Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte, is quite the story regarding youth,family and one young woman’s striving to find herself and reach a state of independence, within a world of Victorian attitudes.
Agnes leaves home to work as a governess due to family circumstances regarding their loss of finances. She does not want to be a burden to them, and decides to try finding a position as a governess, although she has no experience in caring for children. In fact, she has no experience to speak of, of the outside world in general, having been raised in a sheltered environment.
She finds employment with a family who has three children, one being a son that is extremely disrespectful, violent and a deep-rooted psychological problem. She is not permitted to discipline the children. So it goes, through the months as Agnes puts up with the unruly behavior of the children, until she is fired. She then finds employment as a governess with the Murray family, caring for two young girls. It is not ideal, but a better position than her first one.
The social environment during the Victorian era for the wealthy was defined through varied attributes, as far as child-rearing was concerned. Those with children usually left them in the care of a governess or nanny and the children were not actually raised by their parents. Often times, the parents were off and about, either traveling abroad or busy with their social schedules. Absent parents were a normal aspect of the lives of children who came from wealth.
She tries her best to educate them, teach them manners, instruct them on language, literature and social issues. They are less difficult, but yet, the restrictions of being a governess are illuminated. She is not to discipline them, which binds her hands. Although the parents want her to care for the girls, and are really absent parents, themselves, Agnes is hindered in what she is able to do in order to evoke discipline.
During her time as governess with the Murray family, she comes in contact with Mr. Weston, a pastor. Their friendship is slow to develop, yet the reader can see through the lines that there is more than just a fondness that the two share. You must read the book yourself in order to find out more about their relationship.
To make a very long story short, as far as reviewing goes, you must read this yourself in order to understand the social stigmas, social expectations and social ideals of the time period. Agnes Grey is a long book, but a wonderfully written one, detailing and depicting with vivid word-imagery the Victorian era. It is a novel that illuminates one young girl’s search for Self and for autonomy in an age when that was almost impossible to gain.
Agnes Grey is basically a telling of Anne’s own life as a governess, and her involvement in caring for, and educating her charges. Anne Bronte drew from her own experiences in that respect, and the pages of Agnes Grey are the product of her literary brilliance and masterful writing.