The Tenant of the Wildfell Hall is the second novel and my first reading of Anne Bronte. The first thought that came to mind while reading this was why it took me this long to discover her? I was familiar with her more famous sisters Charlotte and Emily but didn’t know of her existence until a very recent time!
Anne’s writing is far different from that of her sisters. Her approach to writing is more direct. There is no poetic language, no implied romanticism, and less flowery phrases, which is the signature of her famous siblings. Instead, her writing is direct, bold, and realistic. With her authentic writing style, she weaves the tale of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall into a realistic, timeless tale.
The heroine, Helen, finds her paying a bitter price for her foolish infatuation and ultimate marriage to a rake. His alcoholism and debauchery make her life a living hell, but she endures it all with her strong sense of duty. When his conduct threatens the well-being of her son, she flees and seeks refuge elsewhere with the noble desire for the welfare of her son at her heart. Eventually, her “good for nothing” husband dies and she finally finds love and happiness.
Although the gist of the story seems like a pretty little love story, it is not. It is a story of sheer courage and patience to forbear abuse and to hold on when all your hopes are cruelly crushed and despair is threatening to drown you. It is a story of a sense of duty towards one’s husband although he is no better than a demon. It is a story of a mother who is taking the right course of action to protect her son, although that course of action is something which would shock the world (for, leaving one’s husband under any circumstances was against the law and nothing short of a crime) and scorn her. This is still the story of numerous women all around the world. For them, Helen is a model of comfort and strength to draw courage from and to stand on their own ground. Having an abusive alcoholic brother herself, Anne must have been well aware of the consequences of women in such a household.
This piece of work is regarded as one of feminist work, but my opinion is to the contrary. Although there is a touch of feminism in it with more emphasis on the wrongs done for women, it is not completely so. The story talks about both sides; a woman’s suffering in the case of abuse and debauchery by her husband and a man’s suffering in the event of adultery by his wife. And it also points at the villains among men, who rather than offering strength, comfort, and friendly support to a woman in desperate need of it, try to reap their own fruit of selfish passion.
The book deals with so many raw emotions, the ever-changing feelings when faced with different tiers of misery. Though the book lacks beautiful language, flowery prose, and graceful flow as that you would expect in a Bronte, this direct narrative is soul searching with every written sentence tugging at your heartstrings. It is truly amazing when a book does that. I had a delightful reading experience with this book. It is a book quite advanced in time in which it was written. And I’m thankful to Anne Bronte for taking upon a daring venture in writing this wonderful book on a universal and timeless theme.