For this particular reason Anne Bronte is my most favorite Bronte writer

anne bronte

Hail to the Bronte sisters who have left enduring legacy in English Literature. I wish they write more books so that I can go inside their unbelievable minds. Though I know I can never reach their super high imagination level put into magical words at least I can enjoy more of their works. They die relatively at young age because of sickness.

So far, I read four books; ‘Agnes Grey’, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, ‘Wuthering Heights’ and the last one is ‘Jane Eyre’. I know some titles remain unread, particularly by Charlotte Bronte but I believe reading them is sufficient for me to draw a conclusion that Anne Bronte is my most favorite one.

I agree to most literary fans who say ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ stand higher than ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’. I sum this up because of what I feel after I read each of them. I go crazy when I read ‘Wuthering Heights’. I am so moved when Jane Eyre becomes a beggar then so relieved when she eventually becomes Mrs. Rochester. I still remember I find it hard to put ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ down because the plot completely moves me. I get addicted to the book but if you ask for my opinion the novel remains below the other two titles in the paragraph. I think this is perhaps due to Anne’s writing technique which doesn’t dramatize Helen’s life as tragic as Jane Eyre or as horrific as ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Anne Bronte is my personal favorite because I find pieces of my personality in her two stories. The reason is so private. As much as I adore Jane’s trait that is so rebellious and as much as I am blown away with the wildness of the love between Cathy and Heathcliff, Anne’s characters are engraved in my heart. The simplicity, patience and strong-willingness of Helen Lawrence Huntingdon and Agnes Grey are what make them ordinarily outstanding.

You may call them boring because they don’t pose one or two particular traits that make them distinctive. Jane Eyre is very notable for her obstinacy and independence while Agnes Grey and Helen Huntingdon are both hardworking women but not that very stubborn. Agnes Grey and Helen Huntingdon are so-so if compared to Jane Eyre or Cathy. But beneath their average qualities lie endurance and strength. In my own words, they are very humane. Not just I but I think a lot of women or people out there will easily relate their characteristics with theirs.

‘Agnes Grey’ is the second novel that bedazzles me after ‘Wives and Daughters’ because of their ordinary protagonists who experience simple lives. Like Molly Gibson in ‘Wives and Daughters’, ‘Agnes Grey’ follows the life of Agnes Grey, all the choices that she makes and how they contribute to the final trait of the female leading figure by the end of the novel.

Agnes Grey wants sufficiency for her and her family needs. The problems she face during the life in the book seems ordinary; the difficulty in finding jobs, the negativity she has to receive as a governess. She sometimes hates her job because she has to deal with naughty children and some even put her position as a maid. But a job is a job. She has to complete her tasks for the sake of making ends meet. Her simple thought in job is also applicable in the romance side. She doesn’t pursue her crush but chooses to be patient and wait. Until when the universe goes in favor of her feeling, he comes and proposes her. There lies indescribable power beyond Agnes Grey’s simplicity.

Helen Huntingdon lives a more complicated life compared to Agnes Grey thereby she is a lot of tougher than Agnes Grey. Not only she has to deal with her alcoholic husband, Helen must go against public norms; fleeing from her husband while they are still married. Unlike Jane Eyre who is completely obstinate, Helen’s firmness is understandable, that she escapes from her husband to save their only son. Helen does this by force. Jane, on the other hand, could have stayed in Thornfield Hall while teaching Adele, for instance. Jane still has other choices that Helen doesn’t. Similar to Agnes Grey, what Helen wants is her son security and good moral sample that he will never get that from his own father.

I can’t imagine what strength Helen poses when she has to take care of her ill husband. She completes the duty of a devoted wife (I know the term ‘devoted’ here stirs debate at that time) by returning back home. As much as she hates him, she performs the responsibility until he dies. This part is so mixed. I feel that in this part, Anne Bronte softly brings up two opposite climaxes at the same time: the downfall of masculinity as portrayed by Arthur Huntingdon and the victory of feminism by Helen Huntingdon. Again, Anne Bronte describes this part in slow, soft ways that makes it very powerful.

Agnes Grey and Helen Huntingdon.. For some they may be boring, plain and not spontaneous. But you and I can’t bet they are beautiful souls because they stick at what they believe to do. They are stubborn because of strong reasons. Though patience and hardworking, they live the lives they dream to have no matter how many bumpy roads they have to undergo. They are awesome fictional characters and for myself they describe my personality.

Thank you for providing the picture.

‘Jane Eyre’ and I; a special literary comeback journey

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I have been immersed myself in reading ‘Jane Eyre’ since last Saturday evening. Oh my.. I have loved it so much. I can’t believe the novel has entertained me, heart and mind, after I watch its movie version then find myself hating it.

It takes me years to have finally given it a try. This is because the film after effect. I dislike it a lot because I despise watching Mia Wasikowska pairing with Micheal Fassbender in Jane Eyre (2011). I like Mia but not Micheal so yeah.. Plus, there’s nothing special for me about it. Just an orphan girl surviving as a governess then falling in love with a manly person performed by Micheal.

As flat as this film leaves a mark in my mind I ignore the book each time I go to Kinokuniya bookstore in Central Jakarta. I mean like, why should I? The novel is considered as world’s greatest literature treasure but its movie version proves there’s nothing fantastic about it so why should I follow people’ choice?

Years before I am deeply into ‘Jane Eyre’, I enjoy reading her sisters’ works; ‘Agnes Grey’, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte and ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. I love all of their masterpieces. It is not surprising that I am eager to read books by Charlotte Bronte. I firstly want to read her lesser-known books; ‘The Professor’ and ‘Vilette’ but I turn my eyes on other titles at that time.

Shortly to say, I decide reading ‘Jane Eyre’ mostly because I don’t have many reading choices about Victorian Literature in the bookstore. I am a traditional reader who prefer buying books in stores to ordering them via websites because I look forward shopping books in bookstores! The kind of shopping that makes me feeling so much happy, refreshed and confident.

After a series of wonderful experiences reading books by the Bronte sisters I automatically have ‘Jane Eyre’ on the back of my mind. So you may say I read the novel after not many classic books left in the Kinokuniya bookstore. A kind of forceful reason coupled with nature conspiracy regarding the series of experience reading books by the Bronte sisters but hell yeah!!

Now, I am so happy that I buy ‘Jane Eyre’ that rainy Saturday afternoon. The weather was wet but my heart was so cheerful for the first words stole my heart away, as what Victorian writers always do. My reading relationship with ‘Jane Eyre’ is unique, anyway.. It’s like I meet a special man but do nothing to even admit the crush feeling. Just when my heart is sort of empty I meet this guy again, I try approaching him then voila! We click then enjoy our journey at the moment.

That is all I can write at the moment. I share this because I and ‘Jane Eyre’ has an extraordinary linkage. It’s called “I can’t deny my first literary love for wherever I go I will return to it. Always.”

The picture is taken from here

Stepping Out From Reading Comfort Zone

Over the past few months, I have unconsciously stepped out from my reading comfort zone.  I just realize about this today. Books by John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are my comfort zones. I love almost everything they write. Especially for Hardy. His writing style matches my fondness. Hardy’s books steal my heart away only by reading their few pages.

It has all started with Anne Bronte and now Charles Dickens. I disliked first-person narrative yet I love Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’ despite they are written in first-person method. They impress me in different ways. They touch my heart deeper than I expect. They move my emotion.

I used to avoid reading any Dickens’ novels because I know his writing style doesn’t suit my preference. I have to seek Dickens’ titles that I believe will meet my liking and after some attempts I find ‘Our Mutual Friend’ then ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Although Dicken’s decision not to further discuss emotional problems regarding Nell Trent’s grandfather stealing behaviors disappoint me, I am profoundly disturbed by the poor girl’s sufferings.

I can’t deny that Dickens is a very great, wonderful storyteller. I am completely amazed by the way he crafts so many characters along with their problems that speak much on what happen at the time. All those fictitious characters, various plots into one just book. Dickens is very brilliant.

After that, I force myself to read ‘Bleak House’. A little bit of force, I mean. I know the novel won’t entertain me as much as I want but I strongly believe it will present me with memorable trip once I finish reading it. I look forward to see what kind of impression that I will obtain after completing reading the book. I gradually learn to cope with things that I dislike because I know I mustn’t get stuck with Steinbeck and Hardy if I want to get more knowledge.

I have to start setting more adventures with authors or writing styles whose books I previously decline to read. The foremost reason is simple; I have to learn about myself on how further I can make peace with things I dislike and that includes books.

‘Bleak House’, my second literary trip with Charles Dickens

Although I had considered buying Thomas Hardy’s novels I ended up putting ‘Bleak House’ in my bag last Friday. I had really wanted to buy Hardy’s lesser-known novels but when I read the first page of ‘Bleak House’ I somehow loved it. I thought I had to broaden my reading horizon, meaning that I shouldn’t read only romance novels.

Therefore, I bought ‘Bleak House’ instead of Hardy’s ‘Two on A Tower’ or ‘Desperate Remedies’. After all, I had completely enjoyed the love story between Helen Graham and Gilbert Markham in ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ that I thought that day I had to embrace heavier topics. And so my choice was ‘Bleak House’.

I didn’t Google what the novel was all about prior to the purchase. I just once heard the title. And it has turned out the novel is indeed super rich. I even can feel the weight of its content upon my brain at the moment. The thing is Dickens puts so many information within a book. You can find a lot of characters carrying different stories in a novel. And each of it signifies serious problems, deep concerns upon social or legal affairs.

And so is ‘Bleak House’. As I compose this post, I am still far away from the ending of the book but my brain has complained of receiving too many stories. Thankfully, I told myself to be really patient when it comes to read Dickens’ books before buying ‘Bleak House’ so whenever my heart wanted to stop my brain whispered it then said, “hi, be patient”.

Apart from the severe themes in ‘Bleak House’, I am grateful that, at least for now, the book isn’t as heartbreaking as ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Hence, I don’t have to deal with a sort of emotional fight while reading the book unlike my experiences with Nell Trent, which is completely sorrowful.

So well, that’s the introduction of my second reading journey with Dickens. I’ll update in this blog what I find, feel and think about ‘Bleak House’. Till then, let’s read again!

 

Helen Graham and Anne Bronte’s views on marriage and religion

When Arthur Huntingdon is dying at his bed, he asks for Helen’s motives taking care of him. He wishes to know if she does it all to comply with the Bible then for the sake of heaven. Although he conveys his messages when he is furious and frustrated with his deteriorating health, his questions shatter a quite religious person like I.

The questions make me as a reader and a religious person to think what drives people to get married. Is it because of love? Is it because of implementing one of the religion’s teachings? Is it because of wanting to get a heaven in the hereafter?

When the novel comes out, controversy emerges. The traits of Helen Graham are very brave, for a modern reader for me, but probably not for readers in the 19th century. Her decisions to leave her unfaithful, cruel husband prove to have stirred a controversy at that time. In Islam, no matter what happens, either wives or husbands are strongly advised to remain at home. They should talk and solve their problems under the same roofs. But after trying so damn hard to fix things yet to no avail, should Helen stay?

She chooses to leave the house as I and may be some modern readers wish her to do. I am so relieved coming to the part when she eventually gets rid of the mansion and the disgusting husband. But is this step acceptable at that time? In the era when marriage is so strictly-regulated, getting divorce is considered as a social taboo. Husbands are way superior to wives in terms of finance and social status. Thus, Helen’s decision of leaving the house when things get unbearable, baffle public at that time.

Another topic that I like from this book is when Helen has to choose between Arthur and Mr. Boarham. This one is so common. Which reasons that will be your considerations? One who is so attractive yet ill-mannered or another one who is much older than you are, not handsome but very decent and a gentleman.

And again, Helen’s steps resonates my thoughts. If I were her, I’d go for Arthur because it’s impossible to get married without any love at all. Whether the decisions will prove your choice is wrong or right, better put focus on the consequences. And Helen does this wonderfully. She takes full responsibility whatever outcomes are in store for her. Through pain, anger, frustration, she eventually goes through it all. She is a very ideal fictitious character whose story won’t ever age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Summary of ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ (1848)

A new, mysterious widow becomes the source of talks and gossips among residents living nearby Wildfell Hall, an old, elegant mansion, closed to Linden-Car village. The arrival of Mrs. Helen Graham surprises among others is the family of Markham, who owns and runs the Linden-Car Farm because she is cold, beautiful, young, and quiet person. No one knows much on why she lives there along with her only son, Arthur, and her servant, Rachel. The secluded, vacant life in the mansion that becomes her option raises more questions.

Twenty-four year old Gilbert Markham, who chiefly operates the farm, is intrigued with this woman story told by his sister, Rose, and his mother when they come all together for a family dinner. Curious Gilbert sets a hunting trip with a dog around the mansion. Suddenly, he catches a boy who almost falls down chasing the dog. Gilbert helps this kid from falling down the wall. His mother shouts for him, there Gilbert and Mrs. Graham finally meets. A strange feeling comes upon him after the brief encounter. He can’t tell why.

Before the meeting, Gilbert likes Eliza Millward but a number of occasions pave his way to know Mrs. Graham even more. When his crush on the widow gets bigger and bigger, rumors are up in the air. Eliza, who is already suspicious on the closeness of Gilbert and Mrs. Graham, tells her former beau about the rumor. People suspect that Arthur, the widow’s son, is the child of Mrs. Graham and Frederick Lawrence, a young and rich farmer who owns the mansion, given the facial likeliness between the two.

Driven by his jealousy, Gilbert acts harshly toward Mr. Lawrence until one day he beats him up till he’s dying on the ground. On the other hand, Gilbert continues approaching Mrs. Graham but hasn’t told her about the rumors. Gilbert hasn’t declared his love for her, too, because Mrs. Graham seems trying to take a distance from him and wanting to regard their relation as mere friendship.

Wild Gilbert attempts to clear Mrs. Graham’s good reputation and dash away people’s bad perspectives about her, including from his own family. One night he gets his own battle goes wrongly. At least for the time being. He sees Mrs. Graham looks intimate with Mr. Lawrence on the day when she is about to tell him the truth. Mrs. Graham and Mr. Lawrence speak loving words to each other. Gilbert thinks that’s the end of his feeling.

After that, he moves away from the mansion. Even when they happen to meet on the road, Gilbert chooses not to greet her despite Arthur’s calls. Completely aware of the changes in Gilbert’s behaviors, Mrs. Graham asks for his explanations on why he doesn’t come in the appointed day. To this, Gilbert only says he knows the truth already, adding it may be more awful. Mrs. Graham looks disappointed because she thinks Gilbert is not worthy of her explanations. Gilbert leaves the mansion.

After a few days, he visits her because he is still curious on what would she say had he let her speak on previous meeting. When they meet again despite Mrs. Graham’s initial rejection, Gilbert tells her what he sees that night and what he overhears. To this, Mrs. Graham hands over him a manuscript that reveals all of the truths Gilbert desperately wants to know.

A few years back then, 18 year-old Helen Graham still lives with her uncle and aunt, the Maxwell family, in Staningley Manor. She stays with them after her mother dies. Her brother, Frederick Lawrence, prefers living with her father.

Although Helen is approached by a wealthy, decent gentleman Mr. Boarham, she chooses instead the attractive, young Arthur Huntingdon. Her choice disappoints her aunt who advises to take the proposal from Mr. Boarham instead. But Helen who really loves Arthur opposes the suggestion. Even some critics on the attitudes of Arthur don’t stop her from loving him and so they get married.

It doesn’t take long for Helen to realize the truth. Arthur seems uncomfortable living in Grassdale Manor, away from his circle of friends. He doesn’t have any friends to go for hunting. He is mostly idle for days while Helen is busy with her drawing. Arthur is proven to be less generous, less warm that she expects him to be. He is closer to his friends, Annabella Wilmot who later is married to Lord Lowborough, Ralph Hattersley, Mr. Grimsby. Sometimes, Arthur goes to London to meet them and disappears for some weeks with no information.

His ignorance, playful attitude on the marriage makes Helen wishing she shouldn’t have loved him and married with him. Little by little, Helen learns what is unpleasant about her husband. From his ill-manner, irresponsible attitude until the most shocking one is finding out his affairs with Lady Lowborough with her own eyes around her own mansion!

What makes Helen suffers even more is that Arthur isn’t moved with the fact that his affairs are known. He even loathes Helen. Lady Lowborough defends the affairs, saying that she’s the one who can love Arthur deeply. She even asks for Helen’s helps not telling the secret to her husband.

And so the secret is known to many but not to the poor Lord Lowborough. Arthur gets more and more disgusting. He becomes abusive, gets addicted to alcohol. He doesn’t want to divorce Helen or let her living the Grassdale Manor with little Arthur because he doesn’t want to ruin his reputations. So Helen keeps inhabiting the place while trying to keep his son away from his father as she fears Arthur will teach him bad manners. Lord Lowborough finally knows the truth, making Helen feeling guilty for not telling him at the first hand. He divorces Annabella eventually after almost committing suicide knowing the affairs.

