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Old 11-17-2019, 11:39 PM   #31
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Ditto. So all credit to A.B. that despite that lack of mystery, we enjoyed it and were engaged enough to keep reading and want to see events unfold.

However all the excellent critiques of the book’s structure, the author’s foretelling, etc, have me wondering about Charlotte’s reluctance to have the book republished after Anne’s death. I’ve read it was due to the subject matter, but maybe she was also concerned about the quality of the writing.
I'm a Jane Eyre fan. I recently finished Shirley by Charlotte. That was an even bigger slog and took me over 2 months to read. She also had a very saintly character in Caroline that was a bit OTT. I'm still glad I read it because I found the historical content interesting. I'm expecting Villete to be her gold standard so I'm looking forward to reading that next, especially after Issybird's recommendation.
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Old 11-18-2019, 12:21 AM   #32
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I don't think Gilbert was despicable. Arthur was truly despicable. I also don't think Gilbert was especially manipulative. He had self-restraint not to ask more about Helen after she left Wildfell Hall. I think that Hargrave was the example of someone who was not so genuine in his love and a contrast to Gilbert's love that was purer. However, I think Gilbert was extremely immature, somewhat of a cad, and overwrought in his sentiments. It was terrible what he did to Mr. Lawrence, and he did go back out of guilt but his apology later was somewhat rude. Also, I thought it was harsh how he treated little Arthur when he was upset with Helen and basically ignored Arthur who was craving for his attentions. There were several times where you just wanted to shake Gilbert and say, "Do you not learn anything?!". Head slap! Also he was to quick to judge Helen like the rest of the neighborhood in their gossip when he sees Helen with Frederick and doesn't meet with her for the big "reveal" of her past when he would have learned of their true relationship and instead he turns into jealous monster. Gilbert was also spoiled by his mother and sister.

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Old 11-18-2019, 12:22 AM   #33
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It also would have saved Gilbert as a romantic hero, since the reader would have been spared his sneering commentary on his friends and his constant self-justification and aggrandizement.
And wouldn't that have been a shame. [/sarcasm]

Sorry, I that's probably a bit harsh, but really, he was the sort of self-important cad that I really have a hard time appreciating.
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Old 11-18-2019, 12:31 AM   #34
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Add to that Gilbert's slowness on the uptake. Who didn't know from the start that Helen wasn't really a widow? That the concealed portrait was of her husband? That Frederick Lawrence was her brother? And there was the awkward business of Arthur's addressing Helen by her first name, when "Miss Lawrence" would have given the show away. Except that we knew, anyway, and the awkward device just emphasized this. The whole book I was just waiting for the reveal on various people and events that I knew were going to happen.
Interesting. I hadn't notice that Arthur was addressing her by her first name. At 24% I wrote a note "are they family - cousins or siblings?". At 42% she mentions a brother and that's when I knew exactly what he was, but I was unsure up until that point although I figured they were family relations of some sort. From the beginning sections before the diary, the reader suspects that Gilbert & Helen have a history and perhaps marriage. So, I agree in many cases you were just waiting for the reveal of what you suspected/knew.
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Old 11-18-2019, 12:54 AM   #35
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And wouldn't that have been a shame. [/sarcasm]

Sorry, I that's probably a bit harsh, but really, he was the sort of self-important cad that I really have a hard time appreciating.
I think he was less self-important than the other male characters. But, perhaps Gilbert needed minor flaws in comparison to the saintly Helen? None of us are sinless from the religious perspective. I don't think he could be as pure as her to fulfill the feminism themes of the novel, which emphasized the superiority of the female character, Helen, over the males despite their gender or class positions.
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:29 AM   #36
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I think he was less self-important than the other male characters. But, perhaps Gilbert needed minor flaws in comparison to the saintly Helen? None of us are sinless from the religious perspective. I don't think he could be as pure as her to fulfill the feminism themes of the novel, which emphasized the superiority of the female character, Helen, over the males despite their gender or class positions.
Based on your comments, I've rethought Gilbert. No, he's not despicable, which needs to be kept for Arthur and his cronies (although the attack on Lawrence is deeply troubling). What he is, is no better than all his petty, judgmental neighbors for whom he has such contempt. He and Eliza were pretty well matched - underlying malice which they would act on, and in Gilbert's case, it could take a physical form. The only real exceptions in the immediate neighborhood were the saintly (yet ugly, alas) Miss Millward and whichever Wilson brother loved her. They both had "R" names. In addition to all the "H" names, there were also four last names beginning with "M" and the Wilson/Wilmot problem!

