September: Bronte: the Tenant of Wildfell hall

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September: Bronte: the Tenant of Wildfell hall

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1Nickelini
syyskuu 13, 2010, 12:09pm

I've had the Tenant of Wildfell Hall in my TBR pile for about ten years and while I always looked forward to reading it, I never quite fit it in. I must say that now that I'm actually reading it (I'm about 1/3 of the way in), I'm quite disappointed. The story really didn't begin until page 96 (out of just under 400 pages), chapter 16. The first 95 pages are a frame, and set up the story a little, but seriously, I could rewrite it to be one good long paragraph. I'm also finding that the 19th century policing of women's every thought and movement really annoying--realistic, of course, but it bothers me. Anyway, I'm hoping that I'll like it better as the book goes along.

2celiacardun
syyskuu 15, 2010, 5:15am

I totally agree with you that the difference between what men and women can do is unjust - Helen says some really true words about that when they are discussing the different ways in which boys and girls are brought up in the beginning of the book (boys have to be tempted and really live life, girls have to be sheltered and protected). I think this is a very important theme throughout the book and I actually think that that is why I like the book so much. I'm curious what you think of it when you progress!

3Nickelini
syyskuu 15, 2010, 10:13am

I'm actually considering abandoning it . . . please tell me why I should go on (I really do want to finish, but I'm not sure I can. I'm between a third and halfway through).

4celiacardun
syyskuu 17, 2010, 3:25am

Hi Nickelini - interesting that you really don't find it enjoyable, it is one of my favourite books and I've gone back to it several times - although I might find it hard to pinpoint exactly why I like it so much. Where exactly in the story are you? To avoid that I spoil anything when trying to entice you to read on :-) Is the story still told from Gilbert's point of view?

5Nickelini
syyskuu 17, 2010, 11:03am

I'm almost half-way through. It got better once Gilbert stopped talking and started reading the diary. The first 96 pages were painfully bland. Now that I'm into the diary section, it's definitely better. There are still dreadfully dull parts, but I just read the section where Huntington tells her about his friend who had the gambling problem and then the drinking problem and is now marrying Annabella. That part was pretty good. I'll stick with it.

6Nickelini
syyskuu 24, 2010, 3:53pm

68. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte

BritLit, 1847

Rating: part of this book gets a dazzling 5 stars from me, but unfortunately chunks of it get 1 star. In the end, I'll give it 3/5 stars.

Comments:

What I Disliked This book was ridiculously over-long. My edition was 487 oversized pages, which doesn't sound that bad really. However, too many of these pages were completely unnecessary. The actual story, which took up the middle of the book was framed with a 96 page (sixteen chapters!) introduction and a 76 page conclusion. Everything that happened in these 172 pages could have been considerably condensed. The events of the first section could easily be told in one paragraph. Okay, to add a little suspense, Bronte should have made it one short chapter. The concluding frame was a little more important to the story, but again could be told in one chapter. As for the middle section, it also could have been trimmed.

Bronte really likes to use a lot of words. She uses a lot of words to describe every.single.detail of what is going on in a character's mind, and what they think is going on in the other characters' minds. There is also a lot of moralizing and 19th century social commentary. For pages and pages and pages and pages. Near the end, Gilbert apologizes for his "melancholy musings." Sorry, too late. I already hate you.

What I Liked: There is probably about a hundred pages of this novel that I just love and think are brilliant. The protagonist, Helen, is a courageous proto-feminist who stands up to her abusive alcoholic husband in an era when that just wasn't done. And the 150-odd pages of actual story were very interesting.

I also think that Anne's main characters were much more realistic than her sisters'. In particular, her ability to write male characters far surpasses Emily and Charlotte's. These men actually have conversations, and can speak to a woman without going into diatribes and sermons, like every male character in Jane Eyre. Sure, Huntington is a tyrannical reprobate, but he's not an evil psychopath like Heathcliff.

And when the going gets tough, Helen forms a plan just like an real adult. She doesn't have a hissy fit and will herself to die (Cathy, Wuthering Heights) or run away, immediately lose all her money and then wander the moors (the heroine in Jane Eyre). In the end I like both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre better than The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but the one thing I can say in Anne's defense is that her main character is a grown up.

Just for fun, I'd like to see this story retold from Huntington's point of view. Yes, he was vile--I mean, what sort of father gets his four-year old son drunk and teaches him to swear? But still, I think from his wing-back in front of the hearth, Helen would look like a humorless stick-in-the-mud. He was no angel, but considering he was met with her dour, judgmental face at breakfast every morning, its no wonder he escaped to London for months at a time.

Recommended for: Fans of 19th century British literature. I also think that anyone who has enjoyed the other Brontes should give this one a try too.

7celiacardun
syyskuu 30, 2010, 6:16am

I'm glad you liked at least part of it in the end!! And you make some interesting observations about the characters being more realistic and grown up as compared to Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

And yes, Helen gets quite dour and judgmental - and probably not much fun to be with - but in the beginning of their marriage that's not the case. Only when she discovers his faults and that they are due to a darker side of his character (like flirting with married women and having had a relationship with one of them and not considering that a bad thing), she starts to become like that. He would probably have been happier with a wife like poor Millicent... (that's her name, right?)

8Nickelini
syyskuu 30, 2010, 11:58am

Good points! Yes, she should have listened to her aunt who saw right through Huntington. (Sometimes older family members aren't so dumb after all!)