The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Chapter 52 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gilbert gets in a coach headed for Grassdale Manor. The driver is a talkative man. He used to be a servant at the Grove, and gossips about the Hargrave family as he drives. Walter is finally married. He engaged himself to a rich older woman, and that woman has since regretted her decision to marry him. He was charming at first, but is now cruel and conniving, and it is not a happy match. Gilbert finds it difficult to listen to the man’s ramblings, as he is too focused on meeting Helen. She is not at Grassdale Manor, however; she is at Staningley with her aunt. 
Walter is yet another character whose fate aligns well with his relative worth. Although Helen’s feelings for Walter often fluctuated, her first instincts were correct, as were her impressions of his character during the long-ago chess match. His selfishness and devious nature ultimately trump his good intentions. Esther and Milicent might want to think the best of him, but he is not, in the end, a good man.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gilbert decides to make the journey there, even though it will take him several days. He writes a letter to his mother, assuring her he is still alive, and begins the trip in a very excited state of mind. As he nears Staningley, however, he hears news that depresses him immensely. Helen, it seems, is to inherit her uncle’s estate. She is now a rich, independent woman, free to live as she chooses, and Gilbert assumes she would choose to remain single. Her love for him must be a faint memory by now. He jumps out of the carriage before it can arrive at the house and rests against a tree, planning to return home as soon as possible.
Gilbert assumes that, because Helen is now an heiress, she will want nothing to do with him because he is a humble farmer and she a strong, independent woman with ideas of her own. But he does not yet know her mind. The tree he leans against harkens back to their first conversation during which Gilbert lectured Helen on her mothering style. Despite his love for Helen, Gilbert often misreads her and sells her short.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
Soon, though, another carriage overtakes him and Gilbert hears little Arthur’s voice exclaiming that he sees Mr. Markham. The carriage stops and little Arthur, Mrs. Maxwell, and Helen greet him. Helen wonders what he is doing in this part of the country. Gilbert tells her he is here to see Staningley. Helen invites Gilbert into the carriage and, after some awkward small talk, he accepts. They drive up to the house and Helen again invites Gilbert in. He is stiff with her and standoffish, and Helen is upset. After a time, she tells Arthur to go in search of a book, and Mrs. Maxwell withdraws as well. Gilbert and Helen are left alone.
This longed-for meeting is the perfect opportunity for Gilbert to let Helen know how much he loves and values her, but he again lets his pride get in the way. The roles they played in Linden-Car are now reversed. Gilbert is the awkward and reserved one; Helen the one eager to declare her love. And little Arthur’s going in search of a book is a reminder of how Gilbert and Helen first bonded over a shared passion for literature.
Themes
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
Helen asks him what is wrong. Why is he being so distant? Have his feelings for her changed? He replies that they have not, but that the circumstances have changed, namely that she is now a rich woman. It comes out in the course of conversation that they both asked Frederick about the other quite often, but that he did not communicate this fact to either of them. Gilbert makes as if to leave, but Helen detains him. She wishes he would tell her his feelings. He says it is probably best that he not discuss such things, but she doesn’t understand. Why would it be wrong to talk of love now, when she is finally free? She opens a window and plucks a rose, handing it to him. It is a Christmas rose. Gilbert takes it, but is momentarily confused.
Helen’s opening a window at this moment is akin to Gilbert’s opening the window upon finishing her diary. She is opening a window on to a future she deeply desires, just as he, too, hoped he was looking at a new, bright day at that moment. The rose represents love fulfilled. It is not a bud, but a blossom in full bloom.
Themes
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
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Helen misreads his confusion for rejection and tosses the rose back out the window. She is angry and hurt, and tells him that the rose symbolized her heart. How could he treat her so coldly? Gilbert then realizes his folly. He was being too cautious, too guarded. He runs out and grabs the rose, and then asks Helen to offer her hand to him as well as her heart. She accepts immediately.
At long last, these two passionate souls are to be united. The Christmas rose, white and hardy, symbolizes the purity and strength of their love, which is all the more robust for their having waited so long and fought so hard to be together.
Themes
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The only obstacle to perfect happiness now is Mrs. Maxwell. Helen says her aunt must not yet know of the engagement, as she will think it a rash and foolish step. Helen asks Gilbert to return home and come back to her in the spring for a long visit—then he and Mrs. Maxwell can get to know each other. In a year, they can be married.
Helen’s concern about Mrs. Maxwell’s reaction is founded partially on her own aunt’s long-ago warning about Arthur Huntingdon. Helen wants to honor her aunt’s wishes this time. It is both the respectful and intelligent thing to do.
Themes
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 Gilbert balks at such a long separation, but he agrees to it. He will do anything in his power to please Helen and make her happy. Little Arthur returns then, and, jumping forward in the narrative, Gilbert tells Halford that the boy becomes as dear to him as his own son. Arthur goes on to fulfill his mother’s wishes for him, and becomes the prosperous and responsible master of Grassdale Manor, and marries Helen HattersleyMilicent’s daughter.
Helen’s greatest worry was that little Arthur would someday turn out like his sinful father. This chapter makes it clear that Arthur followed in his mother and stepfather’s footsteps instead, growing up to become an intelligent, gentleman farmer and kind and attentive husband.
Themes
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Back in the present moment, Helen takes Gilbert on a tour of her aunt’s flower garden. She takes him there to propose that they live at Staningley after they are married. She does not want to leave Mrs. Maxwell alone. Gilbert agrees to that as well. He and Mrs. Maxwell soon become very good friends, and even though it takes several months, Mrs. Markham too becomes reconciled to his son’s decision to marry Helen. Gilbert bequeaths the farm to Fergus, whose superior wife influences him for the better, and Gilbert and Helen live in complete happiness with their children. Gilbert closes his letter anticipating a visit from Halford and Rose, who, he’s glad to say, will soon be leaving the smoky, busy city of Paris for months of relaxation with him and his wife.
Gilbert’s story ends happily. Having sealed their love over a rose, he and Helen stroll through a flower garden, contemplating how their relationship now has room and time to bloom. Later, they are united in perfect love and ensconced at Staningley with their children. Fergus and Rose are likewise lucky in love, as are the book’s other upstanding characters.
Themes
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Love and Marriage Theme Icon