Agnes Grey is the debut novel of English author Anne Brontë, first published in December 1847. The novel follows Agnes Grey, a governess, as she works within families of the English gentry. Scholarship and comments by Anne's sister Charlotte Brontë suggest the novel is largely based on Anne Brontë's own experiences as a governess for five years. Like her sister Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre, it addresses what the precarious position of governess entailed and how it affected a young woman. The choice of central character allows Anne to deal with issues of oppression and abuse of women and governesses, isolation and ideas of empathy. An additional theme is the fair treatment of animals. Agnes Grey also mimics some of the stylistic approaches of bildungsromans, employing ideas of personal growth and coming to age, but representing a character who in fact does not gain in virtue. The Irish novelist George Moore praised Agnes Grey as "the most perfect prose narrative in English letters," and went so far as to compare Anne's prose to that of Jane Austen.
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After reading "Wuthering Heights" (by Emily), "Jane Eyre" (by Charlotte), and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" (by Anne), I found myself slightly disappointed by the lack of passion and romanticism in Anne Bronte's "Agnes Grey". This novel truly is simple, unpretentious, and down-to-earth--and, therefore, far too easy to underestimate and undervalue. The title character is the younger daughter of a poor family, who seeks employment as a governess in order to help her parents make ends meet. This noble act of maturity on her part earns her nothing but disillusion, humiliation and hardship in the hands of the tyrannical children and over-indulgent parents of Wellwood House (Note the intriguing initials W.H., which stand for Wuthering Heights and Wildfell Hall in other Bronte books) and, later, Horton Lodge. For several chapters, Anne Bronte does not do much but--dare I say it?--complain about the lot of the Victorian governess. Though her...
Anne Bronte constructs a vivid Victorian world in AGNES GREY, which isn't surprising since it's drawn so strongly on her own experiences.
Agnes is a dutiful clergyman's daughter who goes into the world to seek employment as a governess in order to contribute to her family's financial well-being. Her several positions are described with deadly accuracy--the bratty children, the yapping dogs, the secretly disdainful other servants, the uninvolved parents. All are rendered here in minute and telling detail.
Agnes's familial background--and the familial background of Anne Bronte, of course--makes her especially well-suited to describing a local cleric she dislikes: "His favourite subjects were church discipline, rites and ceremonies, apostolical succession, the duty of reverence and obedience to the clergy, the atrocious criminality of dissent, the absolute necessity of observing all the forms of godliness, the reprehensible presumption of individuals who attempted...
Anne Bronte is probably the least popular Bronte sister for some reason. She actually wrote two books (and Charlotte wrote four) but the only Bronte books anyone ever seems to know are Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Those are by far the most popular and have been adapted many, many times. Unfortunately given Anne's relative obscurity, there are very few adaptations of her works. There are a couple TV versions of her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but only one of those is available on DVD and there are none at all of her first book, Agnes Grey. I think this is a real shame because I love both of Anne's books and because of this, I would say she's my favorite of the three sisters.
Agnes Grey tells of the titular character's life as a governess. Her family loses their fortune in an accident and so Agnes decides to work as a governess rather than be a burden on her parents- even though they are against this idea. She first teaches extremely bratty young children...
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