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Charlotte Brontë

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English Literature

Charlotte Brontë is one of the most famous literary figures in English literature. A look at her biography and an overview of her well-known novels will provide a more holistic picture of this important author. Her most famous book, Jane Eyre (1847), was a radical novel for the 1800s as it argued that women and men were equal.

Charlotte Brontë wrote under the pseudonym Currer Bell, as women weren’t supposed to write in the 1800s. Therefore, she had no option but to pose as a male writer to publish her work.

Charlotte Brontë: Biography

Let's examine Brontë's life events in greater detail to get a better understanding of the incredible author she was.

Charlotte Brontë's early life and family

Charlotte Brontë was born on 21 April 1816 in a little village in West Yorkshire, known as Thornton. She had an interesting family life that was both enjoyable and tumultuous. Charlotte Brontë was exposed to death from a young age as her mother died when she was just five years old. However, she lived in an active house filled with her five siblings. Her sisters are Emily, Anne, and Maria, who was named after their late mother. She had another sister called Elizabeth and a brother, Branwell, who took his own life aged 31. Her father, Patrick, was a poet and a teacher, but his primary occupation was a clergyman.

In 1824, Patrick sent the girls to a clergy girl school called Cowan Bridge where they studied for a short while. Charlotte disliked the school and later declared it had long-term effects on her health, using the school as inspiration for the notorious Lowood school in her novel Jane Eyre. Her sisters Maria and Elizabeth died from tuberculosis shortly after they began attending Cowan Bridge in 1825. After this tragedy, Patrick removed the girls from the school. For the next five years, the Brontë's stayed at home and played games together, wrote, and told each other romantic tales.

Later on, Charlotte attended Roe Head school in Mirfield, where she met her lifelong friends Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. Their influence on her life is traceable throughout her work, and readers have enjoyed analyzing their friendship in the collection of Charlotte Brontë’s letters.

Charlotte Brontë's adult life

A few years later, between 1835–38, Charlotte Brontë returned to Roe Head as a teacher to provide for her family after her brother Branwell plunged the family into debt with his failed pursuit as an artist. Brontë didn’t like her occupation and after a year she grew very lonely. She expressed her emotions by writing poems, the most noteworthy being ‘We Wove a Web in Childhood’ (1835) and ‘Morning was its Freshness Still’ (1835). Her poor health caused her to leave her job as a teacher in 1838.

Charlotte declined a marriage proposal from her good friend Ellen Nussey’s brother, Henry Nussey. A few months after that, she turned down another proposal from a clergyman. This reveals her strong-willed nature to find value in her life outside of male validation and societal expectations.

In 1842, the Brontë sisters decided to open a school which their aunt agreed to finance. Charlotte and Emily traveled to Brussels to improve their German and French skills prior to opening the school. This trip turned out to be a vital part of Charlotte’s life and personal growth. Her academic talents caused her to be noticed by a well-respected teacher, Constantin Héger. They became close friends, both impressed with each other’s intelligence. However, their bond caught the attention of Constantin’s wife who grew jealous of their friendship.

She returned to Haworth in 1844, and feeling lonely, she wrote letters to Constantin. She offered him her affection in a seemingly innocent way, as a friend, although it has been claimed that the letters she sent were of a non-platonic, loving persuasion. Due to his wife’s jealousy, Constantin told her the letters were inappropriate and could be misinterpreted as love letters and suggested she only write twice a year. We can only speculate how she truly felt, but scholars believe upon hearing this, Charlotte with her incredible self-discipline (which we see in multiple of her female characters) took control of her emotions and eventually repressed her admiration for Constantin.

Fun fact: Charlotte and Emily continued their plans to start a school in Haworth. However, due to the obscure and remote location of the school, they failed to attract pupils and they had no option but to close it.

In September 1848, her brother took his own life after suffering from alcohol and opium abuse. Later that year, in December 1848, Emily, the sister she was arguably closest to, died. This was followed by Anne’s death in May 1849, leaving Charlotte as the last remaining Brontë child. After declining another marriage proposal in 1851, Charlotte finally married her fourth suitor in 1854: Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father’s curate.

Charlotte Brontë's novels

In the 1800s, it was not common for women to write literature, therefore Charlotte wrote under a male pseudonym, Currer Bell. Posing as a male author gave her a greater chance of her works being published.

Charlotte began writing and telling stories from a very young age. In 1845 she, Anne, and Emily wrote a joint collection of poems titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The collection was not successful: they published it themselves and only sold two copies.

The first novel she wrote was The Professor, which was rejected by publishers. However, they did say they would potentially publish something longer, around three volumes. At this time Brontë had almost finished writing Jane Eyre, so with great excitement, she submitted it to publishers. The novel was accepted and became a roaring success.

She continued to write and published two more novels: Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853).

Charlotte Brontë's cause of death

Charlotte died in 1855 aged 38. She was in the process of writing Emma, of which some pages were salvaged. She died as a result of intense sickness during her pregnancy, passing away just one year after her marriage.

Fun facts:

  • Charlotte Brontë spoke with an Irish accent because her father, Patrick, was originally from Northern Ireland.
  • She loved the Duke of Wellington. As teenagers love celebrities now, the Duke of Wellington was Charlotte's favourite 'famous' figure.
  • She hated being a teacher. Contrary to Jane in Jane Eyre, Brontë disliked herself as a teacher and reportedly loathed her pupils according to her diary. She didn’t like the rules of the school and how the environment required her to act.

Why is Charlotte Brontë important to English literature?

Charlotte Brontë was one of the most accredited female writers of her time. Years later, her work is still highly regarded by scholars. Her novels Jane Eyre, Shirley, and Villette gave voice to female protagonists and centred their attention on women, which was atypical of literature at the time.

Charlotte Brontë’s notable works

As we already mentioned, Brontë is most famous for her novel Jane Eyre, but she wrote two more novels that we will also discuss here.

Jane Eyre (1847)

As a ‘Bildungsroman’, Jane Eyre follows the tumultuous life of a plain orphan girl called Jane. She experiences many hardships such as abuse, poor treatment at school, and heartbreak. The novel tells the tale of her journey into womanhood as she battles self-discipline against happiness and love, discovering her worth and means in society.

A Bildungsroman is a novel that follows a character from childhood to adulthood. Narratives in these novels usually follow the protagonist in a journey of self-discovery, education, and finding their place in society. Other famous examples of bildungsroman are Charles DickensGreat Expectations and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Shirley (1849)

Shirley follows the story of two women who live contrasting lives, Caroline and Shirley. Caroline is reserved and poor, while Shirley is lively, independent, and rich. They become close friends and face life together despite their different personalities and circumstances. Shirley is a tale of unrequited love and romance, as Shirley and Caroline become entangled in a confusing love story, in which they battle the conflict between their heads and hearts.

Food for thought: there was an increase in girls named Shirley after the success of this novel. Prior to its release, Shirley was perceived as a male name. What kind of effect would this have had on readers’ initial perception of the text when it first came out in 1849? Consider how the fact they may have expected it to be about a man to be significant, or why Brontë may have wanted to lead the public to think this way.

Villette (1853)

Following an unknown family disaster, the narrator and protagonist Lucy Snowe, an independent and knowledgeable 23-year-old woman, travels to Villette (a French-speaking town in Belgium) to seek new beginnings. Despite her limited experience, she gets a job as a nanny and turns out to be successful in this occupation. The novel is a story of adventure and romance, as things get complicated when Lucy starts to fall in love with her colleague Paul. Many people, (including Paul’s previous finance) try and split the pair, unravelling a tale of heartbreak and confusion.

Fun fact: many believe this novel was partly influenced by Brontë's travels to Brussels. Much like Lucy, Charlotte grew fond of her colleague Constantin Héger, a married man and a teacher. His wife grew jealous of their bond and the two were driven apart despite their strong, non-platonic bond.

