The Best Work of Charlotte Bronte: The Victorian era in English literature (1837 to 1901) was a period of great change and growth in the literary world. The industrial revolution brought about new social and cultural changes that greatly influenced the themes and styles of literature during this period. The literature of this era reflected the anxieties and preoccupations of society in the transition while simultaneously exploring the complexities of human emotions and relationships. From Charles Dickens to Arthur Conan Doyle, the Victorian period produced some of the most enduring and influential works in the English literary canon.
Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855) was a British novelist and poet best known for her masterpiece Jane Eyre. She was the eldest of the three famous Bronte sisters who left a mark on contemporary literature with their craft of novel writing and character study. Her first novel, The Professor (1846), was dismissed by publishers and went on to be posthumously published in 1857, two years after her death. Her literary career began only in 1847 when she published Jane Eyre under the pseudonym Currer Bell. The novel became an instant success and established Charlotte Bronte as a major literary figure of the Victorian era. Bronte’s writing style, characterized by her sharp observations of social and moral issues, combined with her strong female characters, made her a pioneer of the women’s literature produced during this period. Despite her short life, Bronte’s legacy continues to influence and inspire generations of readers and writers alike.
Major Works of Charlotte Bronte
Although Charlotte Bronte is most famous for her novels, she also wrote poetry. Her poetry is characterized by a somber tone and explores themes of love, loss, and mortality. Some of her notable poems include Winter Stores, which reflects on the passing of the seasons and the inevitability of death, and Mementos, a haunting poem describing the emotional significance of cherished possessions. Bronte’s poetry was often introspective and reflective of her own experiences, with a focus on the inner lives of her characters. We shall discuss three of Charlotte Bronte’s most famous novels below.
1. Jane Eyre
The story follows the eponymous protagonist, a young orphan girl, as she grows up under the harsh conditions of her aunt’s household and then attends Lowood School, a charity school for girls. After finishing school, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with her employer, Mr Rochester. However, she soon discovers a dark secret about him, threatening their happiness together.
Jane Eyre is known for its exploration of complex moral and social issues and its depiction of a strong and independent female protagonist who struggles for independence and self–respect in a society that values social status and wealth above personal qualities. The novel’s protagonist – Jane Eyre – defies traditional gender roles and expectations, rejecting the idea that a woman’s worth is determined by her social position or beauty. Instead, Jane values personal integrity, strength of character, and emotional honesty. The novel is also known for its Gothic elements, including mysterious occurrences and hidden secrets, adding to the story’s suspense and drama.
This novel by Charlotte Bronte was originally published in 1849. The story takes place in Yorkshire during the Napoleonic Wars and focuses on two female characters, Caroline Helstone and Shirley Keeldar. Caroline is a quiet and reserved young woman who lives with her uncle in the small village of Briarfield. Shirley, on the other hand, is an independent and wealthy heiress who owns an estate in the nearby town of Fieldhead. The novel explores their contrasting personalities and the social and economic changes affecting their lives and those of the people around them. As they navigate issues of class, gender, and politics, the two women develop a strong friendship that challenges societal norms and expectations.
Shirley is known for its nuanced portrayal of the lives and struggles of women during the early 19th century. The novel is characterized by its exploration of themes such as class conflict, women’s rights, and the challenges faced by women seeking independence and agency in a male-dominated society. Bronte’s novel is also celebrated for its vivid depiction of the industrial revolution and its impact on the lives of working-class people, particularly women. Through the characters of Caroline and Shirley, Bronte explores different ways in which women from various socio-cultural backgrounds navigate the social and economic changes of their time. Shirley remains an important work of women’s literature even today.
Villette is a novel by Charlotte Bronte, published in 1853. The story follows the life of Lucy Snowe, an English governess who travels to the fictional French city of Villette to start a new life. Lucy is initially lonely and isolated, but she eventually makes friends and finds work as a teacher at a girls’ school. As she becomes more involved in the lives of those around her, Lucy falls in love with the school’s headmaster, M. Paul Emanuel. However, their relationship is complicated by misunderstandings and cultural differences, and Lucy must navigate her feelings for him while also confronting her past traumas.
The novel is known for its exploration of complex human emotions and relationships, as well as its sharp commentary on gender and power dynamics in 19th-century Europe. Villette is known for its introspective and psychologically complex portrayal of its protagonist, Lucy Snowe. The novel is renowned for its exploration of themes such as love, identity, and the limitations imposed on women in Victorian society. Through Lucy’s experiences as a governess and teacher in a foreign country, Bronte examines the challenges faced by women seeking personal and professional fulfillment in a world dominated by men. The novel is also celebrated for its vivid depiction of life in 19th-century France and its commentary on the cultural differences between England and France. Villette is considered one of Bronte’s most mature and introspective works and is often regarded as a masterpiece of Victorian literature, having also contributed to the development of the psychological novel.
Why you should read Charlotte Bronte’s novels
Reading the novels of Charlotte Bronte is a rewarding experience that offers a deep insight into the human condition, particularly the experiences of women in Victorian society. Bronte’s works are known for their nuanced exploration of complex emotions and relationships, as well as their sharp social commentary on issues such as gender, class, and power dynamics. Her protagonists, particularly Jane Eyre, have become iconic figures in English literature, representing a rejection of traditional gender roles and an embrace of individualism and personal agency.
Through her vivid descriptions of life in Victorian England and her insightful characterizations, Bronte offers readers a window into a world that is simultaneously familiar and alien, inviting us to explore the complexities of the human experience with compassion and empathy. They offer a powerful and resonant message that is as relevant today as it was in the middle of the 19th century when the books were first published. Whether you are interested in women’s literature, Victorian culture, or the art of the novel, Charlotte Bronte’s works offer a rich and rewarding experience that is sure to stay with you long after you turn the final page.