Advertisement

Killing the “Angel in the House”: Violence and Victim-Blaming in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

  • Claire O’CallaghanEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)

Abstract

This chapter examines Anne Brontë’s proto-feminist critique of the “angel in the house” in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848). It argues that Brontë’s novel offers a twofold critique of angelic femininity. Firstly, she “tests” the feasibility of angelic womanhood when situated in impossible domestic circumstances, and secondly, she highlights the forms of violence that angelic femininity is often subjected to. In doing so, the chapter argues that Anne Brontë exposes the pervasive nature of victim-blaming in mid-nineteenth-century culture and anticipates recent legislative changes in the twenty-first century that now recognises emotional and psychological abuse in definitions of domestic violence.

Keywords

Angel in the house Angelic femininity Angelic womanhood Victim-blaming Domestic violence Anne Brontë The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 

Works Cited

  1. Archibald, Diana C. 2002. Domesticity, Imperialism and Emigration in the Victorian Novel. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.Google Scholar
  2. Auerbach, Nina. 1982. Women and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Banyard, Kat. 2010. The Equality Illusion: The Truth About Men and Women Today. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  4. Barker, Juliet. 1995. The Brontës. London: Phoenix.Google Scholar
  5. Bellamy, Joan. 2005. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: What Anne Brontë Knew and What Modern Readers Don’t. Brontë Studies 30 (3): 255–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brontë, Charlotte. 1974. Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell. In The Brontës: A Critical Heritage, ed. Miriam Allot, 284–288. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Brontë, Anne. 1996. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, ed. Stevie Davies. London: Penguin. First Published in 1848.Google Scholar
  8. Bryant, Sharon, and Gayle Spencer. 2003. University Students’ Attitudes About Attributing Blame in Domestic Violence. Journal of Family Violence 18 (6): 369–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. de Beauvoir, Simone. 1988. The Second Sex. Trans. H. M. Pashley. London: Picador. First Published in 1949.Google Scholar
  10. Ellis, Stickney Sarah. 1998. The Women of England: Their Social Duties and Domestic Habits. In The Victorian Age: An Anthology of Sources and Documents, ed. Josephine M. Guy, 495–504. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Friedan, Betty. 1966. The Feminine Mystique. London: Penguin. First Published in 1963.Google Scholar
  12. Gérin, Winifred. 1979. Introduction. In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 7–18. London: Penguin Classics. First Published in 1848.Google Scholar
  13. Greer, Germaine. 1993. The Female Eunuch. London: Flamingo Modern Classic. First Published in 1970.Google Scholar
  14. Gruner, Elisabeth Rose. 1997. Plotting the Mother: Caroline Norton, Helen Huntingdon, and Isabel Vane. Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 16 (2): 303–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Han, Catherine Paula. 2017. The Myth of Anne Brontë. Brontë Studies 42 (1): 48–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hogan, Anne, and Andrew Bradstock, eds. 1998. Women of Faith in Victorian Culture: Reassessing the Angel in the House. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. Home Office. 2016. Guidance: Domestic Abuse and Violence, Gov.UK. March 8. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-violence-and-abuse. Accessed 29 May 2017.
  18. Jansson, Siv. 1998. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Rejecting the Angel’s Influence. In Women of Faith in Victorian Culture, ed. Anne Hogan and Andrew Bradstock, 31–47. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Levine, Philippa. 1987. Victorian Feminism 1850–1900. London: Hutchinson Education.Google Scholar
  20. Meetoo, Veena, and Heidi Safia Mirza. 2007. “There Is Nothing ‘Honourable’ About Honour Killings”: Gender, Violence and the Limits of Multiculturalism. Women’s Studies International Forum 30 (3): 187–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Munford, Rebecca, and Melanie Waters. 2013. Feminism and Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique. London: IB Tauris.Google Scholar
  22. Patmore, Coventry. 1891. The Angel in the House. London: Cassell & Company.Google Scholar
  23. Penny, Laurie. 2014. Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  24. Ruskin, John. 1909. Sesame and Lilies, Unto This Last and the Political Economy of Art. London: Cassell. First Published in 1865.Google Scholar
  25. Sharpe’s London Magazine. 1848. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. August, 181–84.Google Scholar
  26. Showalter, Elaine. 1972. Killing the Angel in the House: The Autonomy of Woman Writers. The Antioch Review 32 (3): 339–353.Google Scholar
  27. Sinclair, May. 1921. Introduction. In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey, v–viii. London/Toronto/New York: J. M. Dent & Sons/E. P. Dutton & Co.Google Scholar
  28. The Rambler. 1974. From an Unsigned Review, ‘Mr Bell’s New Novel’. In The Brontës: A Critical Heritage, ed. Miriam Allot, 266–268. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. The Spectator. 1848. Acton Bell’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. 8 July, 18–19.Google Scholar
  30. Valenti, Jessica. 2007. Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters. Emeryville: Seal Press.Google Scholar
  31. ———. 2010. The Purity Myth. Berkeley: Seal Press.Google Scholar
  32. Walter, Natasha. 2010. Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism. London: Virago.Google Scholar
  33. Whipple, E.P. 1848. Novels of the Season. The North American Review 67 (141): 354–369.Google Scholar
  34. Woolf, Virginia. 1993. Professions for Women. In The Crowded Dance of Modern Life, 101–106. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  35. World Health Organisation. 2016. Factsheet: Violence Against Women. November. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/. Accessed 20 May 2017.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English LiteratureLoughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK

Personalised recommendations