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Need Help: The Proposal Scene in Anne Bronte's "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" - Gothic Literature [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Need Help: The Proposal Scene in Anne Bronte's "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" [Jul. 20th, 2010|06:24 pm]
Gothic Literature

gothic_lit

[jill_rg]
[mood |curiouscurious]

This is a request for help.

Hello. I'm new to this community, but I'm a major bookworm who needs some help understanding a scene in Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.


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[User Picture]From: elettaria
2010-07-21 10:07 am (UTC)
I'm skimming because my eyes are bad today, and unfortunately it's years since I read Tenant and my most recent memory of it is the somewhat dicey film with Tara Fitzgerald et al. But aren't you applying logic rather too rigorously to highly emotional situations? In particular, Helen has been through an abusive relationship, and those completely mess up logical thinking. Like living in a cult, one is required to think in very odd ways merely to survive, and it takes a long time to adjust afterwards. (And kudos to Anne Bronte for recognising abuse as abuse, rather than romanticising it as her sisters did.)

It is also completely allowable for people to change their minds, or say things in the heat of the moment which they don't entirely mean! Living with the threat of Mr Huntingdon lurking in the background, and living with him safely dead for a year (is that right?), would quite likely produce different effects in the healing process for Helen. I think it more likely that she couldn't allow herself to think that far while Mr H was still around in any form, but once she was truly free, she could relax and start leading a whole new life, a safer one where she had far more choice.

And I really wouldn't use Freud, his understanding of women was appalling!

I'm curious as to why you call it the First Feminist Novel? I'd never really considered that label before, so I've just had fun putting it through Google. Tenant came up a fair few times, along with various mid-twentieth century texts which made me laugh (really, feminism is not that recent in origin), and intriguingly, the eighteenth century novel Clarissa, discussed in this post for instance. I'd actually wondered about the latter myself, since it's about a woman determined to resist various pressures to marry and be dependent. Of course, the ideal of the "perfect woman" that she is striving to attain is hugely patriarchal in origin, and the pressures of patriarchy plus her own resistance to some parts of it (and conformity with others) do not improve her mental health in the least, but the novel is still a serious questioning of the whole business. Also, the protagonist's best friend and confidant, Anna Howe, is one hell of an early feminist and quite possibly a lesbian into the bargain (and is quite utterly fabulous). Clarissa has surveyed the options available to her and decided that the single life, free from grotty suitors and annoying family members, is what she fancies (at the grand old age of 18, bless her). She doesn't really object to the institution of marriage in general, she's too conventional and reveres it dutifully, but she just hasn't met anyone she'd want to enter into it with, although pretty much every man in the district has come courting her by now. Anna has looked around and decided that marriage is bloody awful and what she really wants to do most is live with Clarissa in romantic-friendship-type bliss. Neither gets what they desire, alas, and oh bugger, I'm wittering on about Clarissa yet again. Ahem. Brontes, you were saying?

Wollstonecraft's novel Mary is coming up as a FFN too, though I read that about twelve years ago for uni and can't remember a word of it. Rather later Kate Chopin's The Awakening is coming in for the FFN label too, though all this is starting to depend on how you define feminism and what happens with proto-feminism and so forth. There are a few other contenders in the eighteenth century, such as Eliza Inchbald's A Simple Story (which again I read a few years ago and can't remember as well as I'd like - unfortunately I have fairly bad memory problems).

Are you writing an essay about this or just wondering, out of curiosity?
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[User Picture]From: jill_rg
2010-07-21 08:58 pm (UTC)
But aren't you applying logic rather too rigorously to highly emotional situations? In particular, Helen has been through an abusive relationship, and those completely mess up logical thinking. Like living in a cult, one is required to think in very odd ways merely to survive, and it takes a long time to adjust afterwards.

This is so embarrassing; how did that not occur to me? You're probably right! It's Helen who's changed, not Gilbert, but she sees him and such doctrines as she used to live by differently because she's free to think differently now! There's nothing to explicitly state that's what Anne was going for, but it makes perfect sense! Thank you!

It is also completely allowable for people to change their minds, or say things in the heat of the moment which they don't entirely mean! Living with the threat of Mr Huntingdon lurking in the background, and living with him safely dead for a year (is that right?), would quite likely produce different effects in the healing process for Helen. I think it more likely that she couldn't allow herself to think that far while Mr H was still around in any form, but once she was truly free, she could relax and start leading a whole new life, a safer one where she had far more choice.

Again, thank you.

And I really wouldn't use Freud, his understanding of women was appalling!

Well, I just used his terms for the two warring sides (passion and reason) that are shown in the novel.

Are you writing an essay about this or just wondering, out of curiosity?

Just wondering.

I'm curious as to why you call it the First Feminist Novel?

That's what several introductions and articles call it. Haven't read Clarissa, but it seems to come up in every introduction and/or footnotes to Jane Austen novels, so I guess I better check that out next after I finish The Scarlet Pimpernel... who, coincidentally, has a reputation as the First Masked Superhero.

And kudos to Anne Bronte for recognising abuse as abuse, rather than romanticising it as her sisters did.

Agreed!! That's probably why Anne is the only Bronte to remind me of Jane Austen, who also refused to romanticize manipulative predators like Henry Crawford. (Too many readers, sadly, disagree, of course... hence Twilight's pathetic popularity, I must assume.)
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