The Bronte Women The Dominant View English Literature Essay

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The introduction will set the pace of the dissertation by giving the bacrrround to my thesis. In this sense, the introduction will focus on reviewing the prevailing critical views that I challenge in my dissertation. The aim will be to set up the idea that the dominant critical perspective views women as victims who are mistreated by men, a position that will be deconstructed in the following chapters of my dissertation. Such critical claims will include Arlene Jackson's "The Question of Credibility in Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" and Juliet McMaster's "'Imbecile Laughter' and 'Desperate Earnest' in The Tenant of Wildfell Hal," among others. Equally important, the introduction will survey some critical views that support the thesis. These include, Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh's The Female Power Within: A Guide to Living a Gentler, More Meaningful Life and Dan Abrams's Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else. In addition, Laura Donaldson's Decolonizing Feminisms: Race, Gender & Empire Building will be used to reinforce the thesis.

The rationale behind this literature review is to set the parameters that my study departs from and challenges. This departure will be illustrated in the chapters that follow.

Chapter 1: The Bronte Women: The Dominant View

This is the opening chapter of the dissertation. The purpose of this chapter will be to set the tone and lay the argument that will be refuted in later chapters. Thus, the focus will be on the picture painted in the three novels as far as women are concerned. The three sisters' books present women as the abused and mistreated members of the society. For example, in Wuthering Heights, Catherine is depicted as a victim of Heathcliff's desires. Similarly, in Agnes Grey, the protagonist's mother is portrayed as the gentle, loving woman who gives up her high life for the love of a poor man, Agnes's father. In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Helen is shown as a victim not only of Arthur but also Gilbert, who is shown as the angry and irrational man who whips Lawrence and hurts Helen feelings on mere suspicion that she would be allowing Lawrence to court her while knowing that Markham is already into her.

The chapter will review such depiction of women in the three novels in details. However, the point that will be highlighted is that a careful analysis of some of the events in the books enables the keen reader and analyst to have a more profound view of women, a view that shows that they are not the submissive women intended or viewed to be.

Since the dissertation is about the provision of evidence towards the position that women are not the victims of male hegemony as they are thought to be, this first chapter will be critical in setting up the issue that will be opposed by use of analysis of both these primary sources as well as other credible secondary sources. In this regard, the link between this first chapter and the rest of the dissertation is that it will lay the foundation for the entire dissertation through the establishment of the contested opinion, which the rest of the dissertation will tear down, while building the alternative view.

Chapter 2: The Bronte Women: The Hidden Face

As chapter 1 illustrates the traditional analysis of the Bronte women, chapter 2 will provide a dissenting analysis to that proposed in the first chapter. Hence this chapter comes to form the crux of the dissertation as it elaborates on the thesis. The three Bronte novels will be critically analyzed in order to portray the often unseen powers of women. Areas where the female power appears in these novels will be highlighted to substantiate the assertion that women are not victims of male domination and abuse, but powerful members of the society whose powers, though not physical, can bring either unimaginable destruction or ultimate redemption.

A careful analysis of the events and characters will be conducted to supports the this assertion. For example, in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Catherine's misuse of her natural female strengths and talents is used to override Heathcliff's reticence against and desire to withdraw from her controlling manipulation, culminating in tragedy for both characters. In Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Windfell Hall, Mrs. Helen uses her feminine power to emotionally abuse Mr. Huntingdon through the withdrawal of her affection, which leaves him mad and angry. Another example of the powerful nature of women is shown by Miss Murray who is determined to use her feminine power to ensnare Mr. Weston into falling for her before she gets married to Mr. Hatfield, to whom she is already engaged. Agnes aptly describes Mr. Weston as Miss. Murray's "victim" (Bronte 212).

Susan McKernan's article entitled "Feminist Literary Theory and Women's Literary History: Contradictory Projects," will be used to create a critical dialogue in this chapter. The article illustrates how some women have sought to absolve females from all that goes wrong in relationships in particular and society in general. My argument in this chapter goes against this contention and proves that women are active participants in relationship management. Another powerful secondary source that will be used in this chapter is Laura Donaldson's Decolonizing Feminisms: Race, Gender & Empire Building. This carefully written book will reinforce the thesis by showing how female power has more potential that most people in society are willing to accept. It will therefore support the idea that women can only be victims of men domination willingly or unknowingly, but otherwise, they ought to have the potential to stand up for themselves.

