Agnes Grey is a young woman living in northern England. Her family becomes increasingly impoverished after her father loses some money in an ill-advised investment and becomes ill as a result. Agnes, her sister, and her mother all try to keep expenses low and to bring in extra money, but Agnes is frustrated that everyone treats her like a child. To prove herself and to earn money, she is determined to get a position as a governess, teaching children of rich families. Eventually, she gets a recommendation for a good family, a position, and her parents' permission. With some misgivings, she travels to Wellwood house to work for the Bloomfield family.
The Bloomfield family is rich and is much crueller than Agnes has envisioned. Mrs. Bloomfield spoils her children while Mr. Bloomfield constantly finds fault with Agnes's work. The children are unruly and Agnes is given no authority over them so that she cannot control them. Tom, the oldest Bloomfield child, is actually abusive, but nothing Agnes can do can stop the boy from torturing small animals. In less than a year, Agnes is relieved of her position, since Mrs. Bloomfield thinks that her children are not learning fast enough. Agnes returns home.
Despite her first experience, Agnes is determined to try again. This time, she gets a position with the Murray family. She teaches Rosalie and Matilda Murray. Matilda is a tomboy, prone to lying. Rosalie is a flirt. Both girls are selfish and sometimes unpleasant, and although Agnes's position is slightly better than it was at Wellwood house, she is still often ignored or used in the girls's schemes and games. Agnes is also appalled that the beautiful Rosalie flirts with other men, including the curate, Edward Weston, even though she is engaged to be married. Agnes has feelings for Weston but it looks as though Rosalie will make him forget all about Agnes before Agnes must return home at the end of her term.
This report prepared by A. A.
Agnes Grey is the younger daughter of a clergyman. She and her sister decide to work in order to help their parents financially. Agnes's sister, a skilled artist, starts making some money by selling her drawings; Agnes chooses to seek a position of a governess.
At first, she gets a position at Wellwood House, taking care of a bunch of spoiled children and dealing with careless, uninvolved parents. While she is given very little authority over the children and is not allowed to discipline them, Agnes is somehow expected to keep them under control and teach them good manners. Needless to say, the kids quickly figure out that they can pretty much do whatever they want. As they grow more wild and disobedient, the parents are upset with Agnes – in their eyes, it is of course the governess's fault. She is eventually dismissed.
Refusing to give up, Agnes searches again and gets another post of a governess. This time the children she is in charge of are older and a little better behaved but no less spoiled and lazy. One of them is Rosalie, a selfish beauty who is only waiting for her “coming out” ball to start breaking men's hearts. When she notices that the local curate, Edward Weston, might be interested in Agnes, Rosalie does her best to drive them apart and make Mr. Weston fall in love with herself – just for the fun of it. Rosalie's sister helps her in every way, but their plotting eventually fails.
This report prepared by Laura Southcombe