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Publish Date: 1848
Author: Anne Brontë: Perhaps the lesser known of the Brontë sisters, Anne is part of a rich literary family whose works are considered classics. Passed on before she was thirty, her books and poems remain influential.
Plot: In a small town in rural England, a new resident has appeared. Mrs. Helen Graham, who appears to be a widow, is living in an abandoned Elizabethan mansion, Wildfell Hall. Her only companions are her young son and a faithful servant. While the townsfolk become curious about their new neighbor, the curiosity turns to slander when Mrs. Graham does not participate in social activities. One of the local young men, Gilbert Markham takes an interest in Mrs. Graham, despite her self imposed social isolation. As Helen and Gilbert become closer, Helen reveals her secret to Gilbert and makes him promise to not share its contents.
Chapter 15 Page 98: At this point in the novel, Gilbert and Helen’s relationship has become very serious. Gilbert is eager to tell Helen that he loves her, but before Helen can declare her feelings, she must share her secret. The day is dark and rainy, reflecting the mood on of the day and the questioning of the future relationship between the characters. Helen gives Gilbert her journal, trusting him that the information that is going to be revealed will not be shared with anyone. If Gilbert does share what he is about to learn, the consequences for Helen and her son could be deadly.
Why it Matters: This book matters because in Victoria era England, women did not have rights. They were property first to their father or the male head of their family and then to their husband. Like all women of the era, Helen is raised with the idea that her role in life is that of wife and mother. She makes the unfortunate mistake of marrying a man whose charm belies a sinister side. She will soon regret her choice and will make a decision that few women in that era would have had the courage to make.
I love this book because Helen’s story is no different than many women, who over the millennia have gotten involved with partners whose dark sides control the relationship. I also love this book because it represented a HUGE step in the direction of women rights.
Adina is a contributor to That Moment In.com. Visit her website WriterGurlNy.