Charlotte Bronte and Feminism


Romantic Age that succeeded Neoclassical Era is commonly known as the Age of Poetry whereas the Victorian Age that succeeded Romantic age is known as the age of the novel. The novel emerged as the key genre of this age.

Social Background

During Victorian time, the industrial revolution took place in Europe that led to a number of problems for the commoners. Due to the industrialization, there was mass urbanization. Mass urbanization led to unemployment. Unemployment led to corruption and other vices.

Hence the proletariat class suffered a lot. On the other hand, the middle class emerged that was newly rich and faced problems in categorizing itself. And the novel was the best means for expressing their sorrows and griefs. Hence there was the emergence of novel in the 18th century.

Another development that took place in this era was the emergence of reason. Darwin’s Origin of Species challenged the words of the Bible that shook the man’s faith in God. It led to a lot of susceptibilities.

The age was marked by doubt and fear. Robert Browning said, “God’s up in heaven, All’s well with the world.” It gave birth to Victorian Optimism. Victorian Age was very conservative about women. They still believed in Tennyson’s words, “men for the field, women for the home.”

Emergence of Feminism

Feminism also emerged as an important aspect of this age. A number of women including Tennyson’s wife started writing for the rights of women in the male-dominated society.

However, their battle was not successful as society preferred male-written works and women and their works were disregarded by society. As a result, many female writers published their works with male pseudonym in order to achieve fame.

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë is often mistakenly written as Charlotte Bront by some people. Charlotte Bronte pen name was Currer Bell. The correct pronunciation of Charlotte Bronte is Sharlote Brontey.

As a Revolutionary Novelist

Charlotte Bronte was one of the founders of feminism in the Victorian Age. She was the revolutionary icon of the age. She broke a number of conventions that prevailed before and during her time.

She wrote eponymous novels ( the title of which is the name of the protagonist) like Jane Eyre. Being well aware of the status of woman in the society she published her first novel (Jane Eyre) assuming male pseudonym “Currer Bell”.

Her Outlook

She had a serious outlook towards writing and her approach is modern. All novels written by her were conscious rising. She believed in exploring the inner reality of the human mind.

She tried to break away from the stereotypes of women laws. She combined the lyricism of Romantic Age and pathos of Shakespearean tragedy in her works

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte herself was not beautiful and attractive and even in the novel, the protagonist i.e. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre pronunciation is Jane Eir) is not beautiful and attractive. Hence the novel is essentially an autobiographical novel of Charlotte Bronte.

In the novel, she stresses the inner beauty rather than external appearance. This concept of beauty was quite new as prior to her the beauty of the woman was seen by her external appearance.

Charlotte Bronte gave a new concept of marriage in the novel. Jane Eyre is quite independent in deciding her future with Rochester. She rejects him after knowing about his first wife and later accepts him without any compulsion.

She is also economically independent. Unlike the other women, she does not depend on anyone and earns her livelihood. Throughout the novel Charlotte Bronte stresses on three things:

  1. Rights of Children
  2. Right to the occupation for women.
  3. The right of governesses.

Charlotte Bronte Criticism

Though the novel was appreciated by D.H. Lawrence yet it met a number of criticisms as well.

  1. Henry James called the novel’s plot as loose baggy monsters.
  2. Charlotte Bronte fails to give humour to her novels.
  3. She has portrayed immortal characters.