What are some implications of Bronte’s choice of title for the novel?
What is the importance of the preface? Its tone? What does Bronte describe as her purpose in writing the novel?
From what allegations does she defend herself?
What purpose is served by the novel’s frame of a letter written by one man to another? Does this form of narration distance or heighten the story told?
What are some consequences for the reader of a first-person narrative?
Does the novel in fact read like a letter? If not, what are some implausibilities?
Chapter 1: A Discovery
What were features of Markham’s home life and upbringing? (father restrictive) Had he wanted to be a farmer?
What do we learn about his family and tastes? (he’s an unusually cultivated and ambitious farmer)
How does he describe his sister, and what is her relationship to his auditor?
What is the relationship between Markham and Mr. Halford? (brothers-in-law and close friends)
What do we learn of the relationship between Gilbert and his brother?
What does his family know of Mrs. Graham? What purpose does their curiosity serve in the novel?
What is her social position in relationship to them?
On first seeing her, how does he describe her? What emotions does he believe he sees in her countenance, and how does he respond? (feels she is scornful and vows to change this, 47)
What is his relationship to Eliza Millward? What do you make of his description of her? (describes her appearance in detail, 48)
What is Jane Wilson’s relationship to the narrative? How is she described? (affects airs which displease Gilbert) Might there be a certain bias in Gilbert’s descriptions, and if so, why?
Why do you think Eliza and Jane are introduced into the novel?
What concludes this chapter? What do you make of the tone of Markham’s valediction? Is Halford’s later approval a stand-in for Bronte’s hoped for audience response?
Chapter 2: An Interview
What outdoor pursuit does Gilbert Markham follow? (hunts)
How is Wildfell Hall described? (remote and decayed)
What incident prompts the acquaintance of Markham and Helen? (when trespassing, he meets her son)
How does each respond to her child? To animals?
How does he respond to their interview? (resentment) How does he console himself? (visits Eliza for tea)
What emotions does he express toward Eliza? (love) Does he seem to take her or her emotions very seriously? (55)
Chapter 3: A Controversy
Is Helen’s visit to the Markhams successful? How does Mrs. Markham behave? (offers unsolicited, blunt advice, 55)
What do we learn of her relationship with her son? (does not wish him to be separated from her, 55)
About her attitude toward wine? How has she sought to teach her son to avoid it? (by associating it with sickness)
Do you think her views on alcohol are those of the author?
Would alcohol consumption have been an issue at the time?
How do Gilbert and Helen differ on the topic of how children should be raised? (60) What inconsistency does she point out in his views on the different experiences suitable for young women and young men? (58-60)
What are her intentions regarding her son? (wishes to smooth his path from temptation until it inevitably comes)
Do you think either is correct in their views on how to teach children to develop moral habits?
With what emotions do Helen and Gilbert part? (some asperity, Gilbert feels slighted)
What do you think of the manners of all concerned? (argue, specify)
Chapter 4: The Party
What are some uses made of biblical quotation? (humor, 62)
When asked his opinion of Helen Graham, what is Mr. Lawrence’s reaction? (claims he is someone who should not be asked, 65) What does his evasion seem to imply?
What topic is reintroduced at the party, and why? (temperance)
What question does Mr. Lawrence address to Gilbert, and how does the latter answer? According to Gilbert, what seem to be features of Helen’s character? (opinionated and inflexible)
What traits has she in fact manifested thus far in the novel? (firm-minded, mentally probing, reserved, secretive)
How does Mr. Lawrence respond to Gilbert’s opinion? (seems disappointed) Why do you think the author includes this scene?
On what grounds does Gilbert’s mother disapprove of his attachment to Eliza? (feels she has no advantages, including wealth, but also intelligence and goodness, 68)
Chapter 5: The Studio
What do we learn about Helen’s art, and her commitment to it? (desires to conceal its subject and her location, 70)
What practical motivation lies behind her painting? (sale 70) Is it new in nineteenth-century fiction to portray a heroine who makes her living as a professional artist?
What change in Victorian society and its art market may this fact suggest?
What reason does she give for having moved to Wildfell Hall?
