Is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë a feminist novel?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë was written before the development of feminism as a term or concept and thus is not a feminist novel per se, although it does include discussion of what the Victorians would have called "the woman question" and feminist literary theory can be applied to it. Despite its not being feminist in a precise sense, it does address the problem of Victorian attitudes towards marriage and divorce.

The tenant of the title, Mrs. Helen Graham, is an abused wife. Although the novel was first published in 1848 it was set in mainly 1827 to 1830. Married women in England, before the passage of the Married Women's Property Act of 1882 which permitted married women full economic independence. Until the passage of that act, a woman's property normally fully reverted to her husband in the absence of specific legal agreements at the time of the marriage contract. Divorce prior to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 was only available in very limited circumstances and was regarded as scandalous. Thus this novel is dealing with the very real problem of women trapped in abusive marriages who have no economic or legal foundation that would enable them to leave. 

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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