Agnes met the honorable curate Weston. Although both of them are equally poor, they have the good feelings of the world, and enjoy the beautiful things of nature together in helping each other. She and Weston lived an unflashy, truth-seeking life. In the face of ignorant and cruel students, selfish and hypocritical employers, Agnes showed integrity and patience. She never gave up her efforts and pursuit. She sympathizes with the weak and often visits and helps the poor. In this, Weston has done even better. In them, goodness is reflected. Compared with Agnes Gray and Weston, the ignorance, coldness, selfishness, and hypocrisy of the young ladies and gentlemen of the bourgeoisie are obvious. Standing on the progressive standpoint of that era, the author reveals the social inequality and unreasonableness.
Agnes Gray not only reflects the personal experience of a governess in the first half of the 19th century, but also highlights the characteristics of ignorance, callousness, selfishness and hypocrisy of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie in the rising stage of the British society at that time. Although they have accumulated a lot of material wealth and gained a high social status and power, readers can feel the dark side hidden behind all these grand appearances from the perspective of the author’s narration. These lords and ladies seemed to have fine manners and fine conversation, but their spiritual and material lives were far from balanced. If we cast aside that superficial appearance and go deep into their hearts, the reader will find that they are very poor in spirit.
Mr. Murray does nothing but drink and abuse, Uncle Robson is devious and takes pleasure in killing animals and insulting people, and Lord Ashby eats and drinks excessively. Even the Reverend Hatfield, the spiritual guide of these upper men, was no gentleman. From the pulpit he was eloquent, discerning and guiding, and presenting himself as the spokesman of the savior of mankind. As soon as he stepped off the pulpit, he showed his true colors. He tends to the ladies of the rich family. He is witty and talkative on the surface, but in reality he is a buffoon and a smooth talker. When he failed to court Miss Murray, he went out of his way to threaten her, and all the dignity and grace of the preacher was gone. In contrast to them were Agnes Gray, the governess, and the curate, Weston.
They all looked ordinary and came from poor families. They are indeed poor in material things, but they do not feel inferior to take the breath of the rich. They live a very full life within themselves, live by their own rules faithfully, and believe in the greatness of human love. They are striving for a balanced life, and if they have no ambition to make the world a better place, at least they want to perfect themselves. While seeking respect and love, they never forget to respect and love others. They live a life free from vanity and in pursuit of truth, which is not only their honesty to others and to themselves, but also their attitude towards life as a whole. They love knowledge and true friendship, as well as the plants and trees of nature.
They are intellectually, morally, and mentally superb to their employers or superiors. Because of their spiritual superiority, they face difficulties, grievances and injustices without deceiving themselves or feeling uneasy, and always accept the gifts of life with open arms. In this respect, the author seems to be saying that Agnes Gray and Weston’s acceptance of life is deeper and broader than that of property owners. It should be noted that in Agnes Gray and Weston, there is indeed a certain religious feeling. It is easy for the reader to relate much of the work, especially the personalities and experiences of the two men, to this background. It is true that the author measures a man’s character by the piety of his religious feelings.
The author distinguishes Agnes Gray from her employer by her faith in God and her love for humanity. But what is presented directly to the reader is Gray’s endurance, her efforts, and her pursuits in concrete life. So in this sense, religious background is only a superficial means to distinguish between the two, not the essence.