Which of her paintings is she unwilling to discuss, and why may this be important? (picture of young man, suggests a past)
How has her manner changed as she bids farewell? (polite, apologizes for abruptness, 72)
Chapter 6: Progression
What has "progressed" during this chapter? (Markham’s interest in Helen, ostensibly as a diversion from Eliza, 74)
What does she state has been her purpose in coming to Wildfell Hall? (as a refuge)
When Mr. Lawrence encounters Gilbert near Helen’s home, what questions do the two men address to one another? How does Mr. Lawrence respond to Gilbert’s question? (laughs at idea that he may be in love with Helen Graham, 76)
At what does he seem displeased? (Gilbert claims that he has not changed his mind, 76)
Why do you think Gilbert seems to feel the need to criticize a woman whose company he has been seeking? Does this strike you as an unusual conversation?
What does Rose resent in the Markham family arrangements? (mother prefers sons, 77)
What views of marriage does Markham’s mother express, and how are these contrasted with those he holds? (she states that women should seek their husbands’ comfort and pleasure rather than the reverse, 78; he hopes to seek to please his wife)
Why do you think the author includes this interchange?
On what grounds does Mrs. Markham suggest that Helen would make an unacceptable daughter-in-law?
Chapter 7 The Excursion
Which of their social group does not accompany the young people’s excursion? (Mr. Lawrence) Can you guess why?
What arrangements are made for transport on the journey?
How are Helen and Gilbert affected by the sight of the sea? (she’s inspired by the sea and he by her beauty and deep response to it, 84) Why is this so inspirational to each? (a rare sight)
What does Gilbert observe during the group excursion? (Helen’s seriousness at painting, dislike of conversation while painting, willingness to accede to his suggestions, 86)
How have his emotions toward Eliza changed? How does she respond to his lack of interest?
Chapter 8: The Present
What gift does Gilbert offer Helen, and what are some implications of the gift? (Scott’s Marmion, a bond of culture and poetry)
On what grounds does she decline, and how does he react to her reluctance? What causes her to relent?
Why do you think she has wished to reject it? What are his emotions on leaving the scene? How do you interpret his mental state?
Chapter 9: A Snake in the Grass
What is referred to in the title? What scandal is suggested by Eliza? (that Helen has born an illegitimate child with Mr. Lawrence)
Do her suspicions seem likely? What emotions do they prompt in Gilbert? (jealousy)
What incident interrupts Gilbert’s conversation with Helen in the garden bower? (Mr. Lawrence and Jane Wilson pass by, and Gilbert believes she is pointing out to him Gilbert’s attentions to Helen)
What hostile interchange occurs between him and Mrs. Graham’s ostensible landlord Mr. Lawrence?
What warning does Mr. Lawrence give Gilbert? (his attentions to Helen will be in vain) Under what circumstances might this be good or sympathetic advice?
Why does Gilbert believe he has been successful in wounding Mr. Lawrence’s feelings? (calls him a hypocrite) May there be other interpretations?
Chapter 10: A Contract and a Quarrel
What rumors are spread about Helen, and who is most eager to believe them? (Gilbert’s mother) Is gossip portrayed as an innocent pastime?
What is the contract and what the quarrel? When Gilbert expresses his attachment to Helen, what does she tell him? (a barrier exists to their further relationship, he must behave toward her as a brother)
Why do you think she cannot/should not bluntly tell him of her situation?
What does she admit are her emotions towards him? (likes his conversation, 103; prefers him to others)
What role will concealment and mistaken jealousies play in their relationship?
Whom does he meet en route home, and how does he respond to him? (demands of Mr. Lawrence why he is visiting at this hour)
What breaks up their quarrel, and what parting thrust is made by Mr. Millward? (104)
Chapter 11: The Vicar Again
What motivates the Vicar’s visit to the Markham family, and what has he done? (has accused Helen of bad behavior)
How does Gilbert react? (runs out of room in anger, 108) Was this wise?
What do Gilbert’s reactions to malice or advice reveal about his character?
Chapter 12: A Tête a Tête and a Discovery
In their next encounter, in answer to Gilbert’s ardor, what information does Helen promise to reveal, and when?
What emotions does she display? (weeps, expresses attachment and anxiety about his reaction)
What meeting does Gilbert witness as he leaves her premises, and what does he infer from the sight? Might there be other inferences?
How does Gilbert’s mother respond to his absent-mindedness and apparent distress? Do her interventions seem justified?
Chapter 13: A Return to Duty
With whom does Gilbert quarrel violently? (brother, 116) How has his brother given offense?
Who else spreads gossip about Helen Graham? (Eliza, Jane Wilson) How do these torment Gilbert?
How does he respond to the presence of Helen and Arthur as he meets them shortly thereafter? (avoids them, to their surprise and dismay)
Chapter 14: An Assault
What do you make of Markham’s assault on Mr. Lawrence? Can it be justified, and if not, why do you think Bronte creates a hero capable of such a deed?
May this be one of the violent scenes of which the critics and Charlotte Bronte disapproved?
Is Gilbert concerned for the effects of his assault on Lawrence? What do you make of his anxiety lest he have harmed the latter severely?
Chapter 15: An Encounter and Its Consequence
Why doesn’t Gilbert seek an explanation from Helen for what he has seen? Or consider that Mr. Lawrence may in fact be a near relative?
What appeal causes Gilbert to speak with Helen again, and what does he learn on this occasion? (Mr. Lawrence is her brother)
What reaction does Helen seem to fear from Gilbert should he learn of her past actions? What document does she entrust to him?
Why does she give him her diary to read rather than providing an oral summary of her past? Would this have been risky? (only one copy in existence!)
Chapter 16: The Warnings of Experience
How many years into the past are we transported by Helen’s diary?
What advice does Helen’s aunt offer her, and how does she respond? (is confident she will choose wisely)
Who first courts her, and what does she see as his disadvantages? (narrow-minded, old, 138)
On what grounds does Arthur Huntingdon seem pleasanter and more attractive?
Are there signs that even at the beginning Arthur may have his limitations? (“a little too much boldness in his careless manner and address,” 135) What is her aunt’s opinion of his character?
What tone does Helen use in rejecting Mr. Boarham’s offer?
Chapter 17: Further Warnings
What aspects of Arthur’s courtship might have caused Helen to feel unease?
When questioned by her aunt, what motive does she give for giving him encouragement? Does the aunt find this convincing?
Chapter 18: The Miniature
What other woman does Helen fear Arthur may prefer? May this be a bad sign?
Of whom does Helen draw a portrait, and how does Arthur respond to this discovery? Is he otherwise interested in her art?
What physical liberty does he take, and what is her response?
When he later examines her picture of a young and innocent girl, what remarks does he make? (she fancies her lover will be faithful, 155)
How does she respond to his attempts to keep her drawing of him? (tears it up, 156)
Chapter 19: An Incident
How does Helen respond to the seeming preference of others for Annabella’s musical performances? (hurt and agitated at Mr. Huntington's disregard, 159)
Under what circumstances does Mr. Huntingdon propose to Helen? (she has wept as she listened to a song, he embraces her despite her statement that he must first ask consent of her aunt and uncle, 162)
How does Helen’s aunt respond to Mr. Huntingdon’s request for Helen’s hand? (expresses surprise, says they must speak of the matter the next day, 163)
Chapter 20: Persistence
What does Arthur reveal about his financial situation? How many of his problems have been caused by himself?
What disagreement do Arthur and Helen have on the topic of religion?
What does Arthur tell Helen about Lord Lowborough’s past? What does Arthur believe are the latter's motives for seeking marriage with Annabella, and hers in return?
How does Helen’s uncle respond to the news of her desired engagement? What does he already know about Arthur, and is this at all ominous?
How do you account for Helen’s choice of marriage partner? Does Arthur seem the type of man someone as serious and moralistic as Helen would choose for a mate?
How can one explain Helen's emotions of love for a man whose traits of character offend her? Does this seem consistent with her behavior otherwise throughout the novel? (she is only 18!)
Chapter 21: Opinions
How do Milicent and Annabella each respond to the news of Helen’s engagement? What is ominous or disconcerting about each woman’s reply? (Milicent is surprised, since she knows Mr. Huntington's character, 171)
What seems revealed in Arthur’s attitude toward leaving the company of his bachelor friends? Toward shooting birds? (174)
Does he seem someone who should be marrying at this time? Why do you think he has chosen Helen for his wife?
Chapter 22: Traits of Friendship
How have Arthur and his other “friends” responded to Lord Lowborough’s desire to cease drinking? Are they responsible for his reversion?
What part has Hargrave played in all this? What aspiration is left to Lord Lowborough? (hopes to find a wife he can like, 183)
How does Helen view the entire incident? Why do you think she doesn’t take warning from Arthur’s selfishness and lack of concern for his friend?
What hints does Helen’s servant Rachel try to give her, and how does she respond? (weeps, allegedly for him, 187)
Chapter 23: First Weeks of Matrimony
On what occasion does Helen resume her diary? What regrets does she express? (Arthur is not what she had hoped, behaves selfishly, 188)
What emotions had jarred their honeymoon? (he doesn’t want her to take an interest in the sights they visit, boasts of past dalliances in European cities, 189)
What quality in Helen does Arthur deprecate, and what is her response? (wishes her to be less religious, she wishes him to think more accurately on moral issues)
Chapter 24: First Quarrel
What are some irritating traits of Arthur’s conversation? (describes previous affairs, 193) What emotions does he seek to evoke in her? (jealousy, hurt, 193)
How does Arthur occupy his time? How does he treat his dogs? (hits his loyal dog, throws a book at him, 196)
What resolution does he make, and how does Helen respond to this? (he wishes to leave her at home while he visits London, but she is determined to accompany him)
Chapter 25: First Absence
How do Helen and Arthur differ in their responses to London? On what pretext does he wish her to leave? (too busy, but gives no explanation)
To what legal business does he wish to attend? (he needs to sell a property to pay debts on his estate, 201) How does Helen react? (seems more concerned with whether he wants her presence with him in London)
After she returns home, what tone does he adopt toward her in his letters? (abjures her to patience! 202) Even when he doesn't write, how often does he wish letters in return? (daily, 202)
What does she fear may be the fate of her affectionate letters? (he will show them to his friends as a token of her devotion)
What effect does Milicent’s friendship with Helen have on the plot?
What qualities does Mr. Hattersley wish in his wife, and what has caused him to choose Milicent? (expects she will yield in everything, 203) Is he correct? (yes, she does)
Why does Milicent consent to marry a man she cannot respect? (pressured by her mother and her suitor, 203) What is shown by the fate of their subsequent marriage?
To what extent does the marriage of Millicent and Hattersley parallel that of Helen and Arthur? What are some differences? (Hattersley will later reform)
What observations does Helen make on the reasons for Arthur’s restlessness? (needs occupation; common critique of time) To what does she attribute his self-indulgent traits? (childhood upbringing, lack of employment, such as managing his estate)
What have been the effects on Arthur of his solitary sojourn in London? (listless, feverish, 205-206)
How does he spend his time when in better health? (hunting, 207)
Whom does he wish to invite to their home as hunting companions? (Lowborough, Hargrave, Grimsby)
What news does Helen hear of Milicent? (has adapted to her husband, professes happiness, 208)
Chapter 26: The Guests
What do we learn about Mr. Hargrave's home situation and private habits? (has expensive tastes, is selfish, 210)
What behavior characterizes Arthur and Helen’s household guests? (flirtatious, extravagant, rude to their respective spouses)
To whom does Arthur begin to pay his advances? (Annabella, 209)
Who in turn pays polite attention to Helen? (Mr. Hargrave, 210) How does Helen respond? (with embarrassment, discourages his interest)
Are there contrasts in the spending behaviors of men and women? (211)
Chapter 27: A Misdemeanor
What is the "misdemeanor," and how does Helen respond to this? (theatens Arthur with loss of love, 213)
What do we learn from Arthur and Annabella’s “misdemeanor”? What excuse does Arthur make? (double standard for men and women, 214)
What impertinent remarks does Lady Lowborough make when alone with Helen? (states that she keeps her own husband in good order, unlike Helen, 216)
Chapter 28: Parental Feelings
What causes Helen to feel anxious for her son’s sake? (may live to regret his existence, 217; may resemble his father)
What emotions does Arthur exhibit toward his son? (lacks fatherly feeling; jealous of Helen’s attentiveness to their son; doesn't wish to hold him)
Chapter 29: The Neighbor
How have Arthur's emotions changed towards his son? (fond of his company, 219)
How does Helen react to Arthur’s next departure for London?
Who seems to observe and sympathize with her distress? What news of her husband does he bring her? (226)
Chapter 30: Domestic Scenes
What response does Arthur make to an error by his faithful butler?
Chapter 31: Social Virtues
How does Helen attempt to accommodate her husband’s habits on his return from his next trip?
What is added to the novel by the scenes of an extended party at Arthur’s home? What tensions and intrigues are intensified by life in close quarters?
What “social virtues” are exhibited by their houseguests, especially toward Lord Lowborough? (his wife disdains him, his friends demand that he continue drinking)
Chapter 32: Comparisons: Information Rejected
What confidences do Milicent and Helen share? What does Milicent ask Helen to do for her?
