Modern Tropes Seen in a Sensational Classic Novel

Our favorite tropes have been used for centuries. Anne Brontë’s “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” is a classic novel that utilizes many loved tropes of today.

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I’ve always been a book lover but only read books that were deemed suitable for my age. I didn’t branch out into new genres or authors. The novels I had to read for high school classes seemed unapproachable for teenage me. It wasn’t until I took a class on the Brontë sisters during my freshman year of college that I realized classic novels could follow the same modern tropes that I adored in the YA stories I chose to read myself.

Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has been highly praised and acclaimed since its initial release. With a strong female protagonist that acted ahead of her time, the story is considered one of the first feminist books. I fell in love with classics because of this book, and I want to help introduce it to my generation. Here are the modern tropes you know and love in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.


I Hate Everyone But You

Helen Graham arrives in a small town out of nowhere, living in the abandoned Wildfell Hall with her son and a housekeeper. The rest of the town becomes curious about her, especially Gilbert Markham, who becomes romantically interested as they become further acquainted. However, Helen is reclusive and she doesn’t enjoy participating in social events within the small community. The only person she is willing to put up with is — you guessed it — Gilbert. He breaks down her walls enough to learn the truth about her past. Both of them find happiness being together.

Friends to Lovers

When Helen first comes to town, Graham is interested in another, Miss Eliza Millward. As he gets to know Helen better, though, he loses interest in Eliza. Out of jealousy, she starts spreading rumors about Helen that make her more of an outcast; Gilbert is the only one to ignore them. Even though the community ostracizes her, she finds comfort in Gilbert’s company and slowly lets him in. They enjoy talking to each other in group situations and ignoring everyone else. Helen trusts Gilbert with her story which only makes them grow closer together.

Grumpy x Sunshine

Who doesn’t love this duo dynamic? Traumatized by past romance, Helen comes off as standoffish and bitter, not wanting anyone involved in her life or family. Gilbert, despite it, is intrigued by her from the beginning and just wants to get to know her. He reminds her that not all men are bad or are going to hurt her; he just wants to love her! It’s not quite enemies to lovers since they never hate each other, but more of a slow burn. With time, she lets down her guard and gives him her heart, but the buildup makes it worth the wait.

I Can Fix Him

Finally, Helen tells Gilbert what he’s been dying to know: her past. Specifically, Arthur Huntingdon, Helen’s ex-husband. When Helen and Arthur first meet, Arthur is proud, wild, and selfish, and Helen is more soft-spoken, obedient, and overall good. The two marry and Helen convinces herself she can make Arthur a better person. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, leaving Helen traumatized and a single parent to their son. Yet, the beginning of their love is still charming, fitting the appeal of the “I Can Fix Him” trope. Helen’s innocent crush on Arthur and his arrogant responses leave the reader hoping her genuine love can make him softer, but nothing could fix him.

Strong Single Mother

The most significant aspect of this plot is Helen as a single mother. As her marriage worsens, Helen is concerned that her son’s actions will start to mirror his father’s. She has the courage and strength to run away from Arthur, taking her son and raising him herself to ensure he isn’t corrupted. Helen is beyond her time as a Victorian heroine becoming independent and self-sufficient for her family. Brontë created an inspirational protagonist to lead the way for many others to follow.

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