“Oh, Helen, Helen! you little know the misery of uniting your fortunes to such a man!” 

“I have such confidence in him, aunt, notwithstanding all you say, that I would willingly risk my happiness for the chance of seeing his.”– Ch. 17

“You have not been happy lately?” he said with a kind of effort to regain composure, and a determination to waive the further discussion of his own calamity.

“Happy!” I repeated, almost provoked at such a question– “Could I be so, with such a husband?” –Ch. 38


Helen Huntingdon is one of the most well-developed, intriguing, relatable, and truly believable characters I’ve read in a long while.

{Spoiler alert– though I’ll endeavor to keep them mild}

Ever had that friend of the opposite gender with whom you wanted to be more than friends? And then you find out their values are just too different from yours…but, hey, you’re sure your (what you wanna call) love for them can bridge that uneven yoke of star-crossed proportions, right?

Welcome to the life of Helen Huntingdon.

She takes the plunge and a lot of things end up on the “or for worse” end of the spectrum for her and her husband, Arthur.

The most fascinating thing for me in reading this novel is Helen’s development: watching her change over hundreds of pages. Anne Brontë does an amazing job of making her clearly flawed from the beginning, yet admirable. I hurt for her before the marriage, but she remains sympathetic after the wedding, as well.

Helen’s the kind of character who is so introspective and self-aware that she actually learns from her mistakes. With the feminist movement’s introduction of –necessary– strong female characters, a considerable amount of esteem has been lost for temperate, slow to speak, loyal women figures. Helen doesn’t turn to lectures or righteous monologues–though, at many times, I would have heartily applauded her for doing so. She’s just steadfast, and accepts the consequences of her own actions with a perspective many her age still need today.

Again, that’s only a comment on Helen’s character. Her marriage is definitely screwed up. Her situation is dark, which makes her submission and fidelity shine.

The Gospel/witnessing aspect is mostly (and skillfully) subdued. There are certain scenes where explicit messages are appropriate, and these are believable. The large part of the witnessing, though, is done through Helen’s own reputation and faithful devotion. As 1 Peter 3:1-2 says, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” This is what Helen even enters the marriage willing and eager to do. Whether or not she is successful…

I’ll leave the results up to your discovery 😉

This novel is majorly plot-driven (Helen is by far the strongest character– the rest have varying levels of depth). Settings, time jumps, and the epistolary elements (the story is related as one long letter, but several other written forms reside within it to provide information) enrich the entire work’s emotional impact and meaning.

The moral of the story, regardless of the ending, is that God never intended for us to enter into marriage with someone of a different faith. There are verses dealing with the aftermath of that and what to do; but it’s not desired in the first place: see 2 Corinthians 6:14.

So, the next time you or maybe your best friend has the optimistic, passionate thought, “I can convert him/her!”…go read all the way through Tenant of Wildfell Hall…

And then, preferably, quit flirting with that person. 🙂


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