Anne Brontë’s Helen and her Atypical Insuborination: “A Will of her Own”

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Abstract

This article examines the protagonist of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Helen Huntingdon/Graham) as an anomaly in the novelistic tradition. Helen Huntingdon is a character who decides for herself, without heeding the advice of her aunt and uncle (exercising “a will of her own”, “I take the liberty of judging for myself”). Helen Graham, in this manner, challenges society, the Victorian novel, and also the sentimental novel that preceded it. She suffers domestic violence at the hands of her husband and, in an extraordinary act of rebellion, courage and determination, abandons him, taking her son away with her. The author’s depiction of Helen’s spouse, the alcoholic and abusive Arthur Huntingdon, also constitutes a divergence from the status quo of the era, as affairs of this kind were not normally portrayed in novels about the affluent Victorian society.

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