Agnes Grey-Anne Bronte
In her daring first novel, the youngest Brontë sister drew upon her own experiences to tell the unvarnished truth about life as a governess. Like Agnes Grey, Anne Brontë was a young middle-class Victorian lady whose family fortunes had faltered. Like so many other unmarried women of the nineteenth century, Brontë accepted the only "respectable" employment available--and entered a world of hardship, humiliation, and loneliness.
Honestly, I found Agnes to be too self-righteous and the romance was so very Christian. Agnes was so judgmental but at the same time, I completely understand why she was judging left and right. Anne uses the juxtaposition of the treatment of animals and the treatment of 'lower classes' to great effect to subtly but firmly make a point. The isolation that Anne describes is visceral-as a governess is a bit of a liminal or subversive figure in the hierarchy of a household and so is neither servant nor friend. This isolation is perhaps most visible in that the story mainly showcases her charges making her a bit of an invisible person even within her own narration. Then there is the moral of the story-the commentary on the institution of marriage and the prison of beauty as well as the isolation of the plain. The book feels more like a non-fiction memoir of the life of a governess rather than a novel and so it comes as no surprise that Anne herself worked as a governess for several years. It is an earnest book that seems to come from the heart.
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