Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: Agnes Grey

Anne Bronte (the littlest Bronte) is often over shadowed by her sisters Charlotte and Emily. Their classic stories of dashing heroes, love and death have captivated readers since their publication and only seem to grow in their pop-culture influence. Their younger sister is often forgotten by readers.
Agnes Grey is a highly autobiographical work by Anne Bronte chronicling the trials and triumphs of a young governess. Agnes is a clergyman's daughter raised without wealth and high society, but with love and moral guidance. When her father loses money in some bad investments she strives to relieve her family's burden by finding herself work as a governess. Her first household is that of the Bloomfields, a family with three of the most difficult children anyone could dread. Agnes soon realizes how powerless a governess is; she is entirely responsible for the children's behavior, but has no actual power over them. Their parents do, but refuse to exercises it.
After a dreadful year with them Agnes moves on to a family from old money, the Murrays. Her journey to try and give guidance to the two young women whose family is so deficient in their morals is a struggle. The eldest daughter, Rosalie is a tragic character, caught up in her own folly and seeing no reason to change it until, encouraged by her mother, she throws her potential away. Over this period of time Agnes also falls in love with a young curate of the town.
Though not an epic romance full of high drama and great phenomena, Agnes Grey has a refreshingly real quality to it. Its drama is quieter, but in the characters one finds truth, and even certain passages of conversation Agnes engages in, I'm sure I've had myself with people in my own life. Overall, the novel is a meditation on the superiority of practicality, sincerity, and virtue, especially when it comes to rearing children and making marriages. The examples of distant and careless parents that raise unruly monsters for others to tame will be very near the heart of most modern teachers as well.
Overall, a B+. I still prefer Anne to Emily.


  1. I agree - I prefer Anne to Emily too. I often wonder why poor Anne is the forgotten Bronte when she had two fantastic novels.

    Great review!

  2. I know, Tennant of Wildfell Hall especially is really interesting and has so much dynamic, I've actually contemplated writing a screen adaptation of it for this year's Script Frenzy, but decided to work on another idea instead. It's still a possible project though, there's only been one adaptation and it was in the eighties I believe. Time for a new one.