I hate mysteries and concealments.
A rather hypocritical statement from someone who has kept her life a secret from the very person she scolds.
Hypocrite or not, Helen Graham (Huntingdon) is now a favorite character of mine.
I’ve just finished reading:
it is a matter-of-fact that I feel deeply connected to the Brontë sisters.
My obsession with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has been long and unwavering. On the other hand, Wuthering Heights (written by Emily) did not much resonate with me at all – though I was reading as a high-schooler and that girl is alien to me now. Then there’s Anne. Admittedly, I have overlooked Anne until now (why does that always happen to her? Poor girl).
From my understanding, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is not the Anne Brontë novel with which readers tend to be most familiar.
Apparently, they read Agnes Grey and hate it.
And that is tragic.
Because, Wildfell Hall has easily become one of my favorite novels.
Gilbert Markham narrates the tale through his letters and through the diary entries of “the tenant” herself, Helen Graham (Huntingdon).
Helen arrives with her young son at the formerly uninhabited and run-down Wildfell Hall. She is beyond aloof, hoping to remain unacquainted with all of her new neighbors. Of course, this is completely scandalous, and becomes the main source of fantasy and gossip. Eventually we find that she is hiding from her emotionally abusive, adulterous, self-centered, and reckless husband.
But I am jumping ahead.
Mr. Markham falls in love with Helen almost immediately after their introduction. Her mysterious and stubborn habits draw his affections as inevitably as you might assume. Her polite yet cold interactions, along with rumors of her attachment to her landlord (Mr. Lawrence) only help to spur on Markham’s feelings.
No sooner does he proclaim his passionate fervor for Helen, then he happens upon her strolling the garden with Mr. Lawrence himself, as they talk of the necessity of leaving the town and its annoying residents.
My heart was splitting with hatred
I love Anne’s descriptions. The words are simple, yet they are so perfectly and eloquently written.
When will Helen’s story be demystified?
The center two-fourths of the book are Helen’s detailed diary entries which she has given to Markham in order to explain her subdued affections and other misunderstandings (particularly in her connection to Mr. Lawrence).
Helen fell in love with the wrong man. (Don’t we all?)
Despite warnings and protestations, she marries Arthur Huntingdon. Arthur is a flirt and an alcoholic. Helen is so much in love with him that she foolishly thinks she can help Arthur. Not long into their marriage she finds she has made a colossal mistake. BUT she has made her choice in Arthur and promises to endure and overcome all of the heartache and difficulties.
“Where do you want to go Arthur?” said I.
“To London,” replied he, gravely.
“What for?” I asked.
“Because I cannot be happy here.”
“Because my wife doesn’t love me.”
“She would love you with all her heart, if you deserved it”
“What must I do to deserve it?”
This seemed humble and earnest enough; and I was so much affected, between sorrow and joy, that I was obligated to pause a few seconds before I could steady my voice to reply.
“If she gives you her heart,” said I, “you must take it thankfully, and use it well, and not pull it in pieces, and laugh in her face, because she cannot snatch it away.”
I don’t want to give too much of the book away, so I am keeping my summarization very minimal.
As much as I love Jane Austen, my heart is bound to the dark romances of the Brontë sisters. The strength and integrity of their amazing female characters influences me in so many ways. I definitely think I have read this particular novel at an opportune time and it has great significance to me personally.
Perhaps it might for you.
Now I am on to Shirley…. along with the other five books I’m reading.