An Analysis of Masculinity in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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In Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Arthur Huntington, Helen’s husband and Arthur’s father, is presented as an alcoholic, disgraceful, narcissistic “gentleman” (Brontë 311). Despite Helen’s efforts to shelter their son, Arthur, from the corrupted masculinity embodied by Huntington and his friends, Huntington encourages Arthur’s “manly accomplishments” that mirror his own character, such as excessive drinking, swearing, and selfishness (297). For fear of Arthur becoming “a curse to others and himself”, like his father, Helen has acquitted herself to prepare for an escape; however, Huntington seizes her journal which reveal her plans (203). In this passage Mr. Huntington is not only devaluing aspect of his corrupted masculinity,…show more content…
Although Helen’s concerns with Huntington’s alcoholism have always been towards his disgraceful actions, Huntington is acknowledging the negative effects that alcohol can have for the first time in the novel. Although Huntington presents intoxication as trivial to him, he does not find the actions and behaviors he does under it as accountable for humiliation of his character. Instead, Huntington reveals, in this passage, that his level of disgrace depends on external sources; the actions of Helen and his son have the ability to disgrace him, where as his own do not. Helen describes the time of Huntington’s illness and his later drunken actions at Grassdale as self-disgracing actions. Huntington, according to Helen towards his alcoholism, has “shamefully wronged [himself], body and soul” (217), but Huntington argues that he has “lived” (218). Helen continues to argue that Huntington’s disgraced character is due to “his injustice, his selfishness and hopeless depravity” (226). Despite Helen’s attempts to illuminate Huntington to the “crime of over indulgence”, Huntington refuses to perceive it as shameful (191). Yet, when Helen purposes a separation after her discovery of the affair Huntington is having with Lady Lowborough, he refuses for fear of being disgraced. His image in society and “the old gossips in the neighbourhood” are, to Huntington, able to humiliate him (273).

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