Author Study: Charlotte Brontë

“I am not bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847).

Charlotte Brontë was a fiercely strong woman with brave ideas, and this was deeply displayed in her writing. Brontë was a prolific poet and writer from the Victorian era. Her work has become a fundamental piece of English classic literature.

Early Life

Charlotte Brontë was born on April 21st, 1816. She grew up one of six children in a village named Haworth in Thornton, England.

Charlotte’s life was not one without suffering. Her mother passed from cancer when she was just a young girl. Charlotte and her sisters were sent to the Clergy Daughter’s School where two of Charlotte’s elder sisters died from tuberculosis before they returned to Haworth. Charlotte detested her time at Clergy where discipline was harsh and the food was atrocious. Her discontent of Clergy can be conveyed through her famed novel Jane Eyre. Charlotte writes of a facility named Lowood Institution in a dark light, ultimately representing her harmful experiences at Clergy.

Upon moving back to the village, Patrick Brontë, local minister, cared for his surviving children. Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and their brother Branwell produced a magazine which displayed the children’s short stories and poems. The children were constantly surrounded by books as per their father’s wishes.

During the year 1831, Charlotte began school at Roe Head. She later took a teaching job. However, she was unsatisfied and wanted to advance her career. Charlotte had great ambitions and wanted to express her talents.

Later, Charlotte’s brother Branwell had begun to fall ill. While he wished to begin his career as an artist, he went from job to job and relied on alcohol and opium. Charlotte rejected two marriage proposals so that she could take care of her brother.

A Flourishing Literary Career

 In the fall of 1845, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne published a series of poems written under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellias, and Acton Bell. In an era where women were criticized for writing and unable to acquire publication, the Brontë sisters used an alias to gain success.

Charlotte sought publication for her novel, Jane Eyre. It was accepted and published in 1847. Jane Eyre quickly achieved success. It was notably different from other Victorian novels as it featured a first-person female perspective, which was extremely unusual. This made Jane Eyre increasingly popular.

Jane Eyre is a beautifully written gothic masterpiece featuring passion and dark secrets. It tells the story of Jane, a young orphan who grows up with her cruel aunt. Although Jane experiences a troubled childhood, she finds bravery and spirit and begins employment as a governess for brooding Mr. Rochester. As Jane begins to fall for Mr. Rochester, she uncovers a dark secret and is forced to make a choice; should she stay with the man she loves or follow her convictions and leave Mr. Rochester? Jane Eyre features a tale of a woman’s search for equality and freedom.

In 1848, Charlotte suffered as Branwell died. This was also the year that Charlotte revealed herself as Currer Bell, her alias.

The following year, Emily, and Anne both died from tuberculosis. Throughout these tragic losses, Charlotte remained in Haworth with her father and continued to write.

Charlotte wrote Shirley, a novel about two heroines that discover what life would be like if women were truly free in Victorian society. She also wrote Villette, a romance novel about a woman named Lucy escaping a dark past.

Late Life

In 1854, Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls. They lived a peaceful life in Haworth where Charlotte began writing another novel, Emma.  However, Charlotte was sadly unable to finish this novel as she died in 1855 in her late thirties.

Charlotte Brontë’s literary career has certainly remained prevalent in English literature. There have been several film adaptations of Brontë’s famed work, and her novels continue to be studied. While Charlotte lived a very tragic life, she expressed great strength and perseverance which is conveyed through her writing.

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