The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gilbert finds Helen in a disturbed state of mind, pacing back and forth in a cold room. He tells her he must unburden his heart, and while she begs him not to, Gilbert confesses to her that his feelings for her are far from brotherly. Helen reminds him of the rumors circulating about her, and says that his coming to see her at this time of night will only make the gossip worse. Gilbert understands this and apologizes for his foolhardy behavior, but asks her to tell him the truth about her past, promising not to judge her harshly. Helen agrees to tell him the next day, asking him to meet her on the moors at midday. He agrees to the plan and leaves for home, turning back to see her weeping inconsolably.
As a single mother and the subject of scandalous rumor, Helen must hold herself to a very high standard of Christian behavior and conduct. By coming to visit her and declaring his love, Gilbert is not risking his own reputation but hers. As a respected man of the village, he is relatively immune to scandal, and that is what allows him to behave in such a reckless way. 
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
On the way to his house, Gilbert realizes he can’t abide his mother and sister’s company. They are bound to say something about Helen and the gossip surrounding her, so he turns back again and goes to the Wildfell Hall garden gate, hoping for a glimpse of his beloved. What he finds instead is her taking the air with Mr. Lawrence. Gilbert overhears Helen saying that she needs to move away—she cannot be happy in this place. Lawrence advises her against it. If she stays, he says, she can be close to him. Gilbert then sees Helen rest her head on Lawrence’s shoulder, and Lawrence put his arm about her waist.
Mrs. Markham and Rose have fallen prey to a system that pits woman against woman. Gilbert’s love for Helen has reached such a height that he cannot bear to be without her, and his passion clouds his judgement. Seeing her with Mr. Lawrence, he is, like the rest of the village, tempted to think the worst of them.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Angry and broken-hearted, Gilbert throws himself to the ground and weeps like a child. After a while, he gets up and heads home, where Mrs. Markham scolds him for being late for dinner. Gilbert, however, is in no mood to eat or talk with her, and he storms up to his room, where he begins pacing the floor. Mrs. Markham hears him and inquires after his health. He begs her to go away and she does, but not before wishing aloud that his behavior has not been caused by Mrs. Graham. Gilbert spends the night tossing and turning in agonies of despair, and the next morning walks out into the rain, thinking that if his family sees him soaked through it will at least excuse his lack of appetite at breakfast.
Gilbert is now convinced that Eliza Millward and Jane Wilson were right about Helen and Mr. Lawrence. The beautiful, starry night gives way to rain, and, again, the weather mimics Gilbert’s mood. He has let his emotions get the better of him, and the storm outdoors mirrors the storm inside of him.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon