The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
An entire year has passed since Helen’s last entry, and it is Christmas again. Little Arthur is a year old and has succeeded in winning his father’s affection. Now Helen worries about Arthur spoiling his son, and she worries that she might be tempted to spoil him, too. Still, the child is her consolation because her marriage has proved a deep disappointment. She loves Arthur and he loves her, but they do not understand one another, and Arthur is an incurable hedonist whose idea of a perfect wife is a companion who sacrifices herself solely for his comfort and enjoyment—she is to be devoted to him alone.
Helen now has two children on her hands, and, in addition to the sadness she feels over her failed marriage, she worries constantly about little Arthur’s future character. Arthur’s demands make it difficult for her to tend to her child the way she would like, and it is a waste of time to try to satisfy Arthur anyway. He cannot be satisfied, and his appetites are, to her, repulsive, immoral, and without merit.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Helen comes to this realization when Arthur again wants to return to London on “business.” Helen suggests she and the baby accompany him, but he argues that town is no place for a baby, and says it would be an unhealthy trip for both of them. Helen is hurt and sees that the truth is he simply does not want her around, spoiling the good times he plans to have with his friends. She asks him to avoid temptation if he can, but Arthur laughs her off. He can take care of himself, he says. 
It is gradually dawning on Helen that Arthur does not plan on being a traditional husband or father. He values his time with his friends too much to give any real consideration to Helen and little Arthur. Arthur’s claim that he can take care of himself is ironic considering the fact he’s spent the last several months being mothered by Helen.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Helen wants to believe him, but during the four months Arthur is gone he rarely writes and, even when he does, his letters are short and unaffectionate. Helen takes comfort in time spent with little Arthur, but still she is miserable without her husband, and is racked with worry over how to teach her son to love and respect his father without following his poor example.
Helen is in the process of transferring her love and hopes from her husband to her son. It is her only choice, given that Arthur seems determined to live apart from her more than half the year.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Helen recognizes that she has brought such suffering on herself, and so she does her best to stay busy and keep from wallowing in despair. In addition to mothering little Arthur and talking with Rachel (who senses her difficulties and goes out of her way to be kind to her mistress), Helen pays charitable visits to the poor who live on the Grassdale estate and enjoys the company of Esther Hargrave. She also sees Walter, who made the odd decision to leave his friends and London and spend the summer with Esther and his mother.
When Arthur was still at home, Helen had wished he would employ himself more productively. Now she learns the value of work herself. The charity work is particularly valuable in reminding her that others are worse off than she is. Rachel again is proving herself a good friend, but Helen is still not quite sure how to feel about Walter, who seems to want to be intimate with her.
Themes
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
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Helen soon meets Walter when out on a walk with little Arthur and Rachel. He pays her a pretty compliment and invites her to dinner at the Grove the following night. He then asks if she has heard from Arthur lately, and she admits she has not. Walter angrily denounces Arthur’s neglect of her, and says that he finds Arthur’s behavior unfathomable. Why, when he has such a wife and child, not to mention such a luxurious estate, does he stay away? Helen says it must be because he prefers the dissipated company of his friends to the sober nature of country and family life, insinuating that Walter should know something about that.
Walter is not endearing himself to Helen by reminding her of her husband’s neglect. Helen is becoming, in effect, a prisoner at Grassdale Manor. She has no money of her own and therefore cannot leave, and is just left to wait for her husband to return. She is also forced by Arthur’s absence to consider the fact that he prefers the company of a number of drunken men to her. It is a life of luxury but a lonely one.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Walter attempts to defend himself, saying that he has always had moderate habits and he has done his best to talk sense into Arthur, but to no avail. Helen asks him to please stop abusing her husband. It hurts her to hear of his faults from strangers. It is now Walter’s turn to be hurt. He was under the impression they were friends. Helen rebuffs him, and he takes his leave, stopping for a moment to hold little Arthur. Rachel is impressed and concludes he is a kind gentleman, but Helen still has her doubts.
Walter’s sudden presence in Helen’s life suggests parallels between his affection for her and Gilbert’s, especially because Helen is often rebuffing Walter’s overtures of friendship. Having suffered as Arthur’s wife, she is now finding it difficult to trust other men, even when they claim to have pure motives.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Walter very much acts the part of the gentleman the next night at the Hargraves’. He is thoughtful but not overly affectionate toward Helen, and when Mrs. Hargrave starts to complain about Arthur’s neglect of his wife, Walter silences her and changes the subject. Still, Helen does not like him. She senses that selfishness is motivating him to seek her friendship and so she is on her guard.
Esther and Milicent are very proud of their brother and consider him superior to his peers, but Helen is not convinced. She thinks his gentleman act is just that: an act.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Helen does not meet Walter alone until one bright, hot day at the end of July. She is delighting little Arthur with a bouquet of flowers when Walter approaches them, commenting on Walter’s growth and the beauty of the scene Helen and her son make at the side of a brook. He asks if she has heard from Arthur lately, and when she says she has not, he produces a letter from his friend in which he says he will be back in the country next week. Helen scoffs at the idea. He has been promising to return next week for months, but Walter tells her that it was always Arthur’s intention to return in July. This revelation hurts Helen, but she is still excited at the thought of seeing her husband. She hopes to impress upon him when he arrives just how much he has wronged her with his absence.
Again, the parallels between Walter Hargrave and Gilbert Markham are striking. Like Gilbert, Walter is in awe of the beauty of the scene when he comes across Helen with her son (and flowers are present as well). But this is where the similarity ends. As a friend of Arthur’s, Walter is tainted in Helen’s eyes, especially since he seems to be in the know about Arthur’s planned-on return date. Her optimism at this point strains belief—she still thinks she can change Arthur by scolding him as a mother would.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon