The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is now December 20 and, with their third anniversary drawing near, Helen and Arthur are living together as strangers. Arthur, having maintained his moderate habits for a few weeks, is now drinking to excess again. He abuses Helen bitterly and Helen takes it all very calmly. She knows that a more emotional response would only amuse him or tempt him into using her as a stand-in for Annabella. Helen’s feelings for Arthur vacillate between hatred and indifference. She is happiest when he is gone from the house. When he leaves, he usually does so in the company of Walter Hargrave, who is being so careful to act with such polite decorum around Helen that she admits she’s starting to almost like him.
Helen’s life is stunted by her role as a wife. Everything she does now is either in reaction to Arthur’s behavior and needs or in an effort to prevent further discord with him. Even as she loses all affection for him, he still controls her completely. Meanwhile, Walter Hargrave continues to confuse Helen. She is never sure where she stands with him or what his motives are. At the very least, he is a kinder and more moderate man than Arthur, but of course that is a low bar to meet.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
Two months pass, and Helen is in the midst of thawing some toward Arthur, thinking that maybe she should start treating him with real kindness instead of cold civility, when he hands her a letter from Annabella and suggests she take a few lessons from his lover in how to be a good and true partner. The letter is effusive and affectionate. Helen is disgusted with it and with her husband. Making matters worse is the fact that little Arthur prefers his father to her, because his father is always indulging his whims. Helen worries that she is losing not only her son’s affection but her chance to be a good influence over him. She refuses to despair, though, and vows to trust in God’s power to deliver her from such suffering.
That Helen would even consider giving Arthur another chance after his neglectful treatment of her and his casual attitude toward fidelity in marriage is a clear indication that Helen is stuck and has no idea how to extricate herself. She can only hope that Arthur will grow to appreciate her worth as a woman and a mother. Motherhood has proven to be her one consolation, although Arthur seems determined to rob her of that as well by serving as a corrupting influence on their son.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon