Posted by: gypsytales | March 17, 2009

THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL

THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL by Anne Brontë

When Anne Brontë was 17 years old, Queen Victoria, being only a year older, ascended the British throne; ushering in the Victorian Era (1837 – 1901). 

It was a period when emphasis was placed on theatre and the arts, culture, food and fashion.  While it was acceptable for women to play a musical instrument or sing it was more appropriate that a woman’s role was one of wife and mother, with few choices.  Any inheritance she might have obtained prior to marriage, would automatically become the property of her husband.  Her social ranking was dependant upon her husband’s status in the community.  In a society where a strict, outward code of moral conduct was practiced, divorce was inconceivable.  If a woman decided to leave her husband, becoming a social outcast, shame and loss of livelihood were the consequences.   

It is with these circumstances in mind, that one can better understand Anne Brontë ‘s controversial novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  Written at a time when female authors were unfairly treated, it was originally published under her male nom de plume, Acton Bell.  It has been said that the inspiration for this book was obtained while working as a governess for various employers. 

The plot unfolds slowly and deliberately as Ms Brontë exposes the seedy underbelly of high society, divulging their shenanigans associated with debauchery, adultery and drunkenness.  When her main character discovers that all her virtuous principles concerning marriage are now sullied because of her union with a reprobate, she is forced to make decisions that fly in the face of social customs.  No novel would be complete without the intervention of a love twist where at the core, her character’s morals and ethics are tested.  It was a novel that shocked and outraged the erudite society of the day and even more so when they discovered the true identity of the writer.

Regardless of education, social standing or economic conditions, the circumstances that challenged the condition of the human heart in the 1800’s are still the same in the 21st century. 

 

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