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Old 11-19-2019, 10:15 PM   #61
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I noticed last night that Amazon Prime has a three-part version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, from the BBC; the brief summary for the third part says that Arthur kidnaps his son, precipitating Helen's return to him.

I guess the folks who wrote the screenplay agreed with many of us that it's hard to swallow Helen's voluntary return to her husband.
A kidnapping would have been the kind of plot twist that you probably would have appreciated more than the original story! That would have been an interesting element. Instead there was merely the hint that it might be a problem near the beginning.
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Old 11-19-2019, 11:51 PM   #62
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A kidnapping would have been the kind of plot twist that you probably would have appreciated more than the original story! That would have been an interesting element. Instead there was merely the hint that it might be a problem near the beginning.
I would have liked SOME drama or melodrama instead of the droning on about souls and salvation.

Somehow I had the vague notion that there would be gothic elements, that the house itself would figure more prominently, be a bit ghostly and more atmospheric. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall would be a great title for a book about a house with a ghostly tenant, after all.

So that was a disappointment. But as much as I disliked the characters and the wordiness and elements of the plot, for some reason I can't articulate, I sort of enjoyed the book anyway, and I'm looking at Agnes Grey (which is happily much shorter).
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Old 11-20-2019, 12:06 AM   #63
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Thanks for sorting me out issybird - it must be getting on for 50 years or more since I read it, so I had forgotten that complication for the younger Catherine.

Although there is that resemblance of the next generation getting it right between the two books, there would be the tendency to marry within the group of people with whom you grew up. People didn't normally travel around much and didn't have the opportunity to marry someone from another village, as it were. Unless of course they were high society and went to London for the "season", to find a suitable bride/groom.
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Old 11-20-2019, 12:13 AM   #64
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... I've just realized that the book is split roughly equal between Gilbert Letters Part 1 @ 25%, Helen Diary @ 50% and Gilbert Letters Part 2 @ 25%. I have been focused on the book as being about mostly Helen. However, with Gilbert narrating 1/2 of the book maybe his character has a greater significance (besides convenient narrator) than we realized.

When Gilbert starts writing to Halford at the beginning of the book, it's the 1840s and we get the impression that he is a gentleman. The tale that is told in Gilbert Letters Part 1 emphasizes the youth and immaturity of Gilbert, such as succumbing to the gossip of the community to falsely perceive "truth" and his terrible treatment of Lawrence and others. The tale that is told in Gilbert Letters Part 2 is about his growth in maturity and recognizing (mostly) the errors of his ways in Part 1. So, we are witnessing a transformation in Gilbert too between these 2 parts and that's what makes him worthy of marriage to Helen. In Part 1 you wouldn't have been convinced that Helen deserves him as a match, but in Part 2 it is more acceptable has he proves himself changed by developing a friendly relationship with Lawrence and respecting Helen's wishes to let her be. So this middle class farmer has a better character than the noble gentlemen in the stories. In that way he marries Helen and achieves a gentleman status like the impression we get in the beginning of the book.
I noticed that split also, Bookworm_Girl, though I must confess that I didn't see Gilbert transforming as much in the second set of letters as you did.

However, his hesitation over going to see Helen when he realised that she was very much landed gentry and way above him, was in his favour. Not because I think he was right to consider himself her inferior, but because he didn't want to seem to be chasing her for her money - which would of course become his by the laws of that time.

At least it meant that his younger brother was provided for, and fortunately his sister seems to have married happily, so all was well there. Phew!
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Old 11-20-2019, 12:21 AM   #65
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I would have liked SOME drama or melodrama instead of the droning on about souls and salvation.

Somehow I had the vague notion that there would be gothic elements, that the house itself would figure more prominently, be a bit ghostly and more atmospheric. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall would be a great title for a book about a house with a ghostly tenant, after all.

So that was a disappointment. But as much as I disliked the characters and the wordiness and elements of the plot, for some reason I can't articulate, I sort of enjoyed the book anyway, and I'm looking at Agnes Grey (which is happily much shorter).
I agree Catlady - despite all the "souls and salvation" aspect, I quite enjoyed reading the book and didn't find it as turgid as some have done. I just felt it could have been a better book than it was, by the simple expedient of a third person omniscient narrator.

Indeed, the idea of using letters to tell a story is I think an older style of novel-writing. It was used for example by Jane Austen in her early book Lady Susan, but not in her six most famous books, which are all third person.
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Old 11-20-2019, 12:48 AM   #66
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At least it meant that his younger brother was provided for, and fortunately his sister seems to have married happily, so all was well there. Phew!
It’s like Anne felt she had to have a happy ending for all of the good characters and some kind of proportional resolution for the rest and as issybird noted earlier it was awkward when she started addressing all the loose threads.
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Old 11-20-2019, 01:30 AM   #67
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As Oscar Wilde put it so perfectly, “the good ended happily and the bad ended unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

Last edited by Bookpossum; 11-20-2019 at 01:33 AM.
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Old 11-20-2019, 06:14 AM   #68
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But it is time to bring my narrative to a close. Any one but you would say I had made it too long already.
She got that right!

