A serious and pious young woman in her mid-twenties, Helen is posing as a widow with a young son when she firsts meets Gilbert Markham. In reality, she moves to Wildfell Hall to escape… (read full character analysis)
A gentleman farmer who followed his father into the profession, Gilbert Markham had, at one time, more worldly ambitions. The first half of the novel consists of Markham’s letters to his brother-in-law, Jack Halford… (read full character analysis)
A handsome and dissolute young man with tastes only for pleasure and drinking, Helen’s first husband proves an ill-suited mate for her as a serious and religious woman. Charming and affectionate in the first… (read full character analysis)
The owner of Wildfell Hall. In the first half of the novel, told from Gilbert Markham’s perspective, it would seem that Frederick Lawrence is the secret lover of Helen Graham—but in reality, he… (read full character analysis)
Helen’s uncle, Mr. Maxwell finds Helen’s love affairs more amusing than his wife does. While he wishes Helen would accept a more financially stable suitor like Mr. Boarham or Mr. Wilmot, he gives… (read full character analysis)
The beautiful and lively niece of Mr. Wilmot, Annabella marries Lord Lowborough solely for his title and the prestige it gives her. She actually despises her husband, and that truth comes to light years… (read full character analysis)
A serious and often depressed young man who must work hard not to give in to his demons, Lord Lowborough makes a disastrous match to Annabella Wilmot. Genuinely in love with her and in… (read full character analysis)
Gilbert Markham’s mother, a woman who is both imperious and indulgent with her children. She thinks no woman can be good enough for Gilbert, and warns him against forming any serious attachment to both… (read full character analysis)
Flighty, shallow, and seductive, Eliza Millward is Gilbert Markham’s first love interest. She is also the daughter of the Reverend Michael Millward, and sister to Mary. Eliza grows bitterly jealous of Gilbert’s regard… (read full character analysis)
The older daughter of the Reverend Michael Millward and sister of Eliza Millward, Mary tended her mother in her final years. Stouter and less graceful than Eliza, it is initially Gilbert’s perception that Mary… (read full character analysis)
Mrs. Wilson’s daughter and friend to Rose Markham, Jane is, in Gilbert’s eyes, coldly ambitious. She is also a local beauty and, as the recipient of a boarding-school education, is much more… (read full character analysis)
A friend of Helen’s, Milicent is kind, submissive, and good. Against her own better judgment, she marries Ralph Hattersley. Milicent shares Helen’s love of painting. She also shares her misfortune in marrying… (read full character analysis)
Milicent and Walter Hargrave’s younger sister, a woman who is innocent and sweet, but also strong and independent. She refuses to give in to her mother, who would like her to marry the first… (read full character analysis)
Arthur Huntingdon, Jr. / “Little Arthur”
The five-year-old son of Helen Graham and Arthur Huntingdon, little Arthur grew wild and out of control under his father’s influence. When Helen removes him from Grassdale Manor, however, he becomes a sweet and serious youth.
Having worked as Helen’s nurse when she was young, Rachel becomes Helen’s loyal companion when she decides to leave Arthur for Wildfell Hall.
Gilbert’s brother-in-law, married to Rose, he is the man to whom Gilbert’s letters about Helen Graham are addressed. Like Gilbert, he cherishes stories of his impetuous youth, but the reader is never given access to those memories.
Gilbert Markham’s sister and Jack Halford’s wife, she is a pretty woman with a plump figure and a kind manner.
Gilbert Markham’s younger brother, who dreams of going to sea or joining the army, but his mother won’t let him. Immature and spoiled at the beginning of the novel, he eventually meets a solid woman, inherits the family farm, and grows into a responsible and upstanding member of Linden-Car.
The Reverend Michael Millward
The father of Eliza and Mary Millward, he is the opinionated and strict minister of the Linden-Car parish. A robust, elderly gentleman, the reverend thinks anyone who disagrees with him or dares not to live as he thinks best is a fool.
Mrs. Wilson, the widow of a successful farmer, is a neighbor of the Markham family and mother to Jane, Richard, and Robert Wilson. Gilbert describes her as a “narrow-minded, tattling old gossip.”
A rough farmer, he is son to Mrs. Wilson and brother to Jane and Richard Wilson.
The studious member of the Wilson clan, he works hard to secure admittance to college in order to enter the church. Brother to Jane and Richard Wilson and son to Mrs. Wilson, he marries Mary Millward and eventually becomes a much-beloved curate.
The least likable of Arthur Huntingdon’s drunken friends.
The most moderate of Arthur’s friends, Walter Hargrave seems at first blush to be a moral man, and he is beloved by his sisters and mother, but he is at heart conniving and dishonest. Helen sees through his ruse and refuses his romantic overtures.
Hard-hearted and concerned primarily with status, she marries Milicent off to Mr. Ralph Hattersley knowing that her daughter does not love him. She is also furious when her youngest child, Esther, defies her vows to marry for love rather than convenience and a stable financial situation.
Milicent’s daughter and Arthur Huntingdon Jr.’s eventual wife.
Ralph Hattersley (Jr.)
A male servant employed at Grassdale Manor, he helps Helen and Rachel orchestrate their escape.
Suitor of Esther Hargrave during her first season in London, Esther deems him ugly and old.
Suitor to Helen prior to her marriage to Arthur, he is 18 to Helen’s 18 the year she “comes out.” He applies for her hand in marriage in a very clumsy and condescending manner. Privately, Helen refers to him as “Bore ’em.”
Yet another of Helen’s older suitors; he is uncle to Annabella.
The governess engaged by Arthur Huntingdon to teach little Arthur, Miss Myers is actually Arthur’s mistress. It’s his affair with her that gives Helen the motivation she needs to leave her husband.
Unnamed in the text, he dies during the worst years of Helen’s marriage to Arthur.