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\Professor S. Burgar
One ofthe major thernesin Anne Brontd's The Tenantof Wildfell Hall is the deceptiveness
appearances.Certainlyone ofthe reasons(andperhapstfte reason)that we havetwo different narratorsis
so we can"witness" an eventfrom an observer,Gilbert, #,
is circumscribe4and of a
knows andrevealsall. Ifwe find ourselvesinitially sharingGilbert's
interpretationofthe eventshe uritresses,after readingthe rest ofT9nanl we might sclroolour future
judgrnentsof what we seeor hearin public with the platitude,J*"fore
you teap. And so we might
cometo resernbleheavenlyHelen andnot gullible Gilbert. Or so we might think; for if we too easily
agreewith Helen's perspectiveof wents-as Gilbert, after readingher diary, does-I think we remain
oblivious to what shouldbe an obviousreasonHelen's own pe$pectiveof eventscannotbe frusted:
Helen,a personwho hasa greatdealof diffrculty admittingthat sheis happy,rweals herselfto us largely
tbroughan accountofher unhappy,tortuousrnarriageto Arthur. Thc Euenatureofher marriagemay
havebeenotherwise--shemight haveexperiencedreal pleasurewith Arttrur--andher accountwould likely
have remained the same.
Helenmakesclearin her accountthat thereare,for her,two kindsof pleasures:1) therearethe
sortsof pleasureswe might expectmostpeopleto enjoy,suchasdressingup andpartyrng;and2)there
arethe sortsof pleasurespeculiarto the ##n
conductindicateshe is becomingcloserto God. To Helen,the formerpleasuresareevil andthus$"rrimf,
pleasures,while the later aregood,ffid 8oatv.
-o*'4/ (* o l/4-&':
indulgingin pleasuresof'6vil kind. In the chapter
Helen,briefly, andonly once,acknowledges
the "the warningsof experience,"Helenwrites that she"was delightedwith the novelty and excitementof
Londonlife" (133). Concerningthe peoplesheobservred
shewas"horrified" (208)to hearthe storie,*n*
her (purportedlyftls favouriteamusement)
in Helen?or is this
of hispreviousamours(208).Is tl! a signof thematuration
evidence she has learned to be more circumspect concerning what she acknowledgesto herself?
(bravely)herconcernthat if sheenjoys"gossip" sherisks
Consideringwe know that sheexpresses
"becominglike someof the ladies[she]. . . mostheartilydespises"(133),I think we havereasonto
suspectthe later possibility is at leastasprobableasthe former. Am I suggestingthat Arthur kept telling
Yet, unless,like Helen,we ureourselvesmastersat self-<leception,
attentionto itself. Do we really believeHelergfor example,whenshetells us of her humiliationfrom
havingto wearsomethingotherthana "plain, darlqsoberstyleof dress"(217),forced(God forbid!) to
wear'ocostlyjewels" (217)andto be dressedo'likea paintedbutterfly'' (217)at Arthrn's bequest?This
Helenis in painting"bejeweled"
from a womanwhoseonly
nature. Evenhere,however,we hopefullynoteoshehasa'tough time deliveringherselfup to the full
enjoyment[of nature]asothe(l do" (86).
in marriage,too.We notethat Arthur's
Helenhasa toughtime grvingherselfto happiness
characterworsensjust asHelenthinls herself"her lot too huppy,and [her] . . . husbandactuallytoo good
for [her]" (204). He isn't of course--butnot becauseArthur revealshimselfto be duplicitousandevil, but
to be married to someonewho has a'Joyous, playful spirit" (204). But Arthur
embodiesthe Devil's pleasures,and to admit enjoyrng them meansto be of His parly,not God's. r'/
Someonewho fears the judgment of an all knowing, all seeing God writes the account we should expect
, Z^,1 ctt
If onlyArthurleft a diaryperhaps
a goodwrit€r,bu! maybe,thisis exactlywhyftis wordis to betrusted.