What does Helen think Milicent might do to alter her huband’s behavior? (251) Do you think the author agrees?
What does Hattersley himself complain of in Milicent? (254) Is this just? (wants a wife who approves or disapproves)
What request does Mr. Hargrave make of Helen, and what does this seem to augur? Why does she refuse to hear what he has to say?
Chapter 33: Two Evenings
To what gossip about herself is Helen forced to listen?
What can we infer from the fact that Arthur doesn’t wish her to linger with him in their garden? (260)
What warning does her servant Rachel give her?
Why do you think Helen is disturbed at losing at chess to Mr. Hargrave? (263)
In what compromising circumstances does Helen find Annabella and Arthur?
What assurance does Arthur give Annabella? (kisses her, affirms that he loves her more than he loves his wife, 265)
What comforts Helen in this difficult moment? (nature, its promise of divine aid, 266; compare Jane Eyre) How does she respond to her loss? (wants solitude, 267)
When she asks to leave him, what motive does Arthur give for wishing her to stay? (268)
What living arrangement does she demand and what is her response? (marital separation)
What does Rachel advise? To what activity does she turn for solace?
Chapter 34: Concealment
What emotion does Helen express toward her husband (if only internally) as a result of his behavior? (270, hate)
Why do you think she continues to resent Hargrave's presence and manner?
What action does she take to indicate her disapproval to Annabella? What is the significance of the fact that her communication occurs through writing inside a book? (271, writes what she can't say)
On what grounds does she ask Annabella to leave, and what reasons does Annabella give for delay?
In your view, has Helen handled this situation well? How might a present-day woman have responded in a similar situation?
Chapter 35: Provocations
What prompts Mr. Hargrave to declare his love? Why is Helen offended at this? (275)
How does Annabella use her last hours of the visit? (torments Helen, 276)
What farewell does Helen give to Mr. Hargrave? (wishes no more advances, 277)
Chapter 36: Dual Solitude
What does Helen threaten? (to cease houskeeping duties if Arthur persists in malicious complaints and verbal assaults, 279)
Does she blame herself for her marital problems? ( 279)
What behavior does Arthur exhibit toward his son? (280)
Chapter 37: The Neighbor Again
What conflicts do Helen and Arthur have over their son? (282)
On what grounds does Mr. Hargrave again initiate his suit? (he is unhappy, assumes she must care for him, 287)
Do you think Mr. Hargrave's propositioning of Helen and his threat to force her to elope are consistent with his previous character?
On what grounds does she rebuff him (needs solace of a good conscience, 289). After she bids him farewell, to where does he depart? (290)
What happens next to him? (leaves for Paris)
What do you think has been the purpose of including this incident in the plot? (affirms Helen's innocent character, as well as her desirability as a partner)
Chapter 38: The Injured Man
How many years have passed since Arthur and Helen's marriage?
With what does Helen threaten Annabella? (disclosure) Should she have told Annabella's husband? (possibly not by Victorian standards)
Under what circumstances does Lord Lowborough charge Helen with wronging him? What information does Helen give him, and how does he respond to the news? (292)
What dangerous expedient does Mr. Hattersley suggest at this point? (296) Is he a true friend to Lord Lowborough--or to Mr. Huntingdon? Is the latter wise to refuse?
Why does Lord Lowborough refrain from suicide? (296)
Would Bronte's audience likely have approved of duels?
What happens to the marriage of Lord Lowborough and Annabella? (they separate and he retains children) What do we learn of her parenting emotions and skills?
Chapter 39: A Scheme of Escape
What finally goads Helen to flee? (Arthur and his friends attempt to debauch little Arthur, with some success)
What are Helen's plans for escape?
On what grounds does Mr. Hargrave argue that these are impractical? Under what circumstances has she revealed to him her thoughts, and should she have done so?
What does he threaten, and how does she defend herself? (with knife! 305)
When accused by her husband of improper behavior, what does she demand of Mr. Hargrave? (that he admit that she has rejected him)
Chapter 40: A Misadventure
What bad fortune interrupts Helen's plans for escape? What does Arthur do after reading her diary? (destroys her printing materials, steals her money and jewels)
Why do you think he fails to destroy the diary itself?
Can you see parallels between her plight at this stage and that of Jane Eyre when forced to leave Rochester?
