Tuesday, April 4, 2017
It's unfiair to compare Anne Bronte with her siblings, but here goes
Does everything work out OK for Agnes Grey at the end of Anne Bronte's novel? Of course! - this is 19th-century British fiction, a novel of manners, and the only possible resolution is for the narrator to marry the sensible, kind, caring man for whom she was entirely suitable, and destined, throughout the narrative: incorporation into society is the end point, not lashing out at a society that can treat servants and governesses like dirt, at the mean-girl sisters who tormented and humiliated Agnes throughout a year of suffering, at the hypocritical church rectors who know nothing about charity nor about any of the teachings of Jesus. Oh well, it's unfair to compare Anne with her betters, or even w/ her Bronte sisters, whose novels are far more complex and disturbing, with uneasy resolutions. Agnes Grey is a typical novel of its age, and would not be read today were it not for the sibling connection, and it does make an enlightening contrast w/ the other two great Bronte novels. And it is still worth reading - it's relatively short, at least for 19th-century fiction. How can you not enjoy the final get-together of Agnes and Mr. Weston, the stuffy but kindly rector of the neighboring parish. His "courtship" dialogues with Agnes are actually quite hilarious - perhaps intentionally. AB must have known that he (and Agnes, for whom he's so well suited) sound like the definition of nerdiness as they talk with each other in the loftiest and most abstract terms. And how can you not like that when they meet on the beach after months of separation they're brought together by the cute little dog, Snap? Agnes Grey is by no stretch a great novel - though AB is at times a great writers, there are some fine, Austen-like turns of phrase and bitter judgments Agnes makes of other characters - but it's worth reading if for no other reason than it puts the 19th-century classics into a context: We see the literary field from which the classics emerged.