Charlotte Brontë's Quotes

Examining key quotes from Brontë’s novels and her own life (in the form of letters to friends and family) provides insight into who she was. Understanding her character and her views on life enables us to better understand her work and her perspective on society.

Letters of Brontë: key quotes

In correspondence to her good friend Ellen Nussey in January 1852, Charlotte Brontë reveals the hardships of her experience as a governess.

As an educated British woman in the 1800s, it was expected she would write in a polite manner, evident in her letter. She makes an effort to clarify if there is any doubt that she does not want Mr C to trouble himself by picking her up. She goes on to insist she does not need a lot from her hostess, claiming ‘I am to live on the very plainest fare’, making sure Ellen does not go to too much trouble for her arrival, as it would make her miserable ‘to see Ellen bother herself’.

She also exposes her ill health when she reveals that she did herself ‘harm by eating too indiscriminately’ in Haworth.

She discusses her dislike of her occupation on page 3 of the letter, as she states ‘I am miserable when I allow myself to dwell on the necessity of spending my life as a Governess’. The quote shows how Jane Eyre’s discipline and control over her emotions mirror Charlotte Brontë herself. This is illustrated by the phrase ‘when I allow myself to dwell’, highlighting the strict control she exerts over her emotions, only allowing herself to think (‘dwell’) on things for a short period, before getting on with ‘the necessity’ of her work. The use of the word ‘necessity’ in relation to her work exhibits her mindset towards work as something she has to do to provide for her family.

An alternative interpretation of this letter is that rather than being an example of Charlotte disciplining her emotions, it is an open declaration of her misery. Readers have noted how lively Charlotte is in her letter writing. She feels the need to communicate her feelings, as does Jane, and when she does, it comes as a torrent, a stream-of-consciousness.

Jane Eyre: key quotes

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

One of the most famous quotes from the novel, Brontë uses an insightful metaphor to highlight the placement of women as inferior citizens in the nineteenth century.

By using the imagery of a bird, not only does she allude to how women feel encaged by male patriarchs in their marriages and families, but she also draws on connotations of ownership. The notion of a bird being in a cage, aside from the obvious suggestion of restricted agency, suggests the bird is owned by someone. Here, Brontë comments on how women were commodified by their fathers and husbands as objects rather than human beings with ‘independent will’.

'Reader, I married him.'

The most well-known quote of the text, this sentence shows Jane triumphing over all the struggles and hardships she experiences in her life, as she finally decides to get married and prioritize her happiness.

The wording ‘I married him’ presents Jane as an autonomous woman who made a decision for herself as an active part of the relationship, rather than a passive party who Rochester chose to marry. She asserted herself and chose to marry him.

The autonomy of Brontë’s female characters in relation to marriage was atypical for literature (and life) at the time.

Shirley: key quotes

At heart, he could not abide sense in women: he liked to see them as silly, as light-headed, as vain, as open to ridicule as possible; because they were then in reality what he held them to be, and wished them to be, - inferior: toys to play with, to amuse a vacant hour and to be thrown away.

Here, Brontë comments on the way that men use women when they are craving amusement, and throw them away when they are bored.

The phrasing ‘toys to play with’ nods towards the objectification of women and highlights the way women were expected to live to serve men as their wives. She even goes as far as saying that men like women with little substance and independent will, as it allows them to use women how they desire without protest.

A common theme throughout Brontë’s novels is that women are more than just pretty objects at men’s disposal. Brontë appears tired of the notion that men like women who have little intelligence so they can shape them to be who they desire, rather than independent beings.

God surely did not create us, and cause us to live, with the sole end of wishing always to die. I believe, in my heart, we were intended to prize life and enjoy it, so long as we retain it. Existence never was originally meant to be that useless, blank, pale, slow-trailing thing it often becomes to many, and is becoming to me, among the rest.

Brontë was adventurous and fascinated by the world. Her travels to Brussels and passion for writing reveal her zest for life, as she refused to live ‘always wishing to die’, despite the fact she had many depressive episodes.

Her faith in God is evident here as she believes he has a plan for our existence on this earth. She believed we have a duty to live the life we were given by God. Her fathers’ religious influence as a clergyman is traceable in this quote and many others throughout her novels.

Villette: key quotes

How will she get through this world, or battle with this life? How will she bear the shocks and repulses, the humiliations and desolations, which books, and my own reason, tell me are prepared for all flesh?

Here, Lucy wonders how Polly will survive. Yet, she is actually worried about herself although she doesn’t yet realize it. This quote hints at women’s vulnerability, as Lucy wonders how Polly will survive in this harsh world.

This quote reveals the influence of literature on Brontë’s life, as Lucy suggests that ‘books’, and her ‘own research’ inform her that life will be a battle. As a child, Brontë read a lot of books and immersed herself in her studies; here she suggests books can help us make sense of the world and prepare us for hardship.

Brontë wrote Villette after one of the hardest years of her life when three of her siblings died. We can assume she would have been feeling vulnerable herself, perhaps more alone in the world. Her fears translate to Lucy’s character, particularly in this quote.

There is nothing like taking all you do at a moderate estimate: it keeps mind and body tranquil; whereas grandiloquent notions are apt to hurry both into fever.

As an evangelical Christian, Brontë believed it was important to keep your emotions in check; if you didn’t, you would end up with a ‘fever’. Her protestant roots ground her in rationality and staying true to God.

Grandiloquent means to be excessive and extravagant in language, manner, or style to attract positive attention.

This quote shows Lucy battling her emotional unrest. We know that Charlotte Brontë looked to God to carry her through hard times, just as Lucy attempts to manage her emotions and keep herself grounded during testing times.

What is Brontë's writing style?

Charlotte Brontë had a distinctive writing style which is partly why her work is so highly regarded. Let’s explore what sets her writing apart from other authors.

Long sentences and semicolons

If you have ever read Charlotte Brontë’s novels, you may notice the way she uses long sentences and semi-colons:

‘While I looked, my inner self moved; my spirit shook its always-fettered wings half loose; I had a sudden feeling as if I, who never yet truly lived, were at last about to taste life. In that morning my soul grew as fast as Jonah’s gourd’ (Villette, 1853).

The long sentence reads like a stream of consciousness. We follow the character, Lucy, through her emotions. The long sentence helps the language flow smoothly, but it also encourages us to read quickly to get to the end of the sentence and find out how the character is feeling.

Notice how she alternates between long and short sentences in the example above. This makes the process of reading more interesting as it reads like real human thought or vocal narration.

Allegory and symbolism

Brontë employs allegory and symbolism throughout her novels. They bring her writing to life and elevate her ideas beyond the pages.

Some examples from Jane Eyre would be the chestnut tree as a representation of Rochester and Jane’s relationship or Bertha as a symbol of repressed women.

When the chestnut tree splits in the thunderstorm, it foreshadows the divide between Rochester and Jane on their wedding day. When it is in full bloom with green leaves in a beautiful garden, it reflects Jane’s ecstasy surrounding their union.

Bertha, trapped in the attic, ends up taking her own life, representing how women were sidelined and repressed in this period. Many critics have argued whether Bertha is a representation of Jane’s inner feelings and frustrations towards the patriarchal system and the subordinate position of women in society.

We could also argue that as a clergyman’s daughter, Brontë was possibly writing a moral fable, showing readers the dangers and repercussions of leading a reckless life as Bertha does. In contrast to Jane’s strict upbringing, Bertha had wealth and status which allowed her to behave as she pleased, whereas Jane only has her reputation to hold on to. The pair are opposite in their characteristics, and examining their relationship to each other can reveal more about the theme of how gender functions in the text.

Top-tip: If you are interested in the character Bertha and her role in Jane Eyre, read Wide Sargasso Sea (1996) by Jean Rhys. The text explores Bertha's life before and during her relationship with Rochester, offering potential reasons for her erratic behaviour in Jane Eyre.

Confidence and autonomy

Brontë illustrated women as autonomous figures with ‘independent will’ and desires that go beyond marriage (despite the fact that many of her books are about love).

