Agnes Grey by the other Brontë sister, Anne, is a quiet novel, as quiet as are its title-giving heroine and its writer who put much of her own experience as a governess in two families and of her personality into it. In fact, there are many parallels between the novel and Anne Brontë’s life. From the start the book has been criticizedfor the lack of an intriguing plot because nothing much happens.
Anne Brontë just tells the story of an average governess striving to make her living in a socially accepted way. First Agnes Grey takes up a position as a governess with the Bloomfields of Wellwood House. However, she is unable to manage the unruly three children aged between four and seven because she isn’t allowed to chide or punish them and is dismissed after less than a year. A few months later Agnes Grey finds another position as a governess to the Murrays at Horton Lodge. The girls are older, fourteen and sixteen, and therefore giving Agnes Grey less of a hard time, but their morals are very different from hers. The elder sister only thinks of amusing herself, flirting and making a good match, while the younger sister is a tomboy interested in nothing but riding and hunting.
When Agnes Grey’s father dies, she quits her position to set up a school together with her mother because now they can’t stay at the parsonage and need to make a living. It seems as if a quiet and somewhat contented future lay before mother and daughter, yet the reward for their hardships – the true happy end – is still to come in the person of the young philanthropic vicar Edward Weston, the former curate of Horton whom Agnes Grey met while working for the Murrays.