The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Chapter 44 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Helen, little Arthur, and Rachel leave the next morning. Helen is exhilarated and hopeful, as she is finally leaving the scenes of her misery behind. She plans to pass as a widow, and so is dressed head to toe in black, and since Arthur and Rachel are likewise in plain attire, she hopes they won’t attract too much attention. It’s dark when they leave Grassdale, but eventually the weather grows beautiful, a perfect late October day. It’s a long journey, though, and when night falls, they still have seven miles to go. They travel the rest of the way in an uncomfortable cart and arrive at Wildfell Hall exhausted.
Helen is playing the part of a widow in order to make her journey and future life easier and less complicated, but the black she wears likewise represents the death of her marriage and with it a host of youthful hopes and dreams. Young Helen has died, and a mature Helen is arriving to take her place. The weather consequently blesses this monumental move.
Themes
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
An old woman who has been airing the room greets them and makes them a modest meal. Then they fall asleep, and Helen wakes to little Arthur’s kisses. By daylight, Wildfell Hall is sparsely furnished and gloomy, but Helen is still in a cheerful frame of mind, and that continues during her first two weeks’ stay at Wildfell. Frederick has helped her furnish the rooms and provides her with painting supplies. They all get settled in their new home, and the only two dark spots on Helen’s happiness are a portrait of Mr. Huntingdon that was included in the packing boxes and her fear of being discovered. She and Frederick have to be careful as well, so as not to inspire petty and scandalous gossip.
Wildfell Hall might look like a gloomy and desolate place to most people, but to Helen it is a sanctuary and fresh start. Arthur’s waking her with kisses their first morning in their new home is a sign that they will be happy here, as is Frederick’s supplying her with new painting supplies to replace the ones Arthur destroyed. Everything, besides Arthur’s portrait, is pointing toward a bright future.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
The painting of Arthur pains Helen, as it reminds her of her folly in falling in love with him in the first place. It is also no longer a faithful portrait of the man himself—in the span of six years, he has been ruined by drink and bad conduct. Helen learns that Arthur has been pressuring Helen’s friends and family, particularly Frederick, to tell him where she is. He doesn’t want her back—he wants little Arthur—but Helen vows he will never have custody of their child ever again.
The painting and Arthur’s efforts to discover Helen’s whereabouts serve as reminders that Helen is not completely free. She is still tied to Arthur by marriage, and her circumstances, while promising, are by no means secure.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
Helen writes of her kind new neighbors and their relentless curiosity. She worries about their discovering her identity, and is reluctant to leave little Arthur for long for fear that Mr. Huntingdon will snatch him away. Her overprotectiveness has drawn the attention of the local minister, who worries about her spotty church attendance. She vows to leave Arthur with Rachel for a few hours and go to church, even though she knows it will be a difficult day for her.
Told from Helen’s perspective now, the villagers’ interest in her daily life reads like nosy and officious intrusion. Her “overprotectiveness” is mostly a result of her not wanting Arthur to kidnap their son, and no one could be a more faithful Christian than Helen. The Reverend Millward’s lectures are cast in a very different light now.
Themes
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon
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Helen’s last entry is dated November 3rd. She writes a sentence about the “fine gentleman and beau of the parish,” but the entry ends incomplete. Gilbert senses she is writing about him, but has no way of knowing for sure.
Either Helen saw Gilbert as the great catch of the parish, or Gilbert wishes she did.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
The rest of Helen’s journal is torn away. Gilbert assumes this is because she does not want him to read any entries about himself. He admits to Halford, his audience, that he would have liked to have read about the transformation in her feelings for him, but he knows it was best for her to deprive him of that joy. He doesn’t deserve it.
Gilbert’s assumption that the rest of the diary chronicled in greater detail their burgeoning relationship borders on arrogance, but his humility is likewise clear in his admitting that he doesn’t deserve to read any declarations of love from her.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon