Gilbert Markham, a kindhearted, industrious, and passionate young farmer. In a series of letters written to his brother-in-law, he tells the story of his romance with the mysterious woman who is the new tenant of Wildfell Hall. At first unable to get through her protective shell of coldness and aloofness, Gilbert finally discovers her story, and his sincere sympathy and interest in her work as a landscape painter endear him to her. After several years of separation, faithful Gilbert marries his loved one.
Mrs. Helen Graham
Mrs. Helen Graham, in reality Mrs. Arthur Huntingdon, the mysterious tenant of Wildfell Hall. Seemingly a cold and self-contained woman, she jealously guards her son Arthur from any outside interference when she first arrives at Wildfell Hall, where she is content to walk about the countryside and sketch the landscape. The village gossip is that she is carrying on an affair with her landlord, Frederick Lawrence. Eventually, she reveals her story to Gilbert Markham and allows him to read her private journal. He learns that she had been brought up by her rich uncle and aunt and that she had fallen unwisely in love with Arthur Huntingdon, a handsome but wayward young man. Although warned by her aunt not to marry Arthur, Helen did so willfully and thus began a marriage of horror. Faithful and loving, she endured much from her wild and dissipated husband. Finally, when she realized that his profligate ways were affecting their son adversely and that he was carrying on an affair with the wife of one of his friends, Helen left him and fled to Wildfell Hall, to be near the home of her brother. There she meets Gilbert Markham, whose kindness and true affection win her heart.
Arthur Huntingdon, a selfish, reckless young man of profligate habits. Although truly in love with his young wife at the time of their marriage, he cannot give up his former carefree and wicked life, and his character begins to deteriorate. Unable to adapt himself to a domestic situation, he takes more and more journeys to London and then begins to bring his riotous friends home to Grasslands, his country estate. Soon he becomes involved in an affair with Lady Annabella Lowborough, whose husband is one of his friends. When he discovers that his wife Helen is painting pictures to enable her to accumulate enough money to leave him, he has all of her artist’s supplies destroyed. He dies a horrible death after drinking wine in defiance of his doctor’s orders, and his death leaves Helen free to marry Gilbert Markham. Branwell Brontë served as the model for his sister’s portrait of a man wasting his life in dissipation.
Frederick Lawrence, a sheltered, shy, and self-contained man, Helen Graham’s brother. No one in the parish knows their relationship, and the gossips believe that he is carrying on an illicit affair with the strange tenant of Wildfell Hall, the family home he had deserted for another residence in a nearby parish. When Gilbert Markham learns the truth after reading Helen’s journal, the gossip ceases.
Rose Markham, a tidy, plump young woman with a round face, bright blooming cheeks, glossy clustering curls, and merry brown eyes. Devoted to her brother Gilbert, she hesitates to believe the gossip about Helen Graham. She marries Mr. Halford.
Mrs. Markham, Gilbert’s widowed mother. She is a favorite in the parish and often entertains her many friends. Much impressed with Helen Graham, she finds it difficult to believe the gossip about her.
Fergus Markham, Gilbert’s younger brother, a good-natured, teasing, and lazy lad who supplies much of the humor in the story.
The Reverend Michael Millward
The Reverend Michael Millward, a tall, ponderous, elderly gentleman of fixed principles, strong prejudices, and regular habits. Because he is intolerant of dissent of any kind and believes that his opinions are always right, he chides Helen Graham for not...
(The entire section is 3,276 words.)