This leads me to something else I noticed; people tended to be all good or all bad. You can argue Gilbert was an exception and that Helen was his redemption. Nice that she came with pots of money, too! Overall, though, I think the only truly mixed character was Walter Hargrave. Even the former reprobates Lowborough and Hattersley underwent a total transformation.

The problem with Gilbert's being redeemed, however, goes back to the narration. It would have been nice if in retrospect, Gilbert had exhibited more remorse about his treatment of Eliza and his attack on Lawrence, and had tempered his judgments of his neighbors. But no, Brontë had him write his letters as if he were in the moment, instead of decades later. One of the many technical failings of the book.

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Old 11-18-2019, 08:15 AM   #37
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The story was already known to me, but I can't remember whether I've read it before or whether it's something I've absorbed from some other source. So there have been no surprises for me.

I'm not seeing Helen as saintly (I haven't actually finished part 2 yet). She took on Arthur when she was warned away. (It is interesting to see that "I can change him" was still an expectation in young women all the way back then - and just as effective then as now, we see.) And some of her dealings with Arthur have seemed rather less than saintly to me (bordering on antagonistic, certainly judgemental even before the extremes arrived). I am not saying she deserved to be mistreated, but I see the portrayal of Helen in this second part as rather more realistic than I expected after reading the first part: Helen, too, is flawed.

The chess game struck me as rather awkward, as if this was the only way that Anne thought she could contrive to show Hargrave's advances as undesirable. Helen doesn't seem to think it, but if I'd been her I'd have been worried it was a set up by Arthur, to entrap his wife and so relieve his own sense of guilt.

I am still struggling with some of the long winded passages, but I am also still sort of intrigued by the evolution of the characters - that much I do think Anne Brontë has done well.
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Old 11-18-2019, 09:09 AM   #38
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I'm thinking about the rest of your post, but I wanted to comment on this:

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I'm not seeing Helen as saintly (I haven't actually finished part 2 yet). She took on Arthur when she was warned away. (It is interesting to see that "I can change him" was still an expectation in young women all the way back then - and just as effective then as now, we see.)
I thought it striking that even given her own history, that Helen thought it would be efficacious to warn Lowborough about Annabella. The reality was that warnings worked in no case; Gilbert didn't listen to his mother about Eliza either, until he went off her on her own accord.

With many of the potential matings, it seemed a case of a rock and a hard place. While Helen would have benefited from heeding her aunt's warnings, the suitors her aunt was pushing on her were also poor choices. (And I wondered by the aunt was seen as a font of wisdom and affection by the end of the book.) The aforementioned Annabella seemed relatively clearheaded, as she wanted the standing of Lowborough combined with the appeal of Arthur. I did wonder why she got so muddled about her own best interest later. Gilbert, of course, employs his typical sneers about the matings that eventuated; only the Wilson/Millward match meets his approval, and presumably his sister's. As an aside, I thought Brontë's expositions about how they all ended up were awkwardly inserted; at one point, I back up my audio because I thought I'd missed something as he shoved the timeline ahead several years.
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Old 11-18-2019, 10:06 AM   #39
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[...] With many of the potential matings, it seemed a case of a rock and a hard place. While Helen would have benefited from heeding her aunt's warnings, the suitors her aunt was pushing on her were also poor choices. [...]
What went through my head when I was reading about the men the aunt was putting forward was a line from Pride and Prejudice (the TV mini-series with Firth and Ehle, I cannot find it in the book). They (I think it was Jane and Lizzy) are discussing Charlotte's match with Mr Collins, and it is said that Mr Collins is "not vicious".

It seems to me that the choices for most women of those times were between a rock and a hard place, and the possibility of landing a husband who would turn out to be vicious would have been all too real.

