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Agnes Grey
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Archived Group Reads 2014 > Agnes Grey - Oct 31st-Nov 7th - Chapters 18-25 (end)

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message 1: by Pip (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pip | 817 comments This last section sees major life changes for our two leading ladies; Rosalie becomes Lady Ashby and Agnes is about to move on again.

Please use this thread to discuss this final section. There will be a fourth and final thread for overall impressions, which I will put up tomorrow.


Peter This final section of the novel demonstrates Agnes' further growth towards independence from both her previous employer and her family. The importance of this growth is not always to move away from dependence on, but rather to be able to exercise self- determination in one's choices in life.

Rosalie's marriage is froth, not love. Rosalie's love towards her husband, the love towards her child and the emptiness of her life are all evident to Agnes when she visits Rosalie. Bronte's portrayal of this marriage is an effective counterpoint to the forthcoming engagement and marriage of Agnes and Weston. Agnes notes Rosalie's interest and investment in what is external in life, such as jewelled watches, Italian paintings and marble vases, all of which may define wealth of position, but add nothing to the depth of love between two people.

When Agnes' grandfather sends a letter that is little more than moral blackmail, she and her mother refuse to bend their principles or compromise the love that Agnes' mother had for her father.

Thus, through the experience of seeing the morally and emotionally empty marriage of Rosalie and being a part of her mother's decision to stand behind a love that was strong, Agnes learns the value of staying true to her convictions and beliefs in the value of a true love.

When Agnes again meets both Weston and her orphaned dog, the reader is witness to the value of patience and fortitude that Agnes demonstrated in the novel.

The novel ends with the coming together of those who both experienced the value of the purity of first love, the primrose gift that Agnes and Weston shared earlier in the novel.


Diane | 152 comments Very good summary, Peter, thanks.
I read Agnes Grey too long ago to feel comfortable commenting on it but not so long ago that I wanted to reread it.


message 4: by Clarissa (last edited Nov 02, 2014 07:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Clarissa (clariann) | 526 comments Peter wrote: "Rosalie's marriage is froth, not love. Rosalie's love towards her husband, the love towards her child and the emptiness of her life are all evident to Agnes when she visits Rosalie. Bronte's portrayal of this marriage is an effective counterpoint to the forthcoming engagement and marriage of Agnes and Weston. Agnes notes Rosalie's interest and investment in what is external in life, such as jewelled watches, Italian paintings and marble vases, all of which may define wealth of position, but add nothing to the depth of love between two people."

I think Rosalie's marriage is quite a sad portion of the book. Rosalie is presented as a superficial flirt, but she is also very young. Her mother instead of giving her wise guidance pushes her into the best financially available marriage ignoring the character of the husband. Rosalie dismisses Agnes's advice saying that she doesn't care whether he is bad or not, but there is no evidence that she's ever come into contact with bad people. Rosalie has no idea what bad can be, her basis of judgement is how much people succumb to her beauty.
Perhaps she could have bonded with her baby better if she was able to bond with her husband. I found it quite a painful moment when Rosalie says there's no point spending time with the baby as it is likely to die.


Jana Eichhorn | 26 comments The thing that struck me the most about this final section of Agnes Grey was how much Rosalie reminded me of Vanity Fair's Becky Sharp. Knowing that her sister Charlotte was such a fan of Thackeray that she dedicated Jane Eyre to him makes me wonder if maybe Anne did that on purpose, either out of her own love for Thackeray or as a subtle nod to her sister.


Clarissa (clariann) | 526 comments Jana wrote: "The thing that struck me the most about this final section of Agnes Grey was how much Rosalie reminded me of Vanity Fair's Becky Sharp. Knowing that her sister Charlotte was such a fan of Thackeray..."

I think Becky Sharp is far more aware and in control of events than Rosalie. From the little hints we get in the text, Rosalie doesn't have the easiest relationship with her mother but does follow her mother's choice of husband. Becky Sharp gets a whole novel to herself though, whereas Rosalie is more a background character, almost there just to show that money doesn't make happiness.


Helen_in_the_uk | 109 comments I loved that Agnes got a happy ending - she deserved it and I'm a sucker for them! Great understated proposal scene culminating in "'You love me then?’ said he, fervently pressing my hand. 'Yes.'"

I did feel a little sorry for Rosalie. She was always prevented from undertaking any activity that demanded any effort on her part, so it was unlikely she would realise that successful marriage requires effort. I was a bit disturbed by her attitude to her child: "I can’t centre all my hopes in a child: that is only one degree better than devoting oneself to a dog”. She has become merely an ornament in the magnificent house, I do hope she finds something to feel joy in, despite her dismissal of all Agnes' good advice.

Finally, what a lovely poem we are given in chapter 17. I was only vaguely aware that the Brontes wrote some poetry, so I think I will follow up on that to see what else they wrote.


message 8: by Pip (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pip | 817 comments Helen_in_the_uk wrote: "I loved that Agnes got a happy ending - she deserved it and I'm a sucker for them! Great understated proposal scene culminating in "'You love me then?’ said he, fervently pressing my hand. 'Yes.'"..."

