Monday, October 3, 2011

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

   Agnes Grey is not a very long books, (barely over 200 pages), and it reads like 3 small novellas.  It's not actually divided into separate sections, but Agnes Grey tells 3 main stories.  Miss Grey's family is facing hardship, so she takes a job as a governess for the Bloomfield family.  The Bloomfield children are pretty much the worst kids ever.  They are rude, destructive, defiant, and mean to Agnes.  And of course, the young governess gets no support from their parents.  Instead, they often tend to blame Agnes for their children's deplorable behavior.

   It's no surprise that Agnes does not stay with the Bloomfield family for very long.  She soon moves in as the governess for the Murray family.  Their children are much more manageable, but still unpleasant due to their immense wealth and pampering.  The eldest daughter is an eligible bachelorette, yet her spoiled behavior reveals tremendous immaturity.  Despite the unpleasant life of living with the Murray family, it is in this position where she meets Mr. Weston, a man who works as a pastor in the town's small church.

   This brings us to the third aspect of Agnes Grey: Romance.  Miss Grey and Mr. Weston enter into a completely rational and tame romance, but for Agnes, it's more than enough.  I thought their relationship was the most unconvincing aspect of the novel.  This is likely because the book is semi-autobiographical for Anne Bronte, and she probably didn't want to portray herself as passionate or lusty - characteristics that were not conventional for 19th century women to embody.  I liked reading about Agnes's experience as a governess, as it provided an interesting glimpse into mid 19th century domestic life.  However, I think Anne Bronte may have overdone it a bit in the attempt to portray a quiet good girl.  For me, she often just came across as a pious, naive goody two-shoes.