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The 'Tenant of Wildfell Hall' is a conservative text, presenting in the figure of Helen Graham a model of Christian resignation. - To what extent do you agree with this statement?

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Introduction

The 'Tenant of Wildfell Hall' is a conservative text, presenting in the figure of Helen Graham a model of Christian resignation. To what extent do you agree with this statement? In your answer you should consider: * Bront�'s criticism of Victorian society * The figure of Helen Graham * Narrative methods * Religious belief * Critical views (particularly feminist criticism) 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' may seem to be a conservative text at first, but it can also be considered as quite a radical text at the same time. Anne Bront� has a strong Christian ethos running throughout this novel and her main character Helen Graham stresses the importance of faith and righteousness throughout, with strong ideas of judgement and retribution after death. Helen may seem a model of Christian resignation. She puts up with much suffering and heartache in her life; she falls victim to her husband's adultery, degrading behavior and continuous cruelty and maltreatment. It is only when things get really bad and fears for her son that she eventually leaves her husband and is forced to take up a pseudonym, and fend for herself and her son by making a living with her art. Even then, it is Helen's Christian belief and strong faith that render her to return to her sick husband, due to his degenerate lifestyle. Personally I feel this is quite a radical text. ...read more.

Middle

She takes quite a radical approach and ignores society's standards and she carries out what she considers to be right for her son; '..if I thought he would grow up to be what you call a man of the world - one that has 'seen life' and glories in his experience, even though he should so far profit by it, as to sober down, at length, into a useful and respected member of society - I would rather that he died tomorrow - a thousand times!' Similarly Helen defends herself and stands up for what she believes in when there is the debate about the alcohol. Helen's strong and clearly radical ideas contradict the statement that this novel is a conservative text. Bront� is also clearly disapproving of many of the men's dissolute and unscrupulous behavior throughout. Huntingdon especially is presented as a very ill mannered selfish and arrogant character. Bront� uses Huntingdon to demonstrate the double standards applied to women in society through his maltreatment of Helen and his belief that as a wife Helen must obey and be concerned for him all of the time, while he is left to do what he wants. An example of these double standards are illustrated when Huntingdon goes to London on his own for several weeks and he will not even let Helen even attend her own father's funeral. ...read more.

Conclusion

Helen is a strong woman, she is a heroine and she repeatedly tries to make changes. Helen elicits much admiration. Despite her immense misery Helen does something quite revolutionary for the time and she leaves her husband. Anne Bront� skillfully manipulates the plot and makes the audience feel that Helen's situation is justified and perhaps quite a heroic act on her part. It is significant also that Helen takes a pseudonym as this suggests she rejects male patriarchal society. At the time of this novel women wrote or painted to entertain, but Bront� does not write for just entertainment she had a clear didactic function and this is why she too took a pseudonym, Acton Bell, so that she would be taken seriously. If we look at Helen and consider her role as an artist she embodies important features and she challenges accepted views on the role of women as an artist. She establishes a measure of financial independence and is not reliant on her husband. Bront� presents the idea of escaping a bad marriage and society's norm and women not always being resigned to their fate. The fact that Helen also marries someone below her class was quite revolutionary as well. Overall it can be said this is quite a radical text for its time. Helen's strong religious morals are seen throughout this novel. In fact she is so devoted to God that Huntingdon is actually quite jealous of it as he worries that it may decrease the love which she has for him. ...read more.

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