The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is about Helen Graham who has just moved
into Wildfell Hall. She is a single mother and it is all kinds of controversial
in the village. She attracts the attention of Gilbert Markham, not by design,
he just gets slightly obsessed with her. He then thinks her landlord, Frederick
Lawrence, has designs on her and gets angry, so Helen tells him her story. It
turns out she married a man her family didn’t approve of. The guy turns out to
be an abusive asshole, and she leaves him. So she is now in hiding at Wildfell
This is Brontë with guts. Helen Graham is a badass and the men are mostly
written like whiny, entitled children. Which is obviously fantastic. Not because men are like this obviously, but in so many of the classics men are dashing, and they can be cruel, but I don't think I've read a classic where they are so outright dumb and silly and just whiny.
I really liked Helen. She’s a very modern woman with very strict and
strong views. She has decided what she thinks about the world, and acts on them
no matter what the world thinks. Her husband was a boozy, annoying prick so she
won’t let her son become like that. She tries to instil in him respect and love
for his mother and to turn him off of alcohol so he won’t end up like his dad.
This seems really foreign to her neighbours, because obviously in the day there
were ideas of how you were meant to behave and how sons were meant to be
raised. And Helen doesn’t give a shit. She’s awesome.
She’s self-reliant and tough. She had basically nothing in the way of
money when she left her husband, but she couldn’t stay there so she left him
anyway. She takes care of herself and her son financially and she takes care of
him pretty much alone. Leaving her husband is probably the best thing for her
son and herself, and while it was a huge sacrifice she still did it.
I just have to say again that the way she wrote the men is friggin’
hilarious. They are mostly entitled, privileged wankers. To differing degrees.
Obviously Arthur Huntingdon (Helen’s husband) is the worst of the bunch with
his drinking, cheating and downright abuse, but the other men aren’t great.
Gilbert seems to think he deserves Helen’s love just for being a great chap.
Every time she asks him to leave her alone or to leave her be he straight up
ignores her and tries to force a friendship. When he thinks she’s sleeping with
Fredrick he has a hissy fit and refuses to talk to her because she has somehow
betrayed him even though she’s not married to Gilbert and he’s just such a
childish jerk. He pretty much assaults Fredrick for this same thing, and
doesn’t let anyone explain.
Gilbert and Arthur aren’t alone. Most of the characters judge and jump
to conclusions and I wanted to shake a lot of them. And while I love Helen
she’s a bit pious and she seems to take her duty very seriously. When Arthur
gets sick she goes to him to nurse him even though she doesn’t really owe him
anything. That annoyed me a bit, although I see the point of it. She’s very
honourable and kind no matter what.
I don’t have a lot of thoughts. It’s a while since I read it. It’s
really cool. Helen is tough and badass and she doesn’t suffer fools. Anne
Brontë was fucking badass too for publishing this.