The Bronte Sisters Consciousness Of Female Independence English Literature Essay

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This essay deciphers the lives of the Bronte Sisters and their famous works Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. Also, it analyzes their sense of independence as well as their influence as pioneers and female intellectuals.

This essay includes many aspects in each of the Bronte Sisters' lives, including the background of the time they write their novels and why they wrote them. The whole essay is based on discovering the consciousness of female independence in the novels of all three Bronte Sisters, who in their articles created many mimic and apparently characterized roles, Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey and Cathy. They all represents a kind of positive spirit of female independence and meanwhile helped expressed the appeal of women's liberty.

This essay starts from the views of their lives and ends with how they created the character in their novels, fully establishing a concept of how the Bronte Sisters expressing their consciousness in both their lives and works.


In the first half of 19th century, the United Kingdom in the Victorian era was still dominated by males, only few opportunities left for females. However, as the Bronte Sisters were becoming famous with their three classical novels: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, the curtain of feminist movement was rising and women started to compete for their own rights.

The Bronte Sisters' works marked a new stage in the development of the English novels. In the treatment of the social relations and conditions they are realistic and, from this point of view, might be regarded as the first representatives of critical realism in England. But they also established an entirely new, passionately emotional and romantic quality in their novels.

Today there is also an institution in England, known as The Bronte Society, which has members all over the world. Every year the Society issues a volume containing studies on the Bronte Sister. One of the duties of the Society is to administer The Bronte Parsonage Museum, established in the family seat at Haworth.


Social base of the consciousness of female independence

The time that the Bronte Sisters lived was an era that man was superior to woman with a forbidding hierarchy, which was also a turbulent period. Capitalism was expanding and exposing more and more potential drawbacks of it; the contradiction between labor and capital was worsening; the number of unemployment was increasing with poorer and poorer condition, a great amount of child labors were tortured viciously and dead. Under such a historical background, it was really a miracle that there emerged three essayists together in a normal clergyman family.

For the Bronte Sisters, in their short lives, they suffered enough from the torture and harassment, also some felicity. What tortured them so much was the lost of mother when they were very young, the sequential death of friends, their unappreciated lives and even the necessity of giving up the lives. However, it was still very lucky that they had a very intellectual and knowledgeable father Patrick Bronte. Their mother Maria was also a talented, imaginative woman. These all provided them outstanding inherent genes. When they were very young, clergyman taught them the ability to read and write, which had profound effects on them.

The Bronte lived in small town named Haworth located in York Shire, which was a remote place to live. The Bronte Sisters saw the improving capitalistic society in town, yet they were also influenced by the boorishness of the countryside. Their family had a different reputation in the society. Patrick got an income of 200 pounds annually, 20 times more than their servants on average, but it seemed pretty poor for them when compared with those aristocracy and landlords who got thousands of pounds of income. Before the law of rudimentary education was enacted, the Bronte Sisters had already taken educations. There was a great portion of the illiterates in that area, thus they had a higher reputation than most of the dwellers there. Nevertheless, the Bronte Sisters still could not ride a carriage, travel around, wear dedicate clothing and buy prime furniture as those rich entrepreneurs did. The Bronte Sisters' learning independence, experiences of being private teachers and the special social statuses of neither family members nor servants were the keys to their successes.


Continuous learning and self-discipline

The house of the clergyman was located at the top of the mountain, around with aridness and poverty. The Bronte Sisters had never tasted any materialized feasts, even not a toy. Although living under such a bad condition, these kids were all intelligent by natural endowments, widely reading since very young. In September, 1824, 8 year-old Charlotte was sent to Cowan Bridge School to study; in November, 6 year-old Emil was sent to the same school. On year later, Patrick picked Charlotte and Emily backed home because of the expansion of the lung disease. Since that time, they had never been at school and began to self-study, read and write poems at home. 15 year-old Charlotte got the opportunity to study in Roe Head, where she was satisfied with inquisitiveness and fully exerted her abilities. During the 2 years study, she made two friends with whom Charlotte promised to keep in contact in France in order to improve their speaking skills. In 1835, in order to make her only little brother who was learning drawing afford to go to the Royal College, she returned to the school in Roe Head to become a teacher. It was three years that Charlotte had worked gloomily under the restricted rule in school. During this period, she tried to write few poems and sent them to the famous poet at the time, Southey, then was mocked. Adversity gave her a self-esteem personality. Two years later, Charlotte taught her little sisters study all by her own. She once wanted to open a school. In 1842, Charlotte and her little sister, 24 year-old Emily went to a language school in Brussels to study French and German. The outstanding literary talents of these two British students were soon recognized by Herge, who once appraised that Emily had the talents of logical thinking and eloquence which were rarely seen on a man, yet more precious on a woman. She was supposed to be a man, a great navigator. [1] When the servant Tabby was weak with old age, bread for the whole family was made by Emily, who initiatively undertook the housework. Yet we could always see her kneading dough, reading German books, while Anne was still a private teacher around the hometown.


Widely reading and the favor of writing

Their father taught them read, draw, play the piano and sing. Their versatility had become a footstone for their future literal novelties. The Bronte Sisters were so supported and encouraged by their father that one could find the whole sets of masterpieces everywhere in their house: Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Southey, Byron, Wolf and so on. Their father also allowed and encouraged them to borrow books from the Kelley Library 4 miles away. They eagerly had read all the books and magazines as much as possible. Writing was still their favorite thing to do. When the Bronte Sisters were still at their age of loneliness, for their needs of spiritual lives, secretly ran an "Underground Publication", writing with crowded and dense letters on only 2-inch books. They had aspirations of being writers since very young, and were continuously weaving their beautiful dreams with happiness. Charlotte and her little brother Branwell together ran a small publication of magazines with transcripts, by which their essay Angila Legend was published. Later on, Emily and Anne also together wrote Gondal Legend. Some of the preserved transcripts by the Bronte Sisters during their childhood already fully exhibited their initial talents. In January 1846, the Bronte Sisters used the money that their aunt gave them to publish a set of poetries, in which they all used their unisex pen-names: Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, in which also, they retained the first letters of their first names (letter C, E, A and B). This set of poetries didn't draw many attentions in the literature circles, when there were only two sets sold. In the same year, Charlotte finished her full-length novel the professor and then began to write Jane Eyre. In 1847, Wuthering Heights by Emily and Agnes Grey by Anne were published simultaneously. The successive publishing of these three novels later on had become the imperishable pieces in their short lives, which was also the bodily writing of the inspections of their lives and the spiritual writings of expressions of their own emotions.


Various writing resources as being a teacher with responsibilities

Bronte Sisters' family had a very tiny income, with the short of money. To subsist, Bronte Sisters successively went out to be private teachers. In the time they were living, private teacher was the only vocation that the woman could be engaged in. The teachers in rich families usually had low social statuses, even worse than the servants. They had low salaries, heavy burdens of work and no respects. The mistress usually commanded them to do many patchworks, exploiting them as possible as she can. What made them even more painful was that the young masters and ladies in rich families had often been spoiled and indulged, thus very wayward. Many of those children already exposed the shadows of their immoralities. Once Anne dissuaded her students not to play in the stable, and then, surprisingly, the bigger boy instigated his little brother to throw rocks to her, hitting her temples. Afterwards, when the mistress asked what happened to her wound at head, Anne just answered slightly, "one occasional accident". That naughty boy then was moved, and gradually liked and respected her, saying to his mother one time, "I love Ms. Anne Bronte!" This supposed to be a very precious progression of this child, which was also a very human action, but the boy's mother unexpectedly exclaimed, "Oh my god, you dare to say you love your private teacher?" It served to show the low status and the poor identity of a private teacher in Victorian Times. In most cases, private teachers were those excellent women who had a poor background, whereas they also had taken good educations with respects, knowledge and independent personalities. Facing the humiliation, Agnes Grey could only recite quietly, "You can scrunch me, but never subjugate me!"

For those private teachers, the reality was pretty cruel, because they were higher than the worldly trends and different from normal female. Confronting with the philistine of the society with restricted hierarchy, they had nothing but noble personalities and indomitable dignities. The disparity between spirituality and reality, aristocracy and poverty made them destined to suffer more misery than normal poor girls, the pain of intelligence and pain of spiritualities. We could say that they were the first women in the workforce, with the consciousness of independence of modern women; at least they wanted to break through the social shackle in their novels, in which the protagonists even leaded apes in hell because they did not want to condescend to marry. The private teachers, those extraordinary women exhibiting the glamour of women's life, shining the light of the dignity of individuals, composed a beautiful and unusual race in the history of feminisms. What they want to achieve is the equality, freedom and independence of the women, which is the emancipation of women's spiritualities. For the women themselves, the independence of politics, economy and social status is not equivalent to the autonomy in the personality. Only that the women, in spiritual, want to achieve self-love, self-independence, self-esteem and self-respect, they could obtain the emancipation in the real meaning. The first thing women needed to break away from was the shackles of senses they were wearing, which was put on by themselves. Their humiliated lives excited their strong indignations. Charlotte felt much more discriminated and lonely. She hated the job


of a private teacher, leaving the job in few months for two times, whereas this experience provided crucial resources for Jane Eyre. In the assiduous and occlusive lives, the Bronte Sisters often utilized the little time that was left in the spare time to write actively at night, which was regarded by them as an extrication of their tedious and exhausting work. The career of private teacher helped her accumulate plenty of life resources, which became the base of her creative writing in the future. As a realized woman, Jane Eyre embodied her meaning here. Jane Eyre may be regarded as one of the precursor of feminisms.


Self-esteem, self-renewal and self-improvement

Roaming and tasting in the sea of books, sharpening and introspecting in life, the Bronte Sisters finally realized the most fundamental sticking point of the society was that, in this male-dominated society, man ruled all things with women as accessories. To change this situation, women should have their own dignities, their own independent identities and statuses and their own living positions, knowing their essences of lives; at least they should be independent in their spiritualities. This was the very initial disillusionment of the Bronte Sisters' consciousness of feminisms, a very start of women making efforts in striving for their own rights and status.

What made a so sarcastic contrary to them was that their cosseted little brother Branwell had grown up to be lewd, addicted to gambling and fond of drink and drugs, depraved to be a thrall to vice. In the family with great amount of members and a father with a low salary, he spent all the money saved on food and expenses by his sisters in standard educations, but drabbling with both study and career. To support him to practice drawing and become an artist, his three sisters decided to live in a humble abode, leaving out a room for him to draw.

In 1848, because of long time of taking drink and drug, their only brother Branwell had been infected with lung disease, and then died in September. This should be extrication for the Bronte Sisters; the theme with morality of Anne's second full-length novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was directly relating with the contemplation of his brother's life.

After Jane Eyre causing a sensation and getting affirmatives in London, Charlotte put his works in front of his dad, admitting she was the author of this book. When she decided to be engaged in writing novels, making money from writing and getting away from the shackles of their fate, her father told her, it is too hard to be a writer, and it was better to keep her mind on teaching. From the writing back from the poet laureate at the time Robert Southey we could see the attitude towards women writers, "Literature also could not be the lifelong job for women."[2] However, the Bronte Sisters didn't believe only men can be writers, as what Charlotte had said, "Women has the some emotion as men, and they were just like their brothers who also need to apply their talents and a place to exert their intelligence." [3] They were with their heart at writing, beginning to compose novels more assiduously. Their incidents of lives, strength of personalities and handwriting for women thus had become a factual legendary story without rendering.

One that permeated the most in Jane Eyre was also this thought, consciousness of female independence. This kind of consciousness has been embodied on Jane Eyre vividly and incisively. Let us try to imagine, if the independence of Jane Eyre had been strangled in her childhood depending on somebody for a living; if she had been married with Rochester who had wife and daughter and then began to have a new life, having enough money and


decent social status, without that independence; if she didn't have that purity in nature, the Jane Eyre in our hand would have never become one of the most moving and aspiring classics. Therefore, that was why Jane Eyre made us moving and so fondled admiringly- her personality of independence and her seductive personality charm. This kind of consciousness of female independence was just what was considered as a crucial character of modern women. So that was why Jane Eyre has been liked by so many modern women, where they found the key to success. Nowadays, with increasingly higher status of women, they cannot be dependent with man any more, thinking that only if one gets marry with a rich husband, she could sit back and relax. The facts told us that, if you want to get the real happiness, you cannot depend on others, learning to be independent. From Jane Eyre, we saw 'Independence'; we saw 'Striving'; we saw 'Indomitability'; we saw 'Courage'. Thus, Jane Eyre had become a classic among all the independent female character. No matter poor or rich, beautiful or ugly, all can have a nice heart and a rich mind, an character of independence and the personal live of strength, achieving the equality in spirit between men and women.


The expressions in their respective novels

Jane Eyre was published in 1847, and was considered as the first one of the most outstanding women's river novel. It was really difficult for Charlotte Bronte. What was worthier mentioning is that she expressed her strong views of female independence. Jane Eyre was a special and independent girl since a kid. Neither the humiliations brought by her mean aunt and cousins in her miserable childhood, nor the deep depression of the death of a close friend and the cold indifference of the environment in the female school, had not forced her to give up her own beliefs. She all along thought that she was a woman who could think differently and independently, possessing the power of choosing her own way in life. Jane Eyre was not willing to be an accessory like a normal woman, giving out her life to another man. So when Rochester tested Jane Eyre, she bravely shouted, almost losing her temper: "Do you think I could stay here to become nothing to you? Do you think because I am poor and obscure and plain that I'm soulless and heartless? I have as much soul as you and fully as much heart. And if God had gifted me with wealth and beauty, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me as it is now for me to leave you. There, I've spoken my heart, now, let me go!" [5] Her words could definitely count for her intensified expressions of her altitude towards love and marriage and her strong consciousness of female independence.

As a private teacher in that time, Jane Eyre was affecting all the people around her in her own way and by her own characteristic, strongly expressing the author, Charlotte Bronte's altitude towards the social situations at that time and female independence. Jane Eyre had long kept her own perspectives towards love and marriage. Another kind of male character is San John, who deeply believed in his religion, piously serving his life to god as his duty. He wanted Jane Eyre joined his all life's work, feeling that Jane Eyre would definitely follow his ideas. He thought even though there would be some differences, these differences would come to unison very soon. His violation to the power of Jane Eyre actually reflected the general altitude towards women at that time. Jane Eyre firmly opposed him this time, because that really reached her bottom line. She sacrificed so much for her power and her consciousness of female independence. This story finally ended with a relatively comfortable tragedy. A fire took place in Thornfield Garden, which means that a new start will happen here. Because of this big fire, Jane Eyre finally got back to Thornfield Garden and decided to marry Rochester and spend her rest of life with him. Although Rochester became blind in that fire, Jane Eyre still kept her own altitude towards all these. Jane Eyre's consciousness of female independence moved Rochester and all the readers. Although their body might be flaw, their love was full. Even at a very big price, Jane Eyre insisted her own discovery in the field of female independence and had created her own way of protecting her power and achieving her happiness.

Similar as Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey had long kept the same desire of pursuing female independence all through her life. A rich merchant, Mr. Bromfield started insulting Grey at


the first glance. He would feel offended only because his cook didn't cut the meat in the way he wanted. His lacks of upbringing make Grey feel ashamed for him. The wife of this rich merchant was blindly cosseting her children. One of her maid was fired because she once lectured her impervious and brutal son. Her little brother, Uncle Robertson, was especially a villain. He instigated those children to kill birds and small animals for fun. However, Agnes Grey, in spite of resentment of her master, firmly stood out to stop them, which immediately triggered a fight between her and her mistress. She was fired very soon and she then found another rich host before long. Nevertheless, Agnes Grey was still witnessing the plots and fights against each other among aristocrats. Who made a strong contrast to those rich people are the young teacher Agnes Grey, the clergyman Weston and the old countrywoman Nancy. Although they did not have money and power, they were moral cultured and full of love in their hearts. Agnes Grey made nearly blind Nancy regain her confidence of life with her genuine care. Agnes and Weston insisted their indiscriminate love, never submitting to those aristocrats. Thus they were regarded by the rich as obstinate and unruly people, who always exerted unfair treatment to them. However, they finally got married for the same dream and beliefs, gaining other people's understanding and respect. Agnes Grey at last stayed as a teacher, not inheriting legacy as Jane Eyre marrying a rich and become a noblewoman, but her life was more ordinary, more authentic, more moving, embodying an educated woman's consciousness of independence and self-respect in a better way.

Wuthering Heights was regarded as the most unique novel in British Literature. This work also expressed its consciousness of female independence in a very different way. The heroine and the hostess Catherine grew up freely with Heathcliff, a wild get-back child, and then naturally fell in love with each other. Nevertheless, the concepts of social class and the bias view of mundane ideas made them apart. Heathcliff therefore left the heights, where holds their wild and free dreams. Every thing's totally different since he came back. Catherine was married with her well-matched playmate and had a happy life. Though Catherine deeply loved Heathcliff, she almost forgot everything about him when stayed with her husband, but never did Heathcliff. They loved each other not only because they had the same character and temperament, the same stubbornness and waywardness, but also because they were the children of the wilderness. The nature of boorishness made them an outburst of enthusiasm, strong passion and disregard of other's opinion. In their endless involvement of love with each other, no matter what decision Catherine made, her cares of Heathcliff was all started from herself. Because Heathcliff had a very poor background, and she clearly knew that she could not be a beggar with him. Cathy tried to find a way that can keep her position and also her love, but where she finally leaded to was perdition. However, what we should notice here is her contempt to traditional rules, her vent to unsatisfied passion. All these helped expressed the not only female but also the human's consciousness of independence.



After scoping through all these three sisters' lives and novels, we can easily find their consciousness of female independence so reasonable and so influential. Their background, their family environment, their living social situation and their methods of studying all contributed to their consciousness of female independence, which was also intensely expressed in their works. From their historical values of each novel, they are really entitled to the most excellent work through ages till now.

In their novels, Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey and Catherine respectively possessed a kind of consciousness of female independence in their own way. Jane Eyre's eternal pursuits of true love in spirit, Agnes Grey's indomitable spirit to the traditional rules and the Catherine earnest desire of freedom and the fusion of souls all typically represented the general British women's thirsts for the freedom in spirit, equality in love and the independence in life in the age of Victoria.

As women writers, the Bronte Sisters gave their characters initial consciousness of women independence under their pencils, evoking all the women to realize that women should have their independent thoughts and actions, should have their own personalities and dignities. This is what the Bronte Sisters essentially left in their novels, an enlightenment for us offspring.