Unapologetically I proclaim the vain nature of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Classic and heavily admired as they are, filled with doom amid romance, they are totally overshadowed by the practicality, blunt nature and straightforward merit of Anne Bronte’s magnum opus “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”. The moment I watched it, I watched it again, (and twice more after that). I won’t present a critique or a dissection of the novel, you can find plenty around, instead I will send you to two truly sincere articles (Daily Mail and Guardian) describing Anne Bronte’s struggles and the journey of the novel. In this blog I discuss the striking lesson to be taken from this masterpiece without revealing the story, or spoilers. You must read it for yourself.
The novel and well executed TV series presents the classic example of an empath-narcissist marriage. Helen sweet, loyal, dutiful is forced to run away to a country estate Wildfell Hall with her little son. She has to take a disguise as a tenant and tries her best to evade the questions, assumptions, prying eyes and gossips of the entire village. Sounds familiar? I am sure after high school everyone has at some point faced unnecessary and offensive inquisitiveness of society around them for a genuinely private, personal and sensitive matter. Lesson learned : let’s all try to be a little less nosey and let people around us breathe.
Helen’s turbulent and pitiless life takes a sharp turn upon an interaction with the kind and gentle Gilbert Markham, a simple farmboy, benevolent to his family and a young desirable bachelor. Markham is intrigued by Helen’s disposition and desires to unravel her life’s secret. Markham’s personality shows Helen empathy which makes them the perfect match. Helen is summoned to her husband in Grassdale, but takes a chance and confides in Markhan to read her diary, which reveals everything. Lesson learnt : good things can happen when you take a chance. Found some good in life? Grab it!
Markhan reads the diary in which Helen’s aunt had explicitly forbade her from marrying the “charming” Arthur, she says :
You are too pretty my dear. Beauty invariably invites the very worst kind of men.-Anne Bronte couldn’t have written anything more thoughtful and intense for women.
The terror at Grassdale house was not Arthur Huntingdon’s erratic savage behaviour, it was the fact that Helen believed that she could change him, she wanted to change him for her sake, for her son’s sake and also for Arthur’s own sake. This is the central crux of the entire novel, you cannot change another person, good-natured people remain good ultimately more or less with the bitterness of life and rascals by nature remain vile even if they get drenched in the sweetness of life. A young idealist Helen in a dreamy Disney princess-like manner thought that the “power of her love” or “magic of her beauty”, “impeccable moral character” or “faith in her husband” would somehow change his sadistic partying, scroundrel nature and alcohol addiction. It is a harsh lesson to be learnt in our lives today, when close to a narcissist RUN! RUN AWAY ! As fast as you can. Arthur displays violent behaviour towards Helen but at the same time is all together too manipulative and wins her affection over.
Prince charming is meant to be charming, not loyal.Into the Woods (2014)
This tale resonates very much today, far more than it did then. The novel was censored and underappreciated. Perhaps the nature was too bold and bare back then but it could not be more relatable and applicable in today’s world. Nothing has changed in terms of abusive behaviour. Till today there are young beautiful girls abused by the desirable “bad & handsome” category of manipulative boys and men. Divorce attorneys deal with narcissistic and violent husbands on a daily basis, Helen’s story is all in a day’s work and all too real for them.
This novel is the perfect contrast to the “happliy after ever” tales being pushed into young girls’ mind. The reality leaves one rethinking about relationships, marriage, divorce, loyalty and salvation.