Wednesday, 7 October 2009

THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL


This novel by Anne Bronte was the token classic in my summer reading list. If there was ever a story that demonstrated the inequalities that used to exist between the sexes this is it. It’s set in the early part of the 19th Century when it definitely wasn’t considered acceptable for a husband to binge-drink and form sexual liaisons with other women, but some did anyway. Whilst divorce is actually mentioned once, it wasn’t really an option and nor was running away easy when your husband controlled all your finances and you’d promised to love, honour and obey him before an all-knowing God.

Even without a divorce though the story has a happy ending, or at least it does for the wife. The husband however dies from his excesses with a conviction that an angelic hereafter is not to be his destiny.

There are times when you realise just how much society has changed in the last 200 years and yet also how little.

4 comments:

Mandy said...

I haven't read this book but by a strange coincidence I'm reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The main character in this book wrote a biography of Anne Bronte.

It seems to me that for most of our history the reason for marriage has been economic partnership rather than a romantic one. The latter is a relatively new ideal. At the same time, since we're all living longer we are still expected to stay in those relationships until death. Wonder if that will ever change?

Judith said...

Mandy, you make a very valid point about the reason for marriage. Interestingly, one could interpret divorce as simply extending that economic partnership in a somewhat different way!

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