Char­lotte Brontë

A po­tent blend of ro­mance and re­al­ism changed ‘the novel’ for­ever

All About History - - GOTHIC LITERATURE | SCREAM QUEENS -

Like sis­ter Emily, Char­lotte Brontë al­luded to the Gothic in her work, and was seem­ingly in­spired by the pi­o­neer­ing Ann Rad­cliffe. In both Jane Eyre (1847) and Vil­lette (1857), Char­lotte de­picted build­ings seem­ingly in thrall to su­per­nat­u­ral forces, with episodes in­clud­ing Jane sight­ing an ap­pari­tion in Thorn­field Hall. But in line with Rad­cliffe’s ‘ex­plained su­per­nat­u­ral’, these hap­pen­ings are given log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tions, though much fear is stirred along the way. It has been ar­gued that Char­lotte’s mix of ro­mance and re­al­ism in Jane Eyre was her crown­ing suc­cess.

She also demon­strated her fierce am­bi­tion, and con­sid­er­a­tion of women’s po­si­tion in so­ci­ety, in much of her work. Con­fronted by the re­al­i­sa­tion that women writ­ers were looked down on – and cri­tique such as the claim

(by a fe­male re­viewer) that if Jane Eyre was writ­ten by a woman, it was the work of one who has “long for­feited the so­ci­ety of her own sex” – Char­lotte strove to high­light the re­al­i­ties of life for 19th cen­tury women, and to also cham­pion their rights and tal­ents.

This com­mit­ment to the cause shaped Char­lotte into a fem­i­nist hero­ine for mod­ern women, and has helped to se­cure her glow­ing rep­u­ta­tion, al­ready kin­dled by her iconic sto­ries.

“I am no bird; and no net en­snares me: I am a free hu­man be­ing with an in­de­pen­dent will.” Jane Eyre

In Jane Eyre, Char­lotte Brontë is cred­ited with in­vent­ing the ‘mad woman in the at­tic’ trope

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