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel.

Through Jane, Brontë comments on how women are forced to sideline their emotions and continue regardless, as Jane does in Jane Eyre, Caroline and Shirley in Shirley, and Lucy in Villette.

Brontë’s heroines rebel from societal expectations. Jane, in particular, is a rebel from childhood onwards and flees Rochester when she feels she has not been treated with respect. Rather than deciding to get married in order to fulfil her destiny as a woman, she seeks solitude and fulfilment independent from him, before welcoming him back into her life.

Genre

Brontë blends multiple genres in her work to treat multiple themes such as love and loss, religion, morals, and family.

For example, Jane Eyre (1847) falls into multiple genres: mystery, romance, gothic.

Gothic: the supernatural dreamlike elements of Thornfield Hall and the dark imagery surrounding the moors in which the majority of the text is set.

Mystery: the inexplicable events that occur at Thornfield: the fire in Rochester’s room, distant laughter, Jane’s veil found torn on her wedding day.

Romance: the growing attraction between Jane and Rochester throughout the novel and St John’s love for Jane.

The combination of genres makes for a gripping read and demonstrates Brontë’s talents as an author. She blends moral realism with the gothic genre, expanding the possibilities of the gothic text.

What are the major themes of Charlotte Brontë’s work?

Let’s take a look at some of the common themes in Charlotte Brontë’s work, and how her life influenced it.

Love and marriage

Brontë’s tumultuous experiences with love and marriage led her to portray love as a complex and difficult emotion. Turning down three suitors before getting happily married demonstrates the importance she places on the unity between men and women. Both Shirley and Jane also turn down marriage proposals, perhaps inspired by Brontë’s high standards and awareness of what she wanted for herself.

She presents love in a simultaneously realistic and unrealistic way. In Villette (1853) Lucy battles love and loss, much like Jane and Shirley, illustrating Brontë’s authentic depiction of love as something difficult to define and sometimes hard to experience. However, love tends to conquer all in her texts to a somewhat unrealistic extent, most notably when Rochester mysteriously gets his sight back when Jane returns.

Family

Brontë's own family was a big part of her life. She was exposed to death from a young age, and repeatedly throughout her life. The broken and confusing family dynamic in her novels reflects her experience with her family, from losing her mother, to her brother becoming a substance abuser who took his own life. Lucy’s family leaving her with nothing in Villette, Caroline’s mother abandoning her, and the odd dynamic between Adele and Rochester, mirror Charlotte’s complicated relationship with her own family.

However, she presents a good relationship with family as a key to happiness. Jane’s relationship with Mary and Diana allows her to feel content and loved by people who share her name, as she finally feels a sense of belonging. Many of her characters battle with their feelings of not belonging and being out of place without family.

Education

Education and learning were a huge part of Charlotte Brontë’s life and a large part of her novels too, mainly Jane Eyre. In it, knowledge and intellect are highly valued.

School is portrayed as a short but vital part of Jane's life. Whilst much of the novel is set at Thornfield, the experiences Jane has at Lowood deeply impact her throughout her life. The friendship she made with Helen Burns is significant throughout the text, much like Charlotte's school friends Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. They were similarly influential throughout Brontë's life, as we see she wrote to them well into her adulthood.

Death

The death of all her siblings and her parents deeply impacted Brontë. Life expectancy was a lot shorter at that time, so death was a more imminent possibility rather than something that feels far in the future like it may for some modern-day readers.

There are multiple deaths in most of her works which helps characters grow and understand more about themselves. The death of one character usually sparks the rebirth of another. For example, Jane and Rochester are only truly happy when Bertha is dead, and Lucy’s undescribed family disaster in which she remains alone causes her to embark on her own journey, similar to Caroline. Despite Brontë’s difficult interactions with death, her belief in God’s plan for us all is evident, as there is nearly always something to be gained from character deaths in her novels.

Morality

As demonstrated by the considerate tone of her letters and her decision to work to earn money for her family and home school her siblings, Charlotte Brontë was a very moral person who governed herself strictly to ensure she was always doing the right thing. This behaviour is emulated in the character Jane, who similarly sidelines her own emotions and prioritises the happiness of those around her.