I finished at last. 10 days. I had given myself 5, but between work and the less than inviting prose ...

I think the story had quite a lot going for it, but as others have commented, it was sadly let down by the execution. Too many words. The first person structure combined with nineteenth century exaggerated expressions of emotion to make this read like a less than good young-adult novel. Too much telling us what is going on, rather than letting the story tell itself. But her characters were interesting, and they could be quite expressive when given a chance. And there definitely were multiple layers to this story (as desired by the theme ); I doubt if they were all intended by the author, but they exist to modern eyes.

I am glad I persevered, but I can't see myself ever trying to re-read it.
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Old 11-20-2019, 06:21 AM   #69
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The humour of Wildfell Hall

My early post complained of a lack of desperately needed humour, but I did find a few things that made me chuckle ... although I'm uncertain how many of them the author meant to be funny.

Quote:
I went home very happy, with a heart brimful of complacency for myself, and overflowing with love for Eliza.
Quote:
seemed to intimate that the owner thereof was prouder of his beauty than his intellect—as, perhaps, he had reason to be;
Quote:
‘[...]Receive, coldly and dispassionately, every attention, till you have ascertained and duly considered the worth of the aspirant; and let your affections be consequent upon approbation alone. First study; then approve; then love.
[...]
‘But what are all the poor fools and reprobates to do, aunt? If everybody followed your advice, the world would soon come to an end.’
These have to be an intentional humour, yes?

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Nothing more than you do, Arthur: your actions are all right so far; but I would have your thoughts changed;
Okay, so this is only (possibly) wryly funny... or I found it so. It was sort of: Wow! Whoo! Did you hear what you just said? Such words and Helen is still thinking about marrying Arthur ... and he her? Funny or not, I did laugh.

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It contained upon examination a newspaper and one or two letters for him, and a couple of letters for me,
This is probably only funny to nerds. My reaction was: No cat? Sorry, quoting this is a bit silly, it's just the "upon examination" that got me, as if it might have held something different before examination - leading naturally (in my mind) to Schrödinger's cat.

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‘At any rate,’ resumed she, pursuing her advantage, ‘you can console yourself with the assurance that you are worthy of all the love he gives to you.’
Ouch! Great line.

Quote:
‘Mrs. Huntingdon,’ said he as I passed, ‘will you allow me one word?’

‘What is it then? be quick, if you please.’

‘I offended you this morning; and I cannot live under your displeasure.’

‘Then go, and sin no more,’ replied I, turning away.
I literally did laugh out loud for this one, but did Anne mean it to be that funny?

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though his kind nurse did not complain
To which I heard Inigo from The Princess Bride saying "You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means". What are all these letters to her brother if not complaints? The letters to her brother read as self-serving "oh look at me and how good I'm being." In a private journal (part 2 of the book) you're allowed to be self-pitying, but in letters to others you should be more reserved unless you intend to be showing conspicuous compassion.
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Old 11-20-2019, 07:57 AM   #70
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I plan to respond to specific posts when I get the chance, but in the meantime I wanted to comment on how there seem to be a consensus that despite its flaws, this was an entertaining read. And there's nothing wrong with that! One can't read great works all the time.

Being a Brontë was a double-edged sword for Anne. It certainly provided her with a lot of material and let her hone her skill, but it also meant we tend to view her through the prism of her sisters' genius, which she didn't share. D'you think Charlotte and Emily whispered about her in private? "Poor Anne. She does try, but she can't quite pull it off."

As we've said, though, Anne probably wouldn't have lasted without her sisters' coattails. She'd be a minor novelist of the stuff of dissertations.
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Old 11-20-2019, 08:52 AM   #71
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[...] I think that Helen did appreciate and value Rachel very much. We see Rachel at first through Gilbert’s eyes, and of course to him she is “just” a servant. Though as issybird pointed out, Gilbert did work alongside his farm labourers, so he was a bit more egalitarian than many at the time.
Now that I've finished I feel better qualified to respond. Yes, Helen appreciated and valued Rachel as a loyal servant. Helen knows that good help is hard to find (made especially clear with poor help surrounding Arthur while she nurses him). That sounds a bit overly cynical, since there is obviously some depth of affection toward Rachel, especially when she joins Helen and Arthur in their escape ... but as far as I could see there was also a big element of: what else was Rachel going to do?

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‘And what will you do, Rachel?’ said I; ‘will you go home, or seek another place?’
Rachel nursed Helen at Wildfell Hall*! As far as we've seen, she has almost never left Helen's side. So where is Rachel's home? And she must be far from young, so what other place was she likely to find? It seemed to me almost cruel to suggest Rachel should separate from them, and so this seemed like another example of how self-absorbed Helen could be.


