Friday, May 28, 2010
Agnes Grey by: Anne Brontë
Written when women—and workers generally—had few rights in England, Agnes Grey exposes the brutal inequities of the rigid class system in mid-nineteenth century Britain. Agnes comes from a respectable middle-class family, but their financial reverses have forced her to seek work as a governess. Pampered and protected at home, she is unprepared for the harsh reality of a governess’s life. At the Bloomfields and later the Murrays, she suffers under the snobbery and sadism of the selfish, self-indulgent upper-class adults and the shrieking insolence of their spoiled children. Worse, the unique social and economic position of a governess—“beneath” her employers but “above” their servants—condemns her to a life of loneliness.
This is the first novel I've read by Anne Brontë, and I think there's only one other novel of hers that's been published. I was excited to see what the differences between her and her sisters were in their styles of writing. There are some distinct differences, but they all have sort of the same voice at times. Agnes, in my opinion, was pretty reminiscent to Jane in Jane Eyre when she was talking directly to the reader, and when she was describing how she felt for Mr. Weston (although she was much more conserved than Jane was). I thought it was funny how Weston's first name was Edward and Rochester's first name was Edward. I know it was a common name at the time, but the fact that it was used in both Agnes Grey and Jane Eyre for love interest of the main character was funny to me. Agnes Grey didn't parallel Jane Eyre, though. It was a much different novel. Agnes had a pretty rough time with the kids she taught and watched. They were spoiled little brats! I felt very bad for her. Whereas Jane got along really well with her pupil.
I think Agnes was a pretty strong character. Even though she could've ran home at any time and admitted defeat, she didn't. She stuck it out for her family through all the difficulties (and there were many). I do think this novel was probably a bit more realistic on the aspect of being a governess than Jane Eyre might have been.
I do wish, however, that there had been more scenes between Agnes and Mr. Weston. I wanted to see more interaction between them. Just to make the romance a little more believeable. I don't think we were given enough of a reason to believe they could love each other.
But I did like the end and how they met on the beach. That was pretty cute. Weston was pretty witty, which is why I would've liked some more scenes with him!
One thing Anne Brontë did well was create utterly unlikeable children. I wanted to throw them. Repeatedly. And the parents she created for these children were great. Definitely very realistic.
All in all, it was a good novel. Good enough to make me want to read her other novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The novel isn't quite up there with Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but it was worth reading. I'd recommend it to people who like the other Brontës, and to people who like novels that reflect the time period.
Overall rating: 7/10