The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Still wanting to forget his disappointment in work, Gilbert sets out for town on a gloomy morning after breakfast. On the road, he meets up with Mr. Lawrence, who begins chatting with him about the business and the weather. Gilbert is taken aback by his friendly demeanor. Lawrence is acting as if their unpleasant conversation at the party, during which Gilbert accused him of being a hypocrite, never happened. Lawrence eventually catches on to Gilbert’s contempt for him and asks him why he is angry with him. All he did, Lawrence says, was warn him about forming an attachment to Mrs. Graham. In response, Gilbert hits Lawrence over the head with his riding whip.
Gilbert has not gotten over his love for Helen, and the cold, gloomy morning is the perfect accompaniment to his trip to town. The dark day hints at the storm clouding Gilbert’s rational abilities. Yet again, he allows his emotions to dictate his actions and he resorts to violence to relieve his feelings. The villagers at this point are adhering closely to gender stereotypes. The women are indulging in backbiting and petty gossip, while the men are fighting in the streets.  
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gilbert then rides on, trying not to think of Lawrence, but his conscience gets the better of him and he returns to the scene, finding the man bloody and feeble. Lawrence refuses any help from Gilbert, so Gilbert rides on into town, conducts his business efficiently, and returns home via the same road. He worries some on the ride back about finding Lawrence dead in the street, but is relieved to see only his dented hat and bloody handkerchief.
Gilbert does not blame himself at any point for beating Lawrence and leaving him for dead. He worries about him but believes he deserved the whipping. The disembodied hat and handkerchief hint at the fact that Gilbert is really only half a man at this point, acting with his heart and ignoring his brain.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
 At home, Rose and Mrs. Markham have heard that Mr. Lawrence was thrown from his horse and brought to his house on the verge of death. They urge Gilbert to visit him, but Gilbert refuses. They’re shocked by his lack of feeling for Mr. Lawrence, but Gilbert reminds them that they haven’t been on good terms as of late, and he also suggests that the reports of Mr. Lawrence’s dire condition are likely greatly exaggerated. The next day, Gilbert sends Fergus to see how Mr. Lawrence is doing, and Fergus reports back that the squire is suffering from a head injury and a bad cold, but that he should make a full recovery. Lawrence tells Fergus that a fall from his horse is to blame for the head injury, and Gilbert concludes then that, in the interest of protecting Helen, Lawrence plans not to incriminate him. 
Gilbert lets his love for Helen overwhelm everything else, including his duty to do the right thing and act like a rational and caring person. He considers Mr. Lawrence’s very real plight as nothing compared to his own suffering. The usually useless and inept Fergus is now acting like the better man, and that is an indictment indeed. Gilbert is determined to see Helen and Mr. Lawrence’s relationship in the bleakest light possible.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon