The Bronte Triumvirate

We make plans and schedules, but life is best when we make room for changes. Last month we featured Wuthering Bites by Sarah Gray, but we didn’t get around to having a discussion about it until today. However, not everyone read the book.

Some of us reread Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Some of us read Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. All of us have read Jane Slayer by Sherri Browning Erwin. And some of us have read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This led us to have a Bronte discussion.

Some of our main talking points:

Charlotte seemed to have been the driving force for the sisters to write novels and get published.

This is according to autobiographical information and Charlotte Bronte’s own writing in introductions to her sisters’ novels. Charlotte is the one who seemed to take the most active role in the literary world at large, writing criticisms as well as her own novels, and encouraging her sisters.

Charlotte and Anne wrote semi-autobiographically, however it is hard to see Emily’s only novel that way.

Many scholars agree that Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Villette and Anne’s Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are all contain semi-biographical elements. The women drew from their experience, education, and roles as governesses. However, Emily was primarily the poet. Perhaps that meant that she thought differently about things than the other two. But what if Wuthering Heights does offer some semi-biographical perspective on its author?

Due to the masculine tone and most of the central attention some have suggested that Wuthering Heights may have actually been written by Patrick Branwell the only brother of the Bronte sisters.

But let’s assume that it is as credited the novel of Emily. Which character would Emily most identify with? What if she were Heithcliff and Catherine?

Charlotte describes Emily as, “Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone.” She also said that, “In Emily’s nature the extremes of vigour and simplicity seemed to meet. Under an unsophisticated culture, inartifical tastes, and an unpretending outside, lay a secret power and fire that might have informed the brain and kindled the veins of a hero; but she had no worldly wisdom; her powers were unadapted to the practical business of life; she would fail to defend her most manifest rights, to consult her most legitimate advantage. An interpreter ought always to have stood between her and the world. Her will was not very flexible, and in generally opposed her interest. Her temper was magnanimous, but warm and sudden; her spirit altogether unbending.”

Charlotte’s description of Emily seems to embody both elements of the characters Heithcliff and Catherine. It is almost like Catherine is the lady Emily should be with the world, but that Heathcliff is how she really felt in the world. Perhaps she was a woman who would have rather been a man, born in the wrong body and to the wrong century.

What are your thoughts on the matter or of any of the Bronte’s? Do you have a favorite?

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