The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Chapter 35 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Annabella grows bold as time goes on. She is as friendly as she wants to be with Arthur, inquiring often after his health in order to underscore Helen’s coldness and indifference, and Arthur responds with gratitude and flirtatiousness. Helen is nearly driven to seek revenge by flirting with Walter Hargrave but stops herself, horrified by the thought that she might be in danger of growing more and more like Arthur and his friends the longer she is with them. She starts to doubt her identity as a Christian, since no true believer could harbor the hateful feelings she has toward Annabella and Arthur. Helen saves the bulk of her hatred for Annabella—she could forgive Arthur someday, she writes, but never Annabella.
Helen, now totally divorced from herself, worries she is gradually becoming Arthur, or at least very like him. The faith that was to sustain her following her discovery of Arthur’s affair is being tested daily by her husband’s brazen flirtations. Admitting that she reserves most of her hatred for Annabella, Helen is also giving in to a social system that forces women to value men over each other, and even over their own individual identities.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
On the last morning of the houseguests’ stay at Grassdale, Helen goes down to breakfast to find Annabella up early. Arthur joins them, and he and Annabella begin talk in front of Helen about how sad they are that they will have to part. Annabella asks Helen to forgive her, saying that she simply loves Arthur more than Helen does. Helen is visibly upset, and Arthur laughs at her. Later, Walter Hargrave seems to intimate that he and Helen might have a love affair now that she is free of her husband, but Helen rebukes him. In the afternoon, Annabella informs Helen that she really should thank her—it’s because of Annabella that Arthur has moderated his drinking habits. Helen is too furious to speak. Annabella then asks her one favor: she hopes Helen will do what she can to keep Arthur from slipping into his old ways.
Helen has attempted for years, through gentle remonstration and kind, wifely attention, to coax Arthur into being a better man. None of her efforts worked. For her to hear that it is really love for Annabella that has been motivating Arthur’s more moderate habits is not only humiliating but yet one more piece of innocence lost. Helen wanted to save Arthur, to reform him by modeling Christian behavior for his benefit. Instead, it’s his mistress that succeeds in getting him to change.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
Walter Hargrave adds to Helen’s discomfort by begging her forgiveness for offending her earlier. He cannot rest until he knows he is back in her good graces. Helen says she will forgive him this one offense if he vows to sin no more. He says he will do everything he can in the future to deserve her good opinion. Helen, rejoining the rest of the company, can only be thankful that they will all be gone the next day.
With the shooting party finally coming to an end, Helen has one more unpleasant meeting, this one with Walter Hargrave, who seems still to be playing some sort of game with her. His strategy now seems to involve winning her over with kindness. Either way, Helen isn’t playing.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon