huntingdon being based partly on Branwell, the gifted but hapless Brontë brother who drank himself into an early grave - I'm not sure I would have persevered. It is a good story, and perhaps one of those novels that everybody - or nearly everybody - ought to try to say they have been there. Like most of the classics, however, the complete text is readily available in several budget-priced paperback editions (£1 or so), and most public libraries are bound to have an elderly copy or two in their reserve collection for the asking, so it's easy to find.
Anne Bronte's novels are not as renowned as her sisters Charlotte and Emily, but after reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall I realised that they should be!!! Helen Huntingdon is the mysterious Tenant of Wildfell Hall, livingwith her young son in a neighbourhood where she is a presumed widow. As the novel continues Helen falls in love with Gilbert Markham, but she has a secret which she has kept hidden from everyone. This secret is that she is still married to the violent man who as a very bad drinking habit who was destructive to the upbringing of her son, for this reason she ran away from him. Helen gives Gilbert her diary so he can see the situation she is in, this takes up the main content of a brilliant novel. I won't spoil the ending in case you want to read it yourself!! When originally published in 1848, it was criticised for being 'brutal' and 'coarse' challenging the social conventions of the early 19th century!! Even Anne's sister Charlotte considered her novel as 'an entire mistake'!!! I would recommend this novel to anyone, it as a certain passion which is lacking in Jane Austin's novels!!
This volume completes the acclaimed Clarendon Edition of the Novels of the Brontës. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë's second (and last) novel, was published in June 1848, less than a year before her death. It is the sombre account of the breakdown of a marriage in the face of alcoholism and infidelity. Writing with a power not usually associated with the youngest of the Brontë sisters, Anne portrays the decline of an aristocratic husband whose drunken excesses and domestic violence force his loving wife into a reluctant rebellion.