Victorian culture was constantly engaging with nature and garden imagery. In this thesis, I argue that the literary gardens of Anne and Charlotte Brontë function as a trope that enables an examination of nineteenth-century social concerns; these literary gardens are a natural space that serve as a “middle ground” between the defense of traditional social conventions and the utter disregard of them. In Agnes Grey (1847), Jane Eyre (1847), and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) the female characters have significant encounters within the gardens and outdoor spaces; Agnes, Jane, and Helen venture into these environments and emerge changed—whether by experiential knowledge or from the temptation of social and moral transgression. In AG, Anne Brontë uses the image of the garden and natural landscapes, in order to explore Agnes’s education within her governessing experience. In JE, the garden functions as a space that appears to offer Jane a reprieve from the Gothic terror of the house, yet it actually extends that influence. The entire estate is a literal boundary point for Jane in her life, but it also represents the metaphorical barrier between Jane and potential social transgression—one that she must navigate because of her romance with Rochester. In Tenant, the house, the garden, and the landscape symbolize Helen’s identity, as the widowed artist Mrs. Graham, an identity that only exists during her time at Wildfell. Helen’s identity as a professional female artist living in a wild landscape accentuates Gilbert’s sexual desire towards her. Anne Brontë critiques Victorian marriage and class expectations through Helen’s final circumvention of social rules. In these novels, the scenes in the gardens and natural landscapes serve as a way for these authors to engage with the complexities of “The Woman Question” through the characterization of the governess and the artist.
|Commitee:||Vaught, Jennifer, Wilson, Mary Ann|
|School:||University of Louisiana at Lafayette|
|School Location:||United States -- Louisiana|
|Source:||MAI 57/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Womens studies, Environmental Studies, British and Irish literature|
|Keywords:||Agnes Grey, Brontë, Anne, Brontë, Charlotte, Eyre, Jane, Garden, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall|
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