Saturday, March 19, 2011
Thoughts: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
The titular character, Agnes Grey, is the sheltered younger child of a curate. When her father’s business venture fails, their whole family is plunged into debt, and, in order to help, Agnes decides to work as a governess. The Bloomfields, the first group of children she teaches, are ignorant and cruel, while the Murrays, the second, are vain and shallow. Agnes weathers through the trials of being a poor governess, and begins her search for true love.
The first thing that struck me about this book was how whiny and judgmental Agnes Grey was. I thought I would love it because the prose was so fluid, but I couldn’t stand the main character. She saw something wrong about EVERYBODY except her own immediate family. I admit the children Agnes had to teach were pretty horrible, but I didn’t trust her judgment as the narrator. Everything was filtered through Agnes’s eyes, and it was awful. If some people see things through rose-colored glasses, Agnes sees them through mud-colored ones.
While reading, I saw some similarities to Charlotte’s writing—yes, we’re on a first name basis. A poor and plain governess who finds true love despite having a ridiculously beautiful rival? Check. In Jane Eyre, the reader is the one who interprets what Charlotte Bronte is trying to say. In Agnes Grey, I didn’t have to interpret anything. Anne Bronte spelled EVERYTHING out for me through numerous catechisms masquerading as long speeches by her characters. It was like she was shoving a ton of moral lessons down my throat. I can’t stand it when authors use characters as mouthpieces for their own agendas. Me not like that.
I did enjoy the latter part of the book where it suddenly turns into a love story with—guess!—more preaching. The latter part, though, wasn’t enough to reduce my utter hatred for Agnes Grey. In fact, the only reason I finished it was because of the—drum roll, please—overdue library fee I already to pay for it.
I'm adding this in case I forget: The copy I borrowed was published in the 1930s, so I had to be really careful about it. I did enjoy the old-book smell, though.