The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is March, and Arthur has grown bored with country life. His favorite thing to do on an uneventful rainy day, besides mope, is to treat Helen to stories about his former lovers. At the beginning of their marriage, Helen used to cry over such stories, but seeing that Arthur found her dismay funny and wrote it off as weak, feminine jealousy, she now listens to his anecdotes with cold reserve. She admits that there are times she wonders if she has made a terrible mistake in marrying him, but she quickly shoves such thoughts away and vows that she will have no regrets and will continue to love him as best she can.
Arthur has no occupation in the country beyond amusing himself, and without his friends there to distract him, his primary amusement comes courtesy of tormenting his wife. Her jealousy is all a game to him. Helen, though, takes his abuse seriously. Just because she has stopped crying over his stories of former lovers doesn’t mean she isn’t affected by them. As his wife, though, her job is to please him and serve him loyally.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
Helen and Arthur have their first real fight. It begins with Arthur mentions his affair with Lady F, a married woman much his senior whom Helen has grown to hate. She begs him not to mention her name in front of her, and he tells her she is too hard on Lady F. It’s jealousy, he supposes, but her jealousy is unwarranted because he loves Helen a lot more than he loved Lady F or any of his other conquests. Helen tells him that if she’d known about his numerous affairs she would never have married him. Then she storms out of the room. Later, when he comes to her room, she tells him to go away. She doesn’t want to see him until morning.
Helen hates Lady F., but still loves Arthur. She is holding the woman in the affair to a higher standard than she is willing to hold her husband, which is evidence not only of her own hypocrisy but the deep-seated and toxic effects of societal norms that value men over women and teach women to hate each other as they vie for male attention.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
The next day is not much better. Helen receives a few letters and responds to them. Arthur spends the afternoon roaming pointlessly about the house, and when they meet again that night Helen pretends to read and Arthur abuses his dog. Before parting for the night, Helen thinks she hears Arthur call her a “confounded slut,” but she can’t be sure.
Neither Arthur nor Helen has anything to do all day. Helen’s letter writing is more productive than Arthur’s roaming, but they are still two very idle people too much leisure time on their hands. 
Themes
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
Breakfast the following morning is uncomfortable. Eventually Arthur stands, declaring that he has an idea of what to do with his day, and Helen listens in the hall while he makes plans with his coachman to travel to London. Later, though, the coachman tells Arthur that one of the horses is sick and that it would be best if he delayed his journey. Helen asks Arthur why he was planning to go to London in the first place. He says because he cannot be happy at home with a wife who doesn’t love him. Helen says she does love him, but that she wishes he would repent and be kind to her. He admits that the fight broke his heart. Helen melts instantly, and they agree to go to London together the following week.
Arthur’s solution to their first fight is to just run away. He does not confront the problem or acknowledge his role in the discord, but instead does his best to escape it. Helen doesn’t seem to catch on to this warning sign and agrees to go with him to London for what she hopes will be a healing trip together.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
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Helen is satisfied with the outcome of their quarrel. She feels closer to Arthur now, and he stops mentioning his former lovers in front of her. She is optimistic again that they can make a fresh start and be completely happy as man and wife.
As a woman who entered the married state hoping to reform her husband, Helen’s optimism is understandable. She has to believe all will be well, because the alternative is too awful to contemplate.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon