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Scholarly Article

Shreyashi Banerjee

Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey and Helen Huntingdon: Exploring Women’s Struggles for Economic Emancipation during the Victorian Era

Victorian, women, profession, governess, artist, emancipation, empowerment.

A closer reading of Anne Brontë’s two novels Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) reveals a clearly feminist sub-text, which displays a variety of Brontë’s concerns about how the home becomes a site of imprisonment for both her heroines, Agnes and Helen, rather than the safe, nurturing space upheld by Victorian society. This paper examines how Anne Brontë, writing in the nineteenth-century Victorian era, challenges the doctrine of the ‘separate spheres’ prevalent at that time, the period’s most ingenious mechanism for restraining insurgent women, by depicting the struggle by the passionate, intellectual, and strong-minded heroines of her two novels, Agnes Grey and Helen Huntingdon, to achieve economic autonomy and thereby script their own identities. This paper takes into account British feminist and historian Alice Clark’s investigation into the impact of industrialization on women’s work in reducing the choice of independent occupations for women and explores how both Agnes and Helen, confined at home, take the crucial decision to step out into the public arena, to earn a living for themselves and for their family, and as a result, they lead a happier, fulfilling life.
About the Author
Shreyashi Banerjee, a student of Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata, completed her graduation in B.A. English Honours from St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata, where she secured the ‘Fourth Rank’ in a class of sixty-two students. She went on to pursue Masters in English Language and Literature from Loreto College, Kolkata (under the University of Calcutta), where she secured the ‘First Rank’. She is the recipient of “The Manju Lall Memorial Prize” (2021-2022) for ‘the highest marks in PG 1 Examination’ and “The Kajol Sengupta Memorial Award” (2022-2023) for ‘excellence in the Post-Graduate Department in English’ from Loreto College, Kolkata. She qualified the UGC-NET (National Eligibility Test) in December 2023. She has a keen interest in research work, and wishes to pursue a Ph.D. in English. She may be contacted at
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