Whenever Arthur is away, Helen is joyful but when Arthur is at home and especially bring along his pals, she is so afraid. As days go by, her anxiety proves correct. Little Arthur becomes wild, he says bad words, his manner gets uncontrollable. After a few correspondences with Frederick about preparing the Wildfell Hall, Helen with the help of Rachel runs away from the mansion. Arthur seeks for their whereabouts but definitely not because he misses the poor wife.

Helen, her son and Rachel arrives at the Wildfell Hall safely. The manuscript ends when she is about to write about Gilbert, one of her neighbors. After this, Gilbert feels guilty and one of the things that he does is apologizing to Frederick Lawrence. Though things are clear for him, Gilbert doesn’t immediately get Rachel’s love. She insists on keeping their relationship as mere friendship. She even forbids him writing letters or contacting her for a number of months.

Though it’s hard to bear, Gilbert does what she wants. The only one whom he can rely on for getting information about her is through her brother. Rachel comes back to Grassdale, shocking Gilbert. Arthur gets sick. He gets so addicted to alcohol, his life is miserable. He loses some of his friends. For a few months, Rachel takes care of sick husband all the time. Arthur eventually apologizes. He dies.

Gilbert, who is very jealous suspecting Rachel is getting married with Walter Hargrave, sets a journey. When he gets to the wedding venue, he is surprised to have known that it is Frederick who marries Esther Hargrave. And so Gilbert comes to Grassdale but to no avail. He then goes to Staningley to see Helen but he’s reluctant to enter the house. Just when he leaves the house and sits under a tree, little Arthur catches his face from a carriage.

There, they meet. Things are cleared up; that Helen actually asks for Gilbert’s information to her brother but Gilbert doesn’t bother to inquire Frederick whether or not she wants to know about his life. It doesn’t take long for the love birds to eventually declare their vows to live happily in the future. Gilbert doesn’t find any difficulties to approach Helen’s aunt who finally passes away. Helen’s uncle dies, too, shortly after the death of Arthur. Anyway, Lord Lowborough marries again while Annabelle dies in unknown place.

Gilbert and Helen tie the knot and begin a wonderful chapter with little Arthur.

 

 

 

 

 

This is how ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ strikes me

‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ is a blunt, strong, emotional novel. It’s unlike those written by other writers in the Victorian era who shower readers with so many beautiful phrases, quotable words. Instead, Anne Bronte, the author of the book, strikes me with the fast-moving plot, very powerful dialogues, vivid moral lessons that I can learn throughout the story. This surprisingly makes me feel so shallow, inexperienced reader because I once say only books with third-person narrative that are great. One-person narrative is less appealing.

‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ proves me wrong, so so wrong. Despite a slowing reading pace at the beginning at the book, I am completely absorbed when I come to the parts when Helen Graham and Arthur Huntingdon get married then everything starts becoming very sour and bitter for her.

I am very shocked. The characterizations of Helen, Arthur and Annabella Wilmot (later is named as Lady Lowborough) are superb that they feel so real to me. I can’t stop reading the book after I come to the points when Helen eventually finds out the affairs of Arthur and Annabella.

And when Arthur and Annabella don’t even want to confess their affairs at first let alone ask for apologies from Helen and Lord Lowborough, I get so furious. I am so willing to punch the faces of Arthur and Annabella, haha! That how the book influences me, and that is how Anne Bronte is a very brilliant writer at this thing.

Using the first-person narrative is fruitful to have made the characters sound very close to me. I can totally feel Helen’s emotions when she has to face all of the her problems. I can feel her anger, frustration. And definitely, her dismay on the future of Arthur junior completely makes sense.

One more message that fascinates me is on how Arthur redeems all his sins.

The return of Helen to the Grassdale when Arthur gets sick is such a brave, supreme decision. This conveys a very important message, satisfying step. That refers to Helen’s winning attitude, not only for the sake of obeying orders as a wife in the Bible but also for closing doors, solving the troubles that previously emerge. She remains committed at taking care her sick spouse despite his ill-treatments and curses.

For me, that is the sweetest revenge ever! Nothing can make an unfaithful husband or wife feeling so sorry for him or herself than clinging to the helps of those they have betrayed when he or she is dying.

Such a very pleasant, astonishing reading trip with ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’. Thank you Anne Bronte!