In connection to the entire dissertation, this chapter brings up the theme of the paper. It agrees with the thesis and validates the argument.

Chapter 3: Female Power: When Women Admit It

This chapter will support the theme of the dissertation through the usage of female voices in proving the existence of female power. The aim is to show that the claim made in the dissertation is largely shared by women themselves, and therefore has credence to it. There is no better way to confirm that someone is in possession of something than that person coming out and admitting it himself or herself. This is what this chapter does by allowing female voices to come out and assert that women are indeed powerful in their own right.

The use of these female voices will be targeted towards proving the thesis with reference to the major primary sources. Examples on the secondary sources include Signe Arnfred's article entitled "Sex, Food and Female Power: Discussion of Data Material from Northern Mozambique." This reference will be used to prove how the Bronte women may take advantage of the man's need to exercise their power as illustrated elsewhere in the proposal. Another secondary source that will used in this chapter is Naomi Wolf's Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and How to Use it. As illustrated above, Wolf's belief in the existence of feminine power greatly contributes to my thesis. Agnes, Helen, and Catherine, in addition to other female characters in the novels, are not the weak victims some critics view them to be. They are women who enjoy a great level of power that they use to influence their surroundings.

The reference to the primary sources and connection to the overarching theme will provide the necessary flow and linkage for this chapter to the rest of the paper. In more precise terms, the women voices used to reinforce the thesis provide a connection to the second chapter which endeavors to show that women are not victims but powerful individuals. It also provides the groundwork for the following chapter which surveys the impact of the women's realization or lack thereof of feminine power.

Chapter 4: Female Power: Realization by Women or Lack Thereof

This chapter surveys the effects that emanate from the discovery by some women that they are in possession of immense powers. It also looks at what happens when some women fail to realize that they indeed have these feminine powers that the dissertation seeks to prove that they indeed exist. Again, Naomi Wolf's book, Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and How to Use it will be of great significance to this chapter. In addition, "The Least 'Angelical' Poem in the Language": Political Economy, Gender, and the Heritage of Aurora Leigh" by L.Dalley will also be used. Dalley's article gives insight into the Victorian women's power and thus annuls any contention for the absence of this power in women even in the supposedly most patriarchal society..

Once again, this will be done with reference to Bronte novels. The focus will be on how the Bronte females' realization of their potential or lack thereof creates a great difference for themselves and for the men in touch with them. The instances where women have realized how powerful they are and used this knowledge to accomplish certain actions will be dealt with. For example, Helen's realization of her artistic talent encourages her to leave her husband as it constitutes a source of income. In the same vein, Agnes's belief in her potential for leading an independent life and make her start her venture as a governess, which adds to her experience and potential.

In relation to the other chapters, this chapter will be a final verdict that indeed women have powers as it will demonstrate what happens when the powers, which chapters two and three will have shown exist, are put into use by those who know of their presence, or not used, by women whose ignorance insulates them from knowing the powers at their disposal. To a large extent, this chapter legitimizes the dissertation as it takes the argument to the level of observing the outcome of what the thesis claims. At this stage, the argument is not about whether women have powers anymore, but about what happens when these powers are or are not used.


The conclusion will restate the thesis as now has been validated through the argument in the preceding chapters. The major ideas that are raised in support of the thesis and some of the readings, both primary and secondary, that have supported or opposed the argument will be briefly revisited. All in all, the conclusion will emphasize the validation of the thesis as logically put through the dissertation chapters. .

Annotated Bibliography

Primary Sources

Bronte, A. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1999.

Brontë, C., Brontë, E., & Brontë, A. The Brontë Sisters: Three Novels. New York: Penguin Books. (2009). 

Secondary Sources

Abrams, Dan. Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else .New York: Abrams Image.2011.

Based on evidence borrowed from the social and business world, Dan Abrams presents a powerful narrative of how women are better players in different games of life. This message resonates well with the thesis whereby it supports the claim that women have powers that can be a force for good or evil, depending on their usage. This is in opposition to the view that women are victims in