The Language of the Handkerchief

During the Victorian Era, handkierchiefs and fans were very popular accessories and were also used to communicate to others in nonverbal ways. This language was created by Queen Elizabeth herself in order to communicate to her staff. It was also seen as a status symbol for the wealthy. It soon became increasingly popular under Queen Victoria's reign and women of all socail statuses began using them to communicate. Since women during this time could not communicate desire with men the way we do now, they would use their handkerchief to flirt with men they found attractive. Dropping the handkerchief in front of a man was a way to gain his attention, drawing it across the cheek meant "I love you", drawing it through the hands meant "I hate you", and many more. We see the handkerchief language being used throughout "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall", especially within the last couple of chapters where Helen is distraut as she tells Gilbert to leave her alone. She covers her face with the cloth meaning "I am sorry" or "leave me alone."

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