The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Narrators and Narration
I’m creating another post because the first one became extremely long and we have a new topic. @happybibliosaurus, I hope you are glowing with honest pride at facilitating intense and erudite discussions about Gothic literature through your kind organization. :) As usual, spoilers for those of the Brontë Buddy Read crowd who are still finishing the novel.
[T]he more time I spend with Helen, the more I can see she is admirable but the less I like her. And perhaps that is because Helen is not the best explicator of her own story, an interesting idea I think, that Gilbert who is less bright than she is (in every way) is somehow more skilled at storytelling or at making others find him appealing. Or perhaps it is that he is writing a letter to a friend, whereas Helen doesn’t see him in that way when she talks to him about her past. At some level, possibly wrongly, I equate Helen with St. John Rivers from Jane Eyre, a character I have never warmed to, no matter what actor plays him, no matter how much I try to be a slightly oppositional fangirl about it all and remind myself that he always plays it straight with Jane where Rochester is a colossal jerk.
I too find St. John extremely annoying! But leaving aside a discussion about his honesty or lack thereof, the issue of narration – and Helen and Gilbert as narrators – is a really interesting one. As someone who’s experienced emotional abuse from an ex, I recognized and ached for some of the ways in which Helen is stand-offish and nervous and prickly with Gilbert. That said, I still don’t find her terribly likable. But she does herself a disservice, I think. We see her inflexible, near-fanatical resolve; we see her calculation and her mistrustfulness. What we don’t see, except – occasionally and obliquely – through Gilbert, is how she responds, emotionally, to her isolated status as an outsider. We don’t get to see how Helen’s body language changes in the presence of her son, of Gilbert, of the new landscapes by which she is surrounded. I found it very hard, on this first reading, to get the tone of her voice. (Incidentally, I have many and similar issues with Fanny Price, a near-contemporary abused protagonist.) Also, not to introduce invidious comparisons with Jane Eyre, but we learn almost nothing about how Helen’s character may be reflected in her artistic style! or how she feels about being an artist!
Gilbert, as you say, is writing to Halford, and he’s a good letter-writer. He emerges as humorous, self-aware (mostly), self-deprecating, impulsive, affectionate, and good-natured. And to be honest, I kind of love the play with gender roles that comes with making the intelligent, assertive, wealthy, property-holding woman find her best match in a sweet-tempered, adoring, domestic-minded man. The more I think about it, the happier it makes me. I can, without the slightest difficulty, imagine Gilbert romping on the lawn with approximately 3 kids and 5 puppies while Helen manages their investments or something. But also – and I hope more readers will weigh in with their own responses – I found comparatively little in the first… two-thirds? four-fifths? of the novel to prepare me for the Intense Gothic Romanticism™ of Gilbert’s mad run through the snow, of Helen’s charged rose offering, of their spontaneous, passionate embraces (!!!). By the end, their relationship is clearly drawing on a slow burn buildup, not all of which I recognized as it was happening.
Contemporary Mexican artist Moza Saracho has her debut solo exhibition titled Mirrors, curated by Anne Huntington. The show, which is open now through November 10th, features large-scale mirrored sculptures presented in five parts reflecting on truth, destiny, vanity, existence and moments. I spoke to Saracho about her first show:
Since this is your debut exhibition, did you feel some pressure as artist to make a grand statement about your work?
Of course I feel pressure as an artist to make a grand statement, I have been living with the idea of this show my entire life, and it is an overwhelming experience to make it a reality - the pressure is amazing because it helps me visualize and create beautiful forms. Why have you decided to be an artist based in Mexico City as oppose to working in New York?
I studied at New York University and regularly travel to New York City. Mexico City is my home and where my studio is based. The distance between Mexico City and New York City is very small, and the vibrancy of both compliment each other and fuel my creativity.
The show ‘Mirrors’ deals with idea of self-reflection. Do you think our face-paced society needs to take a closer look at themselves?
I think the individual and society as a whole need to reflect and take in their inner and out selves to see what realities and fantasies exist to experience the truths, destinies, vanities, existences and moments of life.