By Anne Brontë

Written whilst women—and staff generally—had few rights in England, Agnes Grey exposes the brutal inequities of the inflexible category process in mid-nineteenth century Britain. Agnes comes from a good middle-class kinfolk, yet their monetary reverses have pressured her to hunt paintings as a governess. Pampered and guarded at domestic, she is unprepared for the cruel fact of a governess’s lifestyles. on the Bloomfields and later the Murrays, she suffers less than the snobbery and sadism of the egocentric, self-indulgent upper-class adults and the shrieking insolence in their spoiled young children. Worse, the original social and monetary place of a governess—“beneath” her employers yet “above” their servants—condemns her to a lifetime of loneliness.

Less celebrated than her older sisters Charlotte and Emily, Anne Bronte was once additionally much less drawn to spinning wildly symbolic, romantic stories and extra decided to attract reasonable photographs of stipulations in Victorian England that want altering. whereas Charlotte’s Jane Eyre incorporates a governess who ultimately and improbably marries her corporation, Agnes Grey offers with the particular reports of middle-class operating ladies, reviews Anne had herself persevered in the course of her hateful tenure as a governess.

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They read widely in the standard works of English literature; they subscribed to leading periodicals; and they had access to a lending library an easy walk away in the next town, Keighley. Anne could not have known this at first, but she was receiving excellent training to be a governess, learning music, drawing, and even Latin along with more general studies in literature, history, and geography. Another key event in their lives was the seemingly inauspicious arrival of a set of toy soldiers purchased by Patrick in 1826.

Again, Agnes is the only one to see anything amiss, and the only one who speaks her mind: I made no pretension to 舠a mother舗s watchful, anxious care,舡 but I was amazed and horrified at Mrs. Murray舗s heartlessness, or want of thought for the real good of her child; and, by my unheeded warnings and exhortations, I vainly strove to remedy the evil (p. 136). It goes without saying that neither Rosalie nor anyone else listens to her warnings or cares about the impropriety of an innocent girl marrying a thoroughly immoral rake.

Weston seal their faith and their love in a marriage that signals the promise not only of individual happiness, but also of hope for the redemption of the whole community. It is a sign of Brontȵ舗s quiet power in the novel that even in our secular age we can share in their joy. Fred Schwarzbach serves as Associate Dean and teaches in the General Studies Program of New York University. He is the author of Dickens and the City, the editor of Victorian Artists and the City and Dickens舗s American Notes, a contributor to the Oxford Reader舗s Companion to Dickens, and the author of scores of articles, essays, and reviews on Victorian life and letters.

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