Despite myself, I also enjoyed the proposal scene ;-))

I find the linguistics of it interesting, though, particularly since the famous Jane Eyre quote was brought up earlier in our discussion. Compare the following:

"The 1st of June arrived at last: and Rosalie Murray was transmuted into Lady Ashby." - passive voice, with an almost science-fiction sounding ring to it

Then, in addition to Helen's quote above, we have:
"A few weeks after that, when my mother had supplied herself with an assistant, I became the wife of Edward Weston; and never have found cause to repent it, and am certain that I never shall." - better; active voice, but she uses a stative verb rather than an active one.

And "Reader, I married him". (Jane Eyre - Active voice, active verb. I have much more respect for her.

I'm a language nerd in case you haven't noticed already.


Helen_in_the_uk | 109 comments Pip wrote: "Rosalie Murray was transmuted into Lady Ashby." - passive voice, with an almost science-fiction sounding ring to it I'm a language nerd in case you haven't noticed already..."

Great insight. I love that word 'transmuted', I hadn't picked up on it. For me, one of the joys of Goodreads' Groups is that we have different views and takes on events/characters to enhance our enjoyment of the novels.


Clarissa (clariann) | 526 comments Pip wrote: "I find the linguistics of it interesting, though, particularly since the famous Jane Eyre quote was brought up earlier in our discussion."

That's an interesting comparison, 'transmuted' and 'I became' indicate the women changing into something else, whereas, 'I married him' is positive and in control.

I did like the section where Agnes summarises her marriage though, it wasn't quite a happily ever after, she tried to inject some realism in it with mention of ups and downs and the idea of preparing for when death will part them.


Peter Pip wrote: "Helen_in_the_uk wrote: "I loved that Agnes got a happy ending - she deserved it and I'm a sucker for them! Great understated proposal scene culminating in "'You love me then?’ said he, fervently p..."

There is nothing wrong with being a language nerd Pip. I think the verb choice of the three marriage "announcements" is extremely important and insightful. In Jane Eyre it is Jane who takes the assertive role. She marries Rochester. Jane is the dominant voice. Agnes becomes a wife. Here, to my ear, Agnes gives herself a place and role. You are spot on with Rosalie's passive "science-fiction" change. Her world will always be a blend of fantasy, play acting and a bloodless emotionless shell of existence.


Clarissa (clariann) | 526 comments Peter wrote: "Her world will always be a blend of fantasy, play acting and a bloodless emotionless shell of existence. "

Do you think so, Peter? My thoughts was that Rosalie has been pulled into reality through her loveless marriage and controlling husband. She has realised that her fairy tale is over and there is nothing that she can do about it. Her great joy is flirting with men, her marriage denies her that and offers no replacement with love. I think her acting and coquettish days are over and her sadness is that she knows it.


Peter Clari wrote: "Peter wrote: "Her world will always be a blend of fantasy, play acting and a bloodless emotionless shell of existence. "

Do you think so, Peter? My thoughts was that Rosalie has been pulled into r..."



It is interesting speculation to wonder how consciously aware Rosalie was of what she was actually doing throughout the novel, and how much was simply mindless playing, acting, thoughtless gaming for her own amusement.

To me, she was a person who played at being what she wanted to be to entertain herself , but all the time was actually chattel for societies demands of her when the debt (marriage) came due.

Marriage introduced to Rosalie the harsh and stark reality of how society really functioned. You are correct in seeing that her coquettish days are over and sadness will be her companion in the future, but that fact, to me, is a combination of her own doing and, regretfully, the fact of her station and position in society.

Agnes will never be rich or well known, and Weston may never preach in a cathedral, but they, at least, will have something grander than money or fame. Agnes and Weston will love and respect each other.

To me, that is the essence and the meaning of the novel.


message 14: by Gea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gea | 14 comments Jana wrote: "The thing that struck me the most about this final section of Agnes Grey was how much Rosalie reminded me of Vanity Fair's Becky Sharp. Knowing that her sister Charlotte was such a fan of Thackeray..."

This is a very interesting insight, Jana. I haven't read Vanity Fair and I know I must! However, I think this practice of women marrying the wrong men is a significant theme in Anne Bronte's novels. That's what the Tenant of Wildfell Hall is primarily about. A young woman in that era who marries the "wrong" man was sentenced to a life of sorrow. I'm re-reading Tenant of Wildfell Hall now and it just struck me how Anne uses the word "prisoner" and "slave" multiple times in one chapter. A bad marriage is a prison. There is no out for the wife. They do not have sovereignty over their own money, possessions, or children. A husband can have a mistress, move him into his own house, and there's really nothing the wife can do. Rosalie's fatal flaw is superficiality. There are worse things to be, but in her case, it sentenced her to a life of sadness, a life half lived.

Agnes was a deep, observant and thoughtful person with true character. I'm so glad Mr. Weston fell in love with her!


message 15: by Lily (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Pip wrote: "And "Reader, I married him". (Jane Eyre - Active voice, active verb. I have much more respect for her...."

Well, if the "her" is Charlotte Bronte and her language choices, I'll agree. If it is Jane Eyre, I shall respectfully always continue to wonder about the wisdom of her judgment and choice. As I have said many times, perhaps I have been unduly influenced by Rhys. Still, if I stand aside and carefully assess the character of Rochester, is he a man I would like to see my daughter marry, even in his chastened state? It is all nicely darkly romantic and quite enchanting and even a bit dangerously daring as a novel, I'll quite agree. Then there is the view of later novelists -- ought marriage be the conclusion or the beginning of a story, the reward or the entanglement.


Clarissa (clariann) | 526 comments Helen_in_the_uk wrote: "Finally, what a lovely poem we are given in chapter 17. I was only vaguely aware that the Brontes wrote some poetry, so I think I will follow up on that to see what else they wrote. "

This website is a nice place to start, I think Emily is supposed to be the best poet of the three. I like 'The Old Stoic' and the poem Charlotte wrote in memory of Emily.
http://www.wuthering-heights.co.uk/em...


Clarissa (clariann) | 526 comments Peter wrote: "Clari wrote: "Peter wrote: "Her world will always be a blend of fantasy, play acting and a bloodless emotionless shell of existence. "

Do you think so, Peter? My thoughts was that Rosalie has been..."


I found Rosalie an interesting character, I think as you say, in this novel she serves a basic function as a contrast to Agnes's happy marriage. I wondered if it was a bit simplistic, marrying for money=bad, marrying for love=good, but in a world where women were commodities I suppose it is an important statement on freedom for women to make their own choices. There are hints that Rosalie might have chosen Hatfield and had genuine feelings for him if she hadn't been dominated by her mother's world view.


message 18: by Pip (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pip | 817 comments Lily wrote: "Pip wrote: "And "Reader, I married him". (Jane Eyre - Active voice, active verb. I have much more respect for her...."

Well, if the "her" is Charlotte Bronte and her language choices, I'll agree. ..."


I haven't read Rhys, but know the premise and I understand your point, Lily. I think I was also too influenced by John Sutherland to ever trust Rochester. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop him from being a desirable cad for me...
I think my real point was that (sorry everyone - I know this is well off topic) I feel most Victorian women (authors and characters) would have said "We were married" at the very most. I just find that first person subject so incredibly decisive, self-assured and self-affirming and that, for me, is why it stands out. Charlotte's choice of words, but also her choice to put them into Jane's mouth. This can have been no more an accident than Anne's choice of surname for Agnes - there! I've brought the discussion back round again!


Clarissa (clariann) | 526 comments Lily wrote: "Then there is the view of later novelists -- ought marriage be the conclusion or the beginning of a story, the reward or the entanglement.
"


I think in 'Jane Eyre' the reward is the heroine's personal growth and mutual love rather than Rochester as a man. The whole madwoman in the attic thing makes 'Jane Eyre' more feminist, which is what Rhys explored, how in a patriarchal world women have to be sacrificed and hidden for another female to be given happiness. Then there is Bertha as Jane's mirror, and Charlotte's creative alter-ego, which ties into your reading that Bertha is warning Jane away from Rochester and the marriage is not a happy ending but a constructed critique of how marriage is the ending of women in Victorian society.

In 'Agnes Grey' Anne Bronte is much more realistic in her depiction of marriage showing that Rosalie's conventional marriage will give her nothing but unhappiness and a complete quashing of her spirit. The symbolism of a sickly girl baby doesn't quite compare to either Emily or Charlotte's motifs in their great novels!


message 20: by Peter (last edited Nov 06, 2014 10:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter Pip, Gea, Lily and Clari

You all present thoughtful and incisive commentary. While Agnes Grey has not been a favourite book of mine in the past your ideas and insights have made me re-think many of my previous ideas. Thanks.


message 21: by Gea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gea | 14 comments Peter wrote: "Pip, Gea, Lily and Clari

You all present thoughtful and incisive commentary. While Agnes Grey has not been a favourite book of mine in the past your ideas and insights have made me re-think many ..."


Thank you Peter! This discussion has definitely broadened my thoughts on dear Anne, her books, and Jane Eyre--my very favorite novel of all. Mr. Rochester is a flawed, tortured soul, but I adore him.

I did just recently read Wide Sargasso Sea and was astounded by its beauty and power. Jean Rhys grew up in the islands and then lived in England for much of her life. Only she could have written that book. It did give me greater sympathy for Antoinette (Bertha), but for Rochester too. Bertha was crazy, unstable, and emotionally self-indulgent. Rochester was cold, cruel, and unequipped to emotionally handle his wife whom he was forced into marrying by his family. (I guess being manipulated into marrying someone fundamentally incompatible for you went both ways) Having lived in Key Largo and working in Miami, a city with a great deal of islanders, the novel had particular resonance for me. Their story was a great tragedy. I'm glad Rochester finally found love in Jane. She was for more suited for him than Antoinette could ever be.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 188 comments Thanks for all your comments. Great insights. I loved the picking apart of linguistics, Pip. For me that was truly fascinating.
I was beginning to worry that something terrible was going to happen to Agnes's admirer, with the lapse of a few days of visiting. I'm so happy that they found each other and that Agnes was reunited with her little friend Snap again. I can stop worrying about him now! :)


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