So I tend to think of the aunt's choices as conservative and protective: here are men that will not hurt you. And after you've lived through the damage of what can happen, I should think those conservative options would begin to take on a much more attractive appearance.
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Old 11-18-2019, 11:37 AM   #40
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I'm not seeing Helen as saintly (I haven't actually finished part 2 yet). She took on Arthur when she was warned away. (It is interesting to see that "I can change him" was still an expectation in young women all the way back then - and just as effective then as now, we see.) And some of her dealings with Arthur have seemed rather less than saintly to me (bordering on antagonistic, certainly judgemental even before the extremes arrived). I am not saying she deserved to be mistreated, but I see the portrayal of Helen in this second part as rather more realistic than I expected after reading the first part: Helen, too, is flawed.
When I called Helen saintly, I was being sarcastic. She's sanctimonious. She's generally convinced of her moral superiority--drugging her son to make him avoid alcohol is certainly the most glaring example of how rigid and extreme she is in service to what she believes is proper behavior. The way she sails in to nurse her miserable husband seems to be about her perceived duty and her self-image as a "good wife" rather than much feeling for Arthur himself.
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Old 11-18-2019, 03:43 PM   #41
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Oh, I think she was trying to “save” Arthur. I certainly found her going back to nurse him as totally unbelievable after the difficulties she had had in escaping him previously. She was just too good to be true.
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Old 11-18-2019, 04:19 PM   #42
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When I called Helen saintly, I was being sarcastic. She's sanctimonious. She's generally convinced of her moral superiority--drugging her son to make him avoid alcohol is certainly the most glaring example of how rigid and extreme she is in service to what she believes is proper behavior. The way she sails in to nurse her miserable husband seems to be about her perceived duty and her self-image as a "good wife" rather than much feeling for Arthur himself.
Yes, she’s a slave to correct behaviour, and sometimes uses it punitively as well. When Gilbert visited her after the death of Arthur, she was angry, so made him pass several correctness tests before she’d acknowledge her own feelings. Then after all their waiting, she instantly declared they’d need to wait another year to marry, etc. She isn’t what we’d think of as being a liberated person today.

I admired Helen’s strength and her intelligence. But I wouldn’t want to be on intimate terms with her. There would be too much angst and examination, passive aggression and guilt trips to ever feel comfortable.
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Old 11-18-2019, 04:34 PM   #43
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Oh, I think she was trying to “save” Arthur. I certainly found her going back to nurse him as totally unbelievable after the difficulties she had had in escaping him previously. She was just too good to be true.
I thought Brontë portrayed Helen as sincerely trying to ‘save’ Arthur as well. Having her take that risk makes no sense in the context of the rest of the story, especially as fiercely protective as she is of little Arthur. It’s another example where the internal consistency of the story breaks down.
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:09 PM   #44
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I don't think it was necessarily inconsistent. I think it was a nice & tidy way to resolve the storyline consistent with the expectations of the reading public and morals of the era. It was already scandalous that Anne was writing about a woman who left her husband and that she portrayed the effects of alcohol so vividly and honestly. A women could not just get divorced and move on with life. A women could not just move on with another man in a non-married relationship without creating a scandal and damaging her reputation. Anne needed Arthur to die so that the marriage could be over, and Helen could legitimately move on. Having Helen return to Arthur after his injury allowed her to gain back respectability and fulfill her societal duty as a wife. She did extract from him a written promise that she could leave again with little Arthur in the future, such that she would not be perceived as "running away" and it would be respectable to society. She also couldn't just move on with Gilbert quickly after Arthur's death. She had to adhere to mourning customs.
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Old 11-18-2019, 08:43 PM   #45
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I believed Helen to be a sincere character, striving to be saintly. She started out naive and learned life lessons through hard experience. I thought that her actions were driven genuinely by her Christian faith and perhaps was reflective of Anne’s own religious upbringing. When you read annotated versions you see many Biblical references in the Brontë works of all sisters. I don’t think Helen flaunted her moral superiority. I just think she was very pious and serious. She was trapped in a bad situation and was trying to rectify it within her Christian code of conduct in addition to society’s expectations. Of course Arthur found her sanctimonious and oppressive because he was a degenerate and was not going to reform. He also had to blame someone besides himself for his bad behavior.
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