Much like Brontë having to repress her emotions for Constantin Héger, Jane and Shirley both had to manage their emotions when it came to love, as they embody the moral self-control of Charlotte Brontë herself.

Religion

In the 1800s religion was a lot more prevalent in society, and as Charlotte Brontë went to a clergy girl school and her father was an Evangelical Christian, religion was a large part of her life growing up. Religion governed her moral compass, and placing faith in God is what gets many of her protagonists through their struggles. Jane is a symbol of purity and morality as she continues to stay true to God and herself throughout the text, using him as a moral guide to assist her through hardship.

Charlotte Brontë - Key takeaways

  • Charlotte Brontë remains one of the greatest writers of all time.
  • Her novels focused on female characters, which was atypical of literature written in the 1800s.
  • Her life events greatly influenced her work. Reading and writing romance novels growing up also largely influenced her novels.
  • Her father’s religious faith is traceable in her most notable works.
  • Much like her character, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë was a moral human being with control over her emotions.

Charlotte Brontë

Brontë uses long sentences and semi-colons that read like a stream of consciousness. She also uses allegory and symbolism. 

The character of Jane was heavily influenced by the life and circumstances of Charlotte Brontë. Her restraint and control of her emotions is similar to that of the author and her troublesome relationship with Constantin Hèger.

Charlotte Brontë died after being severly ill during her pregnancy.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë was first published in 1847.

Charlotte Brontë was a prominent novelist in the English literary canon and the author of the famous novel Jane Eyre.

Final Charlotte Brontë Quiz

Question

Where and when was Charlotte Brontë born?

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Charlotte Brontë was born on 21 April 1816 in a little village in West Yorkshire, known as Thornton.

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Question

What year was the most tragic in Brontë's life?

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1848

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What year did the Brontë sisters release their joint poetry collection?

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In 1845 she, Anne, and Emily wrote a joint collection of poems titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. 

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Question

What was Charlotte Brontë’s pen name and why did she need one?


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In the 1800s it was not common for women to write literature, therefore she wrote under a male pseudonym, Currer Bell. Posing as a male author gave her a greater chance of her works being published. 



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Question

What does the bird imagery in the following quote from Jane Eyre (1847) tell us about Charlotte Brontë’s views on how women were treated in the 1800s? 


‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will’.


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Answer

By using the imagery of a bird, she alludes to how women feel encaged by male patriarchs in their marriages and families, and she also draws on connotations of ownership. The notion of a bird being in a cage, aside from the obvious suggestion of restricted agency, suggests the bird is owned by someone. 



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Question

What is a Bildungsroman and which Brontë novel falls under this category? 


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A Bildungsroman is a novel that follows a character from childhood to adulthood. Jane Eyre (1847) is a Bildungsroman.



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What does the chestnut tree symbolize in Jane Eyre?

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When the chestnut tree splits in the thunderstorm, it foreshadows the divide of Rochester and Jane on their wedding day. When it is in full bloom with green leaves in a beautiful garden, it reflects Jane's ecstasy surrounding their union. 

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How are Shirley and Caroline different?


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Caroline and Shirley live contrasting lives. Caroline is reserved and poor, and Shirley is lively, independent, and rich. 

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The success of the novel Shirley caused many people to name their children Caroline. 


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False. 



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Why does Brontë blend genres in her writing?


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Brontë blends multiple genres in her work which is what makes it so interesting. They also allow her to touch on multiple themes, such as love and loss, religion and morals, and family. 

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Question

What does the following quote from Shirley (1849) reveal about the treatment of women in the 1800s?


‘At heart, he could not abide sense in women: he liked to see them as silly, as light-headed, as vain, as open to ridicule as possible; because they were then in reality what he held them to be, and wished them to be, - inferior: toys to play with, to amuse a vacant hour and to be thrown away’. 