* Chapter 44 we are told this. There had been the question of how Arthur could not know of Wildfell Hall, but now we have the additional question of whether Rachel could or should have been recognised in the neighbourhood and so spoil the secret.
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Old 11-20-2019, 09:34 AM   #72
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I have quickly caught up the conversation, but I want to make a point that I don't think has been raised in its full potential. This novel is a perfect, albeit dated, picture of domestic violence. As many of you know, my entire law practice is representing victims of domestic violence in all the legal matters that arise from them trying to escape abusers.

Many of the character flaws that some of you have pointed out are classic behaviors of abused women. It is wholly believable that she would go back to nurse him. Many women who escape the abuser return to him or her if they believe that the abuser "needs" them or finds themselves in a situation from which "surely they will change."

While Huntington's abuse is not physical, he destroys her hobbies (burning the paints), is an alcoholic, clearly cheats, and controls her. But some of the lesser characters in the novel are clearly more physically abusive. During the visit of all of Huntington's friends in chapter 31, the following exchange takes place between Hattersly and his wife:

Quote:
"I want to know what’s the matter with you...What are you crying for
Milicent? Tell me!"
"I’m not crying."
...
"How dare you tell such a lie?"
"I’m not crying now," pleaded she.
"But you have been—and just this minute too; and I will know what for. Come
now, you shall tell me!"
"Do let me alone Ralph! remember we are not at home."
"No matter: you shall answer my question!" exclaimed her tormentor; and he
attempted to extort the confession by shaking her and remorselessly crushing her slight arms in the gripe of his powerful fingers.
If he is willing to treat her thus in front a whole party, what must her home life be?

I know that the book is so didactic as to be unsufferably preachy, but I have to appreciate the early attempt to depict the brutality of some Victorian homes.
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Old 11-20-2019, 09:56 AM   #73
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Oh, I'd missed that, astrangerhere. I know I had (later) received the impression that Hargrave was potentially violent, but Hattersley I thought had been portrayed as one of the less offensive.

While Arthur Huntingdon's abuse is not given as physical, I did get the impression that this might have been editorial choice, if you will. That a book of this sort could not actually portray such violence directly, and be published, so perhaps Anne deliberately left out the violence, leaving the reader to read-between-the-lines.
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Old 11-20-2019, 09:57 AM   #74
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This is probably only funny to nerds. My reaction was: No cat? Sorry, quoting this is a bit silly, it's just the "upon examination" that got me, as if it might have held something different before examination - leading naturally (in my mind) to Schrödinger's cat.
I didn’t find most of the quoted sections nearly as amusing as your reaction to the missing cat! That was definitely a lol

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Now that I've finished I feel better qualified to respond. Yes, Helen appreciated and valued Rachel as a loyal servant. Helen knows that good help is hard to find (made especially clear with poor help surrounding Arthur while she nurses him). That sounds a bit overly cynical, since there is obviously some depth of affection toward Rachel, especially when she joins Helen and Arthur in their escape ... but as far as I could see there was also a big element of: what else was Rachel going to do?


Rachel nursed Helen at Wildfell Hall*! As far as we've seen, she has almost never left Helen's side. So where is Rachel's home? And she must be far from young, so what other place was she likely to find? It seemed to me almost cruel to suggest Rachel should separate from them, and so this seemed like another example of how self-absorbed Helen could be. [/SIZE]
I thought Helen felt genuine affection towards Rachael. However, there was an established hierarchy within the servant class as well. Helen was escaping with nothing but the few dollars in her pocket, and simply had no means to offer Rachael a position appropriate to her status. So asking if she’d seek another post was respectful, rather than presuming she’d take a job as ‘just as general servant’.
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Old 11-20-2019, 10:09 AM   #75
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I thought Helen felt genuine affection towards Rachael. However, there was an established hierarchy within the servant class as well. Helen was escaping with nothing but the few dollars in her pocket, and simply had no means to offer Rachael a position appropriate to her status. So asking if she’d seek another post was respectful, rather than presuming she’d take a job as ‘just as general servant’.
I shouldn't really hold Helen apart as especially self-absorbed in her treatment of servants as servants; I think being self-absorbed is a condition of her class. My real reason for focusing on Helen and Rachel is only that I think if Anne Brontë had meant this book as some sort statement about women's rights then the relationship between those two women would have been different, more equal. Instead, I'm inclined to think the book, from Anne's perspective, was probably about the dangers of drink and other excesses; that it wasn't women's rights that had to change, but that men should live responsibly (in the full Christian sense of that word). It is only a modern eye that tends to look at the story from the perspective of women's rights.
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Other Fiction Brontë, Anne: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, v.1, 14 Nov 2007. Patricia BBeB/LRF Books 0 11-13-2007 08:25 PM


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