In January, our book club discussed The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. I mentioned before how this book’s vocabulary made me realize the poverty of my own. However, there is much besides the language to enjoy in this novel. (spoiler alert)
We had a fabulous discussion of the male characters in the book: were they believable? Were their relationships with the heroine likely? We discussed the domestic violence in the marriage—one more reminder that there is nothing new under the sun. The protagonist’s handling of her situation is admirable and reminded me of so many of my own patients’ situations: they are willing to put up with violence against themselves, but not when they see it affecting their children. The steps Helen goes through to escape her situation mirror those we recommend to women today: make a plan, hide documents in a safe place, etc.Finally, we spent some time discussing how to protect our own daughters from giving their hearts to unsafe men. Helen’s aunt in the book makes a valiant effort to save Helen from this marriage before it occurs, but Helen has already given her heart to Arthur and cannot be swayed. One of the women in my book group talked about Thomas Jefferson’s idea of books as mentors—that a good book (a living book) read at an impressionable time of life can have the same effect as learning from one’s own experience. I think this could be that kind of a book for a young woman, and it made me want to teach a co-op class for high school young ladies on this book together with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
We’re getting together to discuss Wuthering Heights next… I read it for the first time last week. Goodness those people were horrible to each other!