The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The wedding is set for Christmas. Helen soon discovers that others besides Mrs. Maxwell are unhappy about the match, namely Milicent Hargrave, who had hoped to introduce Helen to her brother Walter in the spring. Milicent worries that Arthur is not serious enough for Helen, and she doesn’t like his looks either. She thinks his beauty too showy, his face too red. Helen is offended, and says that the next person who abuses Arthur Huntingdon in her presence will get a piece of her mind. Then Annabella Wilmot approaches her, surprised and apparently disappointed that Helen would accept Arthur. She says she wishes that Lord Lowborough and Arthur could be combined. The lord’s aristocratic connections, when paired with Arthur’s handsome face and wry wit, would make the perfect man. Helen pities Annabella, and says she is completely happy with her choice.
An engagement is supposed to be a happy time, but Helen finds that hers is far from it. Too many friends and acquaintances disapprove of the match. Milicent’s comments about Arthur’s looks parallel in an interesting way what Arthur said about Helen’s brand of beauty versus Annabella’s. Like Annabella, Arthur’s handsomeness is very much on display. Everything about Helen is, in contrast, subtle and reserved. Helen is being bombarded by hints that she and Arthur are not well-suited for each other, but she agrees with Annabella on one point: the perfect man does not exist.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
The disapproving opinions keep pouring in. Over breakfast, Arthur reads a number of letters from his friends, who are upset with him for breaking up their merry band of sinners. Grimsby is particularly put out, as is Milicent’s brother, Walter Hargrave, who had fallen in love with Helen via Milicent’s accounts and wanted Arthur’s betrothed for himself. Helen is affronted by Arthur’s seeming sorrow over the letters, but he assures her that his friend’s disapproval is nothing to him. He is happy to sacrifice their happiness to secure hers. Helen wonders, once the shooting party ends, what she will do to amuse herself. Being at Staningley without Arthur Huntingdon is a sad prospect.
Arthur’s friends obviously disapprove of his marriage because they fear Helen will occupy all his time, thereby cutting down on their fun considerably. Arthur, as usual, is able to talk himself out of an uncomfortable situation, and Helen, who, prior to meeting Arthur, rarely experienced loneliness or boredom, finds now that Arthur is her only interest. Without him, she has no direction.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon