However, neither Blake Hall nor Thorpe Green, another house where Anne was employed as a governess, corresponds exactly with Grassdale. Linden-Car, the village that Wildfell Hall stands close to, is in Yorkshire. Car in northern dialect means pool, pond or low-lying and boggy ground. Lindenhope hope in Northeastern English means a small enclosed valley. A source of curiosity for the small community, the reticent Mrs Graham and her young son, Arthur, are slowly drawn into the social circles of the village.
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Initially Gilbert Markham casually courts Eliza Millward, despite his mother's belief that he can do better. His interest in Eliza wanes as he comes to know Mrs Graham. In retribution, Eliza spreads and perhaps creates scandalous rumours about Helen. At a chance meeting on a road Gilbert strikes the mounted Lawrence with a whip handle, causing him to fall from his horse.
Though she is unaware of this confrontation, Helen Graham still refuses to marry Gilbert, but when he accuses her of loving Lawrence she gives him her diaries. Part two Chapters 16 to 44 is taken from Helen's diaries, in which she describes her marriage to Arthur Huntingdon. The handsome, witty Huntingdon is also spoilt, selfish and self-indulgent. Before marrying Helen, he flirts with Annabella, and uses this to manipulate Helen and convince her to marry him. Helen, blinded by love, marries him, and resolves to reform him with gentle persuasion and good example.
After the birth of their only child, however, Huntingdon becomes increasingly jealous of their son also called Arthur , and his claims on Helen's attentions and affections. Huntingdon's pack of dissolute friends frequently engage in drunken revels at the family's home, Grassdale, oppressing those of finer character. Both men and women are portrayed as degraded. In particular, Annabella, now Lady Lowborough, is shown to be unfaithful to her melancholy but devoted husband.
While he is not as wild as his peers, he is an unwelcome admirer: Helen senses his predatory nature when they play chess. Walter informs Helen of Arthur's affair with Lady Lowborough. When his friends depart, Arthur pines openly for his paramour and derides his wife, but will not grant her a divorce. Arthur's corruption of their son — encouraging him to drink and swear at his tender age — is the last straw for Helen. She plans to flee to save her son, but her husband learns of her plans from her diary and burns the artist's tools with which she had hoped to support herself.
Part Three Chapters 45 to 53 begins after Gilbert's reading of the diaries. Helen bids Gilbert to leave her because she is not free to marry. He complies and soon learns that she has returned to Grassdale because her husband is gravely ill. Helen's ministrations are in vain, and Huntingdon's death is painful since he is fraught with terror at what awaits him.
Helen cannot comfort him, for he rejects responsibility for his actions and wishes instead for her to come with him to plead for his salvation. A year passes. Gilbert pursues a rumour of Helen's impending wedding, only to find that Mr Lawrence, with whom he has reconciled, is marrying Helen's friend Esther Hargrave. Gilbert goes to Grassdale, and discovers that Helen is now wealthy and lives at her estate in Staningley. He travels there, but is plagued by anxiety that she is now far above his station. By chance he encounters Helen, her aunt and young Arthur.
The two lovers reconcile and marry. Arthur Huntingdon and most of his male friends are heavy drinkers. Lord Lowborough is "the drunkard by necessity" — he tries to use alcohol as a way to cope with his personal problems. Arthur, like his friend Ralph Hattersley, is the "drunkard from an excess of indulgence in youth. Arthur and Lord Lowborough particularly seem affected by the traditional signs of alcoholism.
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Lord Lowborough understands that he has a problem and, with willpower and strenuous effort, overcomes his addiction. Arthur continues drinking even after he injures himself falling from a horse, which eventually leads to his death. Ralph, although he drinks heavily with his friends, does not seem to be as much afflicted by alcoholism as by his way of life.
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Mr Grimsby continues his degradation, going from bad to worse and eventually dying in a brawl. Huntingdon's son Arthur becomes addicted to alcohol through his father's efforts, but Helen begins to add to his wine a small quantity of tartar emetic , "just enough to produce inevitable nausea and depression without positive sickness. Later, when Ralph decides to reform his life, he blames his wife's meekness and says that resistance from her would have prevented his violence and debauchery.
According to Priti Joshi, in The Tenant Anne challenges the central tenet of 19th-century domestic ideology — women's influence on men — famously postulated by Hannah More. This doctrine found its way into even "protofeminist" novels such as Jane Eyre , where the main heroine fulfills or reduces her ambitions for a wider life by taming and managing her husband. In The Tenant , however, masculinity is impervious to the softening or "superior" influence of women.
Marrying Arthur, Helen is convinced that she can reform him, but six years later she escapes from him to protect herself and her young son. Helen's second husband, Gilbert Markham, who despite many faults is "more pliable," never shows any noticeable reform throughout the novel. Joshi concludes that Gilbert is "tottering toward a new form of masculinity" together with Jack Halford, his close friend, by exchanging [a] confidences and, by learning to communicate and reveal emotions, doing what is considered to be feminine, he can redeem himself, become a new man and a worthy husband of Helen.
Of all Arthur's friends, only Walter Hargrave has never been a heavy drinker. He uses this as manipulation in an attempt to win her favour. When it doesn't work, he starts speculating that Helen cannot manage her life after leaving Arthur without a man's protection and supervision. Gilbert's mother, Mrs Markham, holds the doctrine prevailing at the time that it is "the husband's business to please himself, and hers [i. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is thus considered a feminist novel by many critics. Josephine McDonagh believes that the theme of displacement is underlined by the title of the novel: Helen is the tenant, not an owner-occupier, of Wildfell Hall, the place of her birth, which was bequeathed to a male descendant, her brother.
The Tenant features numerous allusions to a wide range of other texts, from the Bible to contemporary novels. Apart from being used as a quotation, allusions are often applied by peculiar characters to reflect their personalities. Sometimes the individual voices of characters are shown as a patchwork of quotations. Such "borrowed voices" may denote the displacement of the main heroes  — Gilbert, being a well-educated man with high ambitions for some "great achievements," is forced to take over his father's farm, and Helen, being a runaway wife, can call neither her home nor her name her own.
The emphasis on allusions in the novel, on using the "language of others," according to McDonagh, may be a reflection on the position of being a tenant, which in its subjugation is similar to that of being a wife. Until the passing of the Married Women's Property Act in a wife had no independent existence under English law, and therefore no right to own property or to enter into contracts separately from her husband, or to sue for divorce, or for the control and custody of her children.
Milicent cannot resist her mother's pressure, so she marries Ralph against her will. Wealthy Annabella wants only a title, while Lord Lowborough devotedly loves her. The social climber Jane Wilson seeks wealth. Helen escapes from her husband, in violation of English law as it then was, not for her own sake but for young Arthur's.
She wants to "obviate his becoming such a gentleman as his father. According to Stevie Davies , Anne's depiction of the woman as fee-earning artist "trebly trespasses on the domain of the masculine: female artists dabbed in water-colours or sketched decoratively in pen and ink; ladies did not engage in trade; and, besides, tools of her trade [legally belonging to her husband] in this case count as stolen.
Nicole A. Helen's artistic ability plays a central role in her relationships with both Gilbert and Arthur. At the beginning of her diary, the young and unmarried Helen already defines herself as an artist. Her early drawings reveal her private and true feelings for Arthur Huntingdon, feelings that lead her to overlook his true character and lose herself to marriage. Nevertheless, in addition to revealing Helen's true desires, the self-expression of her artwork also defines her as an artist.
That she puts so much of herself into her paintings and drawings attests to this self-definition. After her marriage to Arthur, Helen, accepting the roles of wife and housekeeper, rarely refers to herself as an artist. The marital laws of the day made Helen's artworks legally belong to her husband and allowed Arthur to destroy them when he discovered her plans to earn money by selling paintings. Diederich calls it "an ironic echo" of Helen's destruction of Arthur's portrait just before their engagement when he tried to take it from her.
Diederich also points that in attempt to become a fee-earning artist "Helen reclaims her artistic talent as her own, distinct from her husband's possession of her art, and of her. Posing as a widow, Helen makes her role as an artist who sells her works, especially to support a child, more socially acceptable.
Resembling the time of Arthur's courtship, when Helen's portraits of him betrayed her affection, artwork once again serve the autobiographical role during her meetings with Gilbert — the painting of Wildfell Hall deceptively labelled "Fernley Manor" discloses her precarious position as a runaway wife.
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Diederich concludes that "the domestic realm, whether established with marriage or re-established in remarriage, doesn't support women's self-definition as artists, nor does it provide structured setting for the unferreted expression of their talents" and that The Tenant calls for "more support for married and remarried women's legal rights and artistic opportunities in nineteen-century Britain. Seemingly pious Universalist ideas in The Tenant contradicted prevailing at that time Protestant doctrine in England and thus advocated a socially unacceptable view.
She does not reassure the elder Arthur about this on his deathbed because she wants him to repent of his wrongdoing on his own accord. Despite his inability to do so, Helen still believes in his redemption. Many critics, including Anne's sister Charlotte, [b] considered her depiction of alcoholism and adultery overly graphic and disturbing. When we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would wish to appear. To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light, is doubtless the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest?
Is it better to reveal the snares and pitfalls of life to the young and thoughtless traveller, or to cover them with branches and flowers? Often, when depicting the same subject as her sisters, Anne presents it in completely different light. Stevie Davies has argued that Anne's ancient hall demystifies Gothic. Wildfell Hall is not haunted, it is simply dilapidated, damp and un-welcoming.
Anne's portrayal of Arthur Huntingdon deflates Byronic cult — while witty, adventurous and handsome, he is not endowed with intellectual gifts, nor even vitality, famously exhibited by Heathcliff, and has nothing of the fundamental goodness that finally redeemed Rochester. Analyzing the lack of sense and reason amongst males as the consequence of value-system based on the worship of machismo , Anne depicts the pathetic end of her main hero, brought on by his drinking habits. Totally dependent on his estranged wife in his final illness, Arthur Huntingdon ultimately loses all his personality.
The character of Helen Graham may have been inspired by Anna Isabella Milbanke , the wife of George Byron, who also thought at first that her religious obligation was to improve her husband's behavior, but very soon she got disillusioned, separated from him and raised their child alone. Despite this, she — like Helen — believed in the ultimate salvation of her husband's soul. In The Tenant vice is not unique to the men.
Lady Lowborough's adultery has a particularly devastating effect on her husband, and the malice of Eliza Millward is poisonous to the entire community. The eternal struggle between good and evil is emphasised by heavy use of biblical references: sinners who repent and listen to reason are brought within the fold, while those who remain stubborn tend to meet violent or miserable ends. Stevie Davies believes that the settings and characters in The Tenant are influenced by Anne's juvenile fiction. The characteristics of Arthur Huntington and Annabella Wilmot, both self-indulgent sexual transgressors, may be relics of Gondal, where most of the main heroes were extravagant and led adventurous lives.
Ur-hall in Gondal may be the source of inspiration for at least two of them — Wuthering Heights and Wildfell Hall. Citing all this, Davies concludes that Charlotte's statement that Anne "hated her work [on The Tenant ]" is not credible. Notwithstanding Anne's repudiation of the Gothic atmosphere, The Tenant' s narrative structure is common to Gothic fiction with the usage of framing narrator, letters and diary as clues to a whole truth. However, the narrator, Gilbert Markham, differs from his gothic predecessors in that he and the official standards he represents are shown to be in part the cause of the shocking reality he encounters.
It should be noted that his story is also taken from his own diary. Such adherence to the diaries may be considered as a 'testimony of experience'. Naomi Jacobs argues that "the displacement [of framing narration by the inner] is exactly the point of the novel, which subjects its readers to a shouldering-aside of familiar notions and comfortable perceptions of the world", and both narrations and jarring discrepancies of tone and perspective between them are essential to the purpose. In The Tenant , like in Wuthering Heights , a horrific reality of private life is obtained after passing through the voice of a framing narrator.
According to Jacobs, the male narrator represents the public world, and the framed structure serves several functions that are strongly gender-related: it illustrates the process of going behind the official version of reality in order to approach the truth that the culture prefers to deny; it exemplifies the ways in which domestic reality is obscured by layers of conventional ideology; and it replicates the cultural split between male and female spheres that is shown to be one of the sources of the tragedy in the novel.
Jacobs concludes that both Emily and Anne seemed to find it necessary, in approaching subjects that were considered to be controversial, to use the voice of a male narrator, appropriating, delegitimizing and even ridiculing his power, before telling anti-patriarchal truth. Carol A. Senf believes that the "unique narrative structure, the wife's story framed by that of her husband For example, Anne's concern to preserve the integrity of each of her narrators' voices is similar to magazine structure that maintains the voice of individual contributors. The novel's labyrinthine structure is established by the application of direct speech.
Gilbert's letter incorporates Helen's diary; and in turn, Helen's diary includes Arthur's autobiographical reminiscences. Like Pride and Prejudice , The Tenant of Wildfell Hall starts with the arrival of a new person in a neighbourhood — a source of curiosity for a small rural community. The relationship between Frederick and Helen is insular and cannot solve all the problems or contradictions that cluster around the concept of the domestic.
Helen's retreat from her husband is followed by a return to her natal family origins, symbolized by her return to the home in which she was born, and adoption of her mother's maiden name as her alias. The relationship between Helen and Frederick, sister and brother, who spent all their childhood apart and reunited only as adults, is foregrounded to domestic reform — Frederick's virtue compensates for their father's neglect of Helen, and their comfortable relationship, defined by mutual respect and understanding, contrasts with Helen's problematic relationship with her husband and her suitor.
In the third chapter The Tenant changes tone to the novel of ideas. In a powerfully argued Miltonic debate about virtue, experience, choice and temptation, Helen challenges the segregated education of the two sexes, with its over-exposure for boys and over-protection for girls. The novel's critique of libertine men may be influenced by the works of Mary Wollstonecraft. In The Tenant , a reformed masculinity emerges not, as More would have it, under the tutelage of a woman, but by emulating feminine ways. Anne presents the "idle talk" of Linden-Car villagers primary as a way of creating fellowship and community, not only as vicious gossip.
According to Joshi, the gossip of middle-class Linden-Car functions not as a critique of the behavior, but rather to heighten its contrast with the chilling atmosphere of the upper-class estate. Helen's faith in the written word and the class reserve that lead her to confide her troubles to diary, "the best friend I could have for the purpose [of a confidential talk]", is also shown as folly when her husband confiscates the diary and reads its contents.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall challenged the prevailing morals of the Victorian era. Especially shocking was Helen's slamming of her bedroom door in the face of her husband after continuing abuse. It is, taken altogether, a powerful and an interesting book. Not that it is a pleasant book to read, nor, as we fancy, has it been a pleasant book to write; still less has it been a pleasant training which could teach an author such awful facts, or give courage to write them. The fault of the book is coarseness--not merely that coarseness of subject which will be the stumbling-block of most readers, and which makes it utterly unfit to be put into the hands of girls Penguin gifts.
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Buy from. Read more. Share at. More in this Series. Orlando Virginia Woolf. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy. The War of the Worlds H. Tess of the D'Urbervilles Thomas Hardy. Frankenstein Mary Shelley. Far from the Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy. Lady Chatterley's Lover D. Metamorphoses Ovid. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe. The Bhagavad Gita none.
Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray. The Mahabharata. Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh. Great Expectations Charles Dickens. Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson.
David Copperfield Charles Dickens. The Iliad Homer.
Related Four Novels: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
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