Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book absolutely blew me away!
It's a must read for anyone who has a taste for classics. One of the really great things one should appreciate about classics, I feel, is their ability to engross the reader in the narration. And 'Agnes Grey' is one of those books which would not give you a moment's peace until you finish reading it. I actually felt kind of sad to realize that the author Anne Bronte, the youngest member of the Bronte literary family, only has two novels to her credit! The other one is 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall'.
'Agnes Grey' especially reads very original probably because it is primarily based on Bronte's experience as a governess. The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Bronte lived most of her life with her family at the remote village of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of nineteen, she left Haworth working as a governess between 1839 and 1845. The protagonist Agnes Grey is somewhat of a representation of the author in real life. The pages are actually compiled from the diary of Agnes, but we don't get to know it until in the concluding paragraph of the novel. Hence, the account is basically a conversation to the self which makes it more involving and personal. If you read the book you will find that you are actually having a closer a look into the life of the person in question since a diary is either strictly personal or rather a confession.
From the beginning to the very end, one cannot help but sympathize with Agnes Grey. Given the predicament she finds herself in, with her pupils. Agnes and her older sister Mary were the only two that survived the perils of infancy, of the six children of their poor clergyman father. Her father marries a woman from a noble family which her family doesn't approve of. And apparently she never complains for having to live in poverty with her husband. Mrs. Grey is a character from which, I believe, we have a lot to learn. We find her to be the ultimate model of steadfastness, belief and mercy. Against all odds, she chooses to be patient and laughs away the hefty situation she deliberately brings herself in. And when Mr Grey passes away and her father sends a letter telling her that he hopes by now she feels regretful for the marriage, she gets angry and says she should not feel regretful for her two beautiful daughters (Who would also likely be her support in old age) and her intimate friend in whom she always found herself in repose. It is extremely touchy and I am sure it will touch anyone's heart for it tells us what it means to be a true companion. Mrs. Grey proves the equation that there is a companionship both in life and death, and she chooses both without compromising either of them. Now if we look into Agnes's character, we find a somewhat similar picture. She is, also like her mother, someone who does not judge people based on wealth and position. She chooses to fall in love with someone who is barely attractive, she rather goes for Mr.Weston for his good nature. And She does not regret it. She eventually finds that Mr. Weston loves her back.
Now let's talk a bit about the other characters of the novel. In the beginning, we see Agnes's willingness to support her family by working as a governess, which initially gets rejected by her parents with some aversion, however she eventually gets the green signal to work outside. The first family she starts working with are the Bloomfields. The Bloomfields have three children. Master Tom, Mary Ann and the youngest little Harriet. Tom is as arrogant as hell and he tries to own his governess right from the word go, as if she was some sort of a slave to him. Much to the horror of Agnes, she finds Tom has a habit of killing innocent creatures like birds. He brutally murders them. Worse, he actually gets some sort of support from his parents and he says his father would do the same when he was his age. This seriously bothers Agnes and she makes it her life's mission to protect the birds from the oppression. However, as it turns out, Mrs. Bloomfield is a bigger obstacle. She doesn't let Agnes practice any kind of power over her children yet expects Agnes to discipline them. A huge dilemma indeed!
On the face of it, Mrs. Bloomfield is extremely amiable. But as time goes by, Agnes starts to realize that she is just a hypocrite.
Without saying anything about Mary Anne and Harriet let us now move on to the next family, the Murray. Two daughters, Rosalie Murray and Matilda Murray. Rosalie is extremely beautiful and her arrogance is far more severe than her beauty. She can rightfully be called narcissistic. The only things she wants from the men is to admire and appreciate her beauty. And to achieve that goal she is ready to go to the nth level of cruelty. She traps a man and makes him believe she loves him and when he tries to propose her, she ditches him.
Matilda is the menace. And at one point she threatens Agnes on her job. However, she does admit that parting with her does not quite appeal to her.
After getting married to Thomas Ashby, Rosalie visits Agnes to bid her farewell. And to Agnes's disbelief, Rosalie hugs her sincerely and cries. Soft heart Agnes forgives all of her offenses right away. And then after a considerable hiatus between their meeting, she sends a letter to Agnes and asks her to pay a visit. Even though now apparently it seems she has an epiphany we find at the very next second that her habit of bragging about herself hasn't gone away completely, however subtle though it is.
And on and on, I could write an essay but let me not give you the complete thing in my attempt to giving a synopsis here! I suppose, I have become extremely psyched after completing the novel. That and the awe-striking quality of the story. And please don't think I have rated it 5 stars for the sake of it. Please pay heed and do yourself a favor. Read the novel for yourself, I strongly believe you wont regret it. For the sake of brevity, I have left out a lot of different aspects of the novel but I really wish I could write more.
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