Though the middle-third of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
was quite a slog, I thoroughly enjoyed the recounting of the love affair of Gilbert Markham and his mysterious neighbor at Wildfell Hall. A line of poetry from Anne Bronte: 'Believe not those who say/the upward path is smooth/Lest though should stumble on thy way/and faint before the truth' has been a mantra of mine for many years (I even, at one point, arried it written on a notecard in my wallet), I had yet to sit down and actually read something of hers.
Anne was the only Bronte sister to take employment out of the house, as a governess. Her lecturing, educational tone in this novel belies that history: she sure gives the reader a schooling. Here's what she's preaching:
1. The institutionalization of traditional gender roles is, at best, a crappy way of running things if you care about the well-being of children or financial or social stability. Or the sanctity of marriage, for that matter. At worst, insistance on the traditional roles of men and women is disastrous for the physical and mental well-being of women. Period.
2. Traditional religious practice is a catch-22: it both enshrines the traditional marriage, but provides some women, like Helen Huntingdon, the only protection that they have from a traditional marriage gone bad.
3. Love does not equal happiness and money does not equal security.
4. Don't get married at 18: no matter how good a perosn you are, no matter how much honesty, integrity and faith you might have, there is always someone out there ready to take advantage of you because you are too young to know better.
5. Listen to your mother at least half of the time.
Highly recommended for Victorian enthusiasts.