The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by

Anne Brontë

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Trees and Flowers Symbol Analysis

Trees and Flowers Symbol Icon

Throughout the novel, Anne Brontë uses tree- and flower-based imagery to underscore men’s tendency to underestimate women. For instance, Gilbert likens Helen’s mothering of little Arthur to the care a gardener might lavish on a sapling, arguing that it is necessary to expose the young to small portions of the world’s cruelty in order to prepare them for an uncertain future. He admits, however, that he would never advocate for exposing a girl to such realities. The book’s female characters are often described as fragile flowers. Arthur compares Helen to a dewy rose, modest and mysterious, and Annabella Wilmot to a flashy peony, all ostentation and empty show. Fergus Markham tells Helen that, as a newcomer to Linden-Car, she is a flower blooming among an uninteresting patch of domesticated plants. In the climatic scene of the novel, when Helen finally declares her love for Gilbert with a Christmas rose, Gilbert nearly loses Helen by bumbling the moment out of sheer conceit. Male characters might equate women with delicate blooms, but the women almost always prove themselves stronger than their male counterparts. The latter half of the novel, told from Helen’s perspective, reveals the accidental wisdom of Gilbert’s sapling theory. Having suffered years of abuse from the libidinous Arthur Huntingdon, Helen is a strong and independent woman, confident enough in her talents and fortitude to try to make a life for herself and her son without any help from a man.

Trees and Flowers Quotes in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The The Tenant of Wildfell Hall quotes below all refer to the symbol of Trees and Flowers. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Wordsworth Classics edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall published in 2001.
Chapter 3 Quotes

I have not yet said that a boy should be ought to rush into the snares of life—or even willfully to seek temptation for the sake of exercising his virtue by overcoming it; I only say that it is better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble the foe; and if you were to rear an oak sapling in a hothouse, tending it carefully night and day, and shielding it from every breath of wind, you could not expect it to become a hardy tree, like that which has grown up on the mountainside, exposed to all the action of the elements, and not even sheltered from the shock of the tempest.

Related Symbols: Trees and Flowers
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
Chapter 30 Quotes

How little real sympathy there exists between us; how many of my thoughts and feelings are gloomily cloistered within my own mind; how much of my higher and better self is indeed unmarried—doomed either to harden and sour in the sunless shade of solitude, or to quite degenerate and fall away for lack of nutriment in this unwholesome soil!

Related Characters: Helen Graham (speaker), Arthur Huntingdon
Related Symbols: Trees and Flowers
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Trees and Flowers Symbol Timeline in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The timeline below shows where the symbol Trees and Flowers appears in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2. An Interview
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
...the neighborhood, and is too cold and windswept to allow for much vegetation beyond stunted trees. The meadows aren’t fit for farming, so cattle and sheep are pastured there. (full context)
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
...been worn away by time. The fences and gardens are in total disrepair and the shrubbery is of particularly odd appearance. The privet hedge and surrounding topiaries (a beheaded swan, a... (full context)
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
...so enchanted by the antics of Gilbert’s dog that he gets snagged on a cherry tree reaching for him and nearly falls off the garden wall. Gilbert catches him before can... (full context)
Chapter 3. A Controversy
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
...bound to be tempted, but Gilbert defends his position, arguing that you can’t expect an oak sapling to flourish in the outdoors if it has been first given an easy start... (full context)
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
...not. Helen proceeds to argue that such a stance is thus unforgivably hypocritical, using Gilbert’s oak metaphor against him. Gilbert’s stance suggests that girls and women are so inherently wicked that... (full context)
Chapter 6. Progression
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
...finds Helen painting on the edge of a brook. He admires her skill with winter trees for some time, but she eventually grows self-conscious, and so Gilbert takes little Arthur horseback... (full context)
Chapter 7. The Excursion
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
...life before Wildfell Hall, saying that the natives of the parish, who are like indigenous plants, are very curious about such an “exotic species” as Helen. Helen will only say that... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...pass, and finally a day arrives fine enough to justify an excursion to the coast. Flowers are in bloom, and everything is verdant and lovely. The party consists of Gilbert, Fergus,... (full context)
Chapter 8. The Present
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
...her as a friend, bringing little Arthur a puppy and a book, and bringing Helen plants from his garden, but he has to be careful not to go too far or... (full context)
Chapter 10. A Contract and a Quarrel
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...meets Helen, and she welcomes him to walk with her and assess the progress the plants he gave her have made. Among the roses, Gilbert dares to hold Helen’s hand, and... (full context)
Chapter 19. An Incident
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...compared to Annabella Wilmot (who is “an ostentatious peony”), she, Helen, is like a dewy rosebud. He asks her to marry him, and she says he must first ask her aunt... (full context)
Chapter 25. First Absence
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
...nature that surround her daily, the calls of the swallows and sparrows, the noble ash trees bending over the water, wildflowers tossed by the breeze, and laments that Arthur is not... (full context)
Chapter 29. The Neighbour
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...day at the end of July. She is delighting little Arthur with a bouquet of flowers when Walter approaches them, commenting on Walter’s growth and the beauty of the scene Helen... (full context)
Chapter 31. Social Virtues
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
...cannot make herself like Lady Lowborough (Annabella). She compares interacting with her to crushing a rose in one’s hand and getting cut on the thorns. At first, Annabella clearly tried flirting... (full context)
Chapter 33. Two Evenings
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...wife any longer. Helen falls to the ground in a swoon of heartbreak and shock. Dead leaves rustle around her. She is in agony until she looks up at the sky. In... (full context)
Chapter 37. The Neighbour Again
Gender, Sexism, and Double Standards Theme Icon
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...for everyone, and Esther tries to defuse it by asking Walter to go pick a rose for Helen. He brings back a beautiful moss rose, and he and Helen eventually fall... (full context)
Chapter 52. Fluctuations
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Work and Idleness Theme Icon
...out of the carriage before it can arrive at the house and rests against a tree, planning to return home as soon as possible. (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Christian Faith and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
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... (full context)