tiistai 21. heinäkuuta 2009

Anne Brontë: Agnes Grey

All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity, that the dry shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut. Whether this be the case with my history or not, I am hardly competent to judge. I sometimes think it might prove useful to some, and entertaining to others; but the world may judge for itself. Shielded by my own obscurity, and by the lapse of years, and a few fictitious names, I do not fear to venture; and will candidly lay before the public what I would not disclose to the most intimate friend.

The debut novel written by the youngest of the Brontë sisters tells the story of a governess who is, in many ways, similar to Charlotte Brontë's famous Jane Eyre. Anne Brontë only wrote one other novel in addition to Agnes Grey (first published in 1847), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848). She died of tuberculosis the following year.

Agnes Grey could be called an autobiographical book: it is based on Anne Brontë's own experiences as a governess. Written from the highly subjective perspective of Agnes, the daughter of an English clergyman, the novel describes the struggles experienced by young governesses during their often lonely, frustrating and unrewarding years in upper-class families. These families sound less-than-appealing: spoiled first-born sons; flirty, conceited daughters; abusive fathers and passive mothers...

Despite the inevitable presence of a romantic sub-plot, Anne Brontë's novel is different from her sisters' novels in that it does not focus on the romance and the 'plain-but-pious-woman-meets-rich-and-mysterious-man' plot, but rather on the everyday life of a governess: the pupils, the lessons and living in families as someone who is "in-between": not a servant, but not a family member either. The novel is deeply personal and seems very realistic, instead of being just a romantic fantasy.

Anne Brontë: Agnes Grey. Wordsworth Editions. 1994.

Wikipedia: Agnes Grey
Wikipedia: Anne Brontë

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