Show answer

Answer

The phrasing 'toys to play with' nods towards the objectification of women and highlights the way women were expected to live to serve men as their wives. She even goes as far a saying that men like women with little substance and independent will, as it allows them to use women in the way they desire without protest.

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Question

What are key themes central to Brontë's well-known works? 


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The themes central to Brontë's well-known works are love and marriage, family, education, death, morality, and religion.

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Villette is believed by some scholars to be influenced by Brontë's travels to Brussels and her experience with Constantin Héger.


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Answer

True. 

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Charlotte Brontë's personality was entirely different from her fictional characters. 


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False. 

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What do some critics argue Bertha is a representation of?


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Many critics have argued that Bertha is a representation of Jane's inner feelings and frustrations towards the patriarchal system and the subordinate position of women in society. 



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What does this quote from Charlotte's favorite poet Robert Southey say about society's attitudes to women (particularly female writers) in the 1800s?

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Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought not to be. 


This quote reveals that Men, and society generally, did not believe literature should be 'the business of a woman's life' no matter the quality of her work. 

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What are the five main themes of Jane Eyre?

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The five main themes of Jane Eyre are Love, religion, morals, social inequality, and home / a sense of belonging. They are large themes with subcategories within them.

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What does Mrs Fairfax believe are some barriers to Jane and Rochester's marriage being successful?


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Mrs Fairfax notes that Jane and Rochester are different in their 'equality of position' meaning they are from different classes, and they have differing financial situations. Lastly, Mrs Fairfax appears to disapprove of the age gap between the pair. 

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How is marriage presented in Jane Eyre and how is it different to conventional literature at the time?


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Rather than marriage being a necessity allowing women to fulfill their destiny, it is presented as something that enhances women's lives, rather than completes them. 

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Which two characters particularly demonstrate that you do not need male companionship to be happy?


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Diana and Mary, represent the ability for women to live fulfilled lives without husbands. Neither of them are married but they live and happy and content life in the woods, supporting each other and teaching children.

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What does the quote 'Reader, I married him' tell us about Jane and Rochester's marriage / Brontë's perception of marriage?


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The phrasing 'I married him', places Jane in a position of liberty and power, as an active presence in the marriage, as it was her decision to marry him. This contrasts the conventional representation of marriage in which women are passive objects passed from the possession of their father to their husband. 

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How does Jane's early life at Gateshead affect her throughout the rest of the text?


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The trauma she undergoes at Gateshead, such as being a victim of spite inflicted by her own family, foregrounds the novel in struggle and lays the foundations for Jane's consistent perseverance throughout the text.

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What are the 5 conventions of the gothic genre mentioned in this article?


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The main characteristics of the gothic genre are: Supernatural / inexplicable events, castle setting, gloomy weather, haunting past, and death. 

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True or false: Jane Eyre is regarded as the first gothic novel.


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Answer

False. Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole, was declared the first-ever gothic text.

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How does the past haunt Jane in the novel?


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Rochester's past (in which he married Bertha) ruins he and Jane's first wedding and puts their relationship at risk. Jane's trauma as a child is carried with her through the text as she struggles to find a place she feels she truly belongs due to never having the safety net of a family.

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How is Thornfield Hall a gothic location?


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Thornfield Hall reflects the gothic genre because of its castle-like characteristics and obscure location in the moors, giving it an ominous and eerie atmosphere. The grand size of the manner, meandering staircases, mysterious residents (Grace Pool), and unknown rooms (such as the attic), fill the setting with a sense of mystery and ambiguity, stirring an uncanny feeling of fear in the reader. 

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Question

Why was Jane Eyre considered a progressive novel for its time?


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The novel was progressive for its time as it presented women as equal to men with thoughts, feelings, talents, hobbies, and independent will. 

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What was one of the issues Charlotte Brontë identified in the inequality between men and women? 


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Brontë testifies the notion that there are profound differences between men and women, claiming 'women feel just as men feel' and stating the obvious (but radical truth) that men would suffer in the same way women did, if they were confined to the domestic sphere.



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Which of the following is a true statement?