Chapter 41: Hope Springs Eternal
What advice does Helen give young Esther on the matter of marriage? is the advice needed?
What timely encouragement is given to Helen by Frederick on his family visit? (he will prepare a wing of an old family residence in case she needs to escape there, 316) Does he encourage her to leave? (no)
Which members of her household help Helen in her escape? (Benson, 315) Will this be risky for them?
Chapter 42: The Reformation
What incidents prompt Hattersley's "reform"? How are the changed behaviors of Mr. Hattersley and Lord Lowborough used as a contrast to Arthur Huntingdon's continued excesses?
Chapter 43: The Boundary Past
What are Helen's final thoughts before taking her momentous steps? What economic obstacles does she face?
What function is served at this point by Helen's writing and her art?
What may be indicated by Rachel's determination to remain with her former mistress?
What prompts her to choose the name "Graham" as a pseudonym?
Chapter 44: The Retreat
In what disguise and with whom does Helen make her escape? How does Helen reward the old servant who helps them leave? (generously, 329)
Were this not a novel, do you think it is likely she would have been found?
Why does she choose her brother's deserted property as a retreat? Why can Frederick seldom visit her, and only clandestinely? (to avoid suspicion, 331)
What does she continue to fear? (that her son will be kidnapped) How does this affect her behavior? (will not be separated from him 331) Does this anxiety cast an explanatory light on earlier events in the novel?
Do you think this fear was rational? (husband had entire custody under any circumstances)
What are her motives in earning her living? (wishes to be independent, 331) Who tends to the marketing and sale of her works? (Frederick)
According to Helen, why has she retained her portrait of her husband? (to compare it with her son's face, 332)
What part of her diary has she torn away before giving it to Gilbert? (part which apparently refers to him)
Chapter 45: Reconciliation
What is Gilbert's reaction on reading this diary? (relief! glad to read of Mr. Huntington's decline, ashamed of his past conduct, 335) Does this surprise you?
How does Helen receive him? (eagerly anxious about his response, 336) What has apparently caused her anxiety?
When Helen bids him depart, how does he react? What kind of union does she promise? (a spiritual union of souls, a spiritual love)
Is this enough for him? (he doesn't wish to be confined to a heavenly union, 341) To what form of earthly communciation will she agree? (he will hear of her through her brother, and the reverse, 340)
What theological issues are latent in their discussion? (nature of heaven, 340-41, whether we can love specific individuals when in heaven)
How do they part? (with an embrace, 342-43)
What apology does Gilbert make to Frederick Lawrence? Does this seem sufficient? (344, blames the injured Frederick for having greeted him with aversion, 345!)
What is Frederick's response? (forgiveness! extends hand, promises not to mention the incident to Helen, 345)
Why do you think Bronte included a scene in which the man wronged by Gilbert forgives him?
Chapter 46: Friendly Counsels
Why does Gilbert at first not seek to clear Helen's name? (someone may tell Mr. Huntington of her location, 347)
To whom does Gilbert become more attached, and with what motive? What advice does Frederick offer him? (to forget Helen)
What information and counsel does he provide in return? (describes Jane Wilson's character, her dislike of Helen, 351) What results from these disclosures? (Frederick ceases to visit Jane Wilson, 351-52)
Chapter 47: Startling Intelligence
What startling intelligence of Helen does Gilbert learn, and how does this affect him? (she has returned to her husband after he was wounded in a hunting accident)
How does Gilbert come to know of Helen's behavior and trials? (reads her letters to Frederick, which the latter gives him, 365 ff.) Does this seem realistic?
What practical purpose does this form of communication serve in the construction of the novel? (Gilbert is later able to insert their transcribed text into his own "letter" to his future brother-in-law)
Before permitting him to see his son, what document does Helen force Arthur to sign? (359) Would this have been legally valid at the time? (husband held entire custody under all circumstances)
What news does Gilbert glean from Helen's letter to Frederick? (Helen has been attempting to turn Arthur's mind to serious matters, 361-62; Gilbert sees that she has performed these services from a sense of compassion and duty.)
What emotions does she now feel toward her husband? (rejects his advances; is wiling to minister to him but not to declare love)
How does Gilbert characterize her efforts? (she has been casting pearls before swine, 362)
Chapter 48: Further Intelligence
What promise does Helen extract from Arthur when she returns to nurse him? (demands promise of freedom of residence, that is, the right to depart at will) Would this have been legally possible at the time?
Chapter 49: “The rains descended”
What seems the significance of the epigraph which begins the chapter?
What emotions does Arthur feel toward his wife as he approaches death?
Do you think the account of Arthur's illness and decline is well-narrated? Realistic?
What do Helen and Arthur discuss as he comes to realize he is dying? What does each believe about the possibilities for divine forgiveness?
Is she successful in urging him to reconcile himself with heaven, and if so, might one say that she has fulfilled her earlier motive of bringing about his reformation?
Chapter 50: Doubts and Disappointments
What events following Mr. Huntingdon's death conspire to make it difficult or impossible for Gilbert to resume his suit?
What part does Frederick Lawrence play in all this?
Chapter 51: An Unexpected Occurrence
When Gilbert visits Helen's vicinity, the sight of what wedding troubles him, and why? Who in fact are the bride and groom, and how have they become acquainted? (Frederick marries Eliza Hargrave)
How do we know this will be a propitious marriage? (they are both friendly to Gilbert and both wish well to Helen)
What new turn of fortune changes Helen's situation? Why does this seem an impassable barrier to Gilbert? Do you think that in the society of the time, he would have been correct?
Why do you think Bronte included a turn of fate which made her heroine independent of her original fortune and any inheritance from her husband? Can you think of a parallel outcome in Jane Eyre?
Chapter 52: Fluctuations
As he arrives at the locale of Helen's home, what new information does he glean about Mr. Hargrave from his former servant? Why do you think this incident was included at this point of the novel?
What new information does he glean about Helen's altered situation, and what is his response? On what grounds does he resolve to refrain from meeting with Helen?
Chapter 53: Conclusion
What prompts the lovers' reunion, and on what basis do they come to a renewed understanding? Who must now be presuaded of the suitability of their union? Does her eventual concurrence seem plausible?
What account does Gilbert give of his and Helen's marriage and their future life? Is it problematic that we no longer hear Helen's voice?
What role does gossip play in the novel? How do the novel’s major protagonists react to stories and rumors?
What role in the novel is played by letters?
What are some dramatic incidents which occur in the second half of the novel?
What effect does Milicent’s friendship with Helen have on the plot? What is shown by the circumstances under which she marries Hattersley, and by the fate of their subsequent marriage?
To what extent does the marriage of Milicent and Hattersley parallel that of Helen and Arthur? What are some differences? (Hattersley reforms)
What are we to make of the behavior of Mr. Hargrave? Why does Helen interpret his behavior as offensive?
Do you think his propositioning of Helen and his threat to force her to elope are consistent with his previous character?
How important is it that the heroine is an artist, and presumably a professionally successful one? How common would this have been at the time?
What are Helen’s motives in writing her diary? Does the mention of her writing become more prominent throughout the novel? If so, why may this occur?
For what does Lord Lowborough blame Helen? Does she apologize or admit wrong-doing? Do you think he is justified in blaming her?
How is Arthur’s fate contrasted with that of his male friends?
At the novel’s end, is everyone punished according to his/her deserts? For example, what happens to Annabella?
What are features of the narrative of Arthur’s death? Do you think it is realistically told?
What do he and Helen discuss as he nears death? What purpose may Bronte have had in including these discussions?
What effect does Helen’s later inheritance have on the plot?
Had she inherited land from her uncle earlier, how would this have affected the plot? (would not have been relatively indigent and helpless when living at Wildfell Hall; would have had to worry about Arthur’s access to her money; a relationship between Gilbert and Helen would have seemed less natural)
Do you think the novel’s portrayals suffer from stereotyping, e. g., of gender or class? Or alternately, do you think the qualities portrayed would have been common at the time?
Why do you think Charlotte Bronte may have objected to this book, as shown by her unwillingness to reprint it? (possibly its biographical elements, since Mr. Huntington's behavior may be loosely based on that of Branwell?)
Can you find parallels between the plot and themes of this novel and Jane Eyre? Wuthering Heights?
Can you think of earlier novels which center on a widow’s remarriage? On a happy marriage between a man and a woman much above him in the social scale?
In what other Victorian novel(s) does a woman return to nurse her formerly abusive or neglectful partner as he lies dying? In the case of Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth, which novel was first published? (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 1848--Ruth was 1853.)
How may tastes have changed since the Victorian period, rendering its scenes less objectionable?
Could this work be viewed as a religious novel? A temperance one?
Would you say Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a didactic novel? A sensational one?