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Familial love is highly important in the text. The lack of such in the early chapters of the novel foregrounds the novel in a limbo space of displacement and confusion. 

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True or False: Brontë doesn't want women to be happy in their marriages and she thinks they are better off alone. 


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False. Whilst Brontë doesn't present marriage as a necessity, she does allow her female characters to find happiness within it, but on their own terms. 

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Who wrote Jane Eyre?

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Jane Eyre was written by Charlotte Brontë under the pen name Currer Bell. 

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When was Jane Eyre written?

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Jane Eyre was published in 1847.

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Which cousin was particularly mean to Jane?


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All of her cousins were mean to her, but John was the worst as he sent her to the Red Room.

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What are the names of the two friends Jane makes at school? How do they benefit her life?


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Jane makes friends with Miss Temple and Helen Burns, who change her life for the better. Miss Temple exemplifies kindness and good manners, while Helen teaches Jane about the importance of God and spirituality. 

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What age is Jane when she goes to Lowood school?


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10

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How did George Elliot describe Charlotte Brontë?


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George Elliot described Charlotte Brontë as ‘a little plain, provincial, sickly-looking old maid. Yet what passion, what fire in her.’ 

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Why does Mrs Fairfax disapprove of Jane and Rochester’s union?


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Mrs Fairfax disapproves of their union because she believes their position and fortune are too different for the marriage to be successful.

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Who is Grace Poole, and what is her significance in the novel? 


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Grace Poole is the woman who ‘looks after’ Bertha and stops her from escaping from the attic on the third floor. Her reliance on alcohol causes her to slip up and let Bertha escape. She is blamed for the mysterious sounds of laughter Jane hears coming from the attic.

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Rochester doesn’t believe himself to be a worthy husband to Jane. True or false?


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True. 

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Why is it noteworthy that Jane doesn’t speak of Bertha in a derogatory way?


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Jane refers to Bertha in a respectful manner. She doesn’t let love or anger cloud her judgment, and she thinks clearly and rationally in all situations. Brontë comments on how men mistreating women drove them to hysteria.

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What does the phrasing ‘I married him’ say about Jane?


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The phrasing ‘I married him’ exhibits Jane’s expression of her independent will. She is the active person in the interaction of marriage, and the wording implies it was her choice.

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Why is the quote ‘I feel your benefits no burden, Jane’ key to the text?


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The quote ‘I feel your benefits no burden, Jane’ is key to the text because it makes Jane feel appreciated (finally after years of feeling like an outsider) and that she can be an asset to somebody.

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Which cousin does Jane end up on good terms with at the end of the novel? (Apart from her long-lost cousins Mary, St John, and Diana.)


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Georgiana and Jane become better acquainted when they get older as Georgiana confides in Jane.

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Why do some feminist critics take issue with the following quote:


‘I never met your likeness. Jane, you please me, and you master me—you seem to submit, and I like the sense of pliancy you impart; and while I am twining the soft, silken skein round my finger, it sends a thrill up my arm to my heart. I am influenced—conquered; and the influence is sweeter than I can express; and the conquest I undergo has a witchery beyond any triumph I can win.’

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Rochester’s complete submission to Jane was atypical for a man of his time. However, in the latter part of the quote, he reasserts himself as the dominant party, claiming Jane is a ‘triumph’ he can ‘win’. This illustrates Jane as a prize or a trophy to be won, rather than a human being with thoughts and feelings. 

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After being bitten and stabbed by his sister, Richard Masson fled Thornfield and never returned. True or false?


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False. 

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Why is Mr Brocklehurst described as hypocritical, and what is the significance of his character?


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Mr Brocklehurst can be described as a hypocrite because he offers his students rations while he and his family feast on plenty of food nightly. He is a representation of the negativity surrounding Christianity, with no compassion or awareness for other people’s feelings. 

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What are some of the complexities surrounding Bertha’s character?


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Many critics have argued that Bertha is a representation of Jane’s inner feelings and frustrations towards the patriarchal system and the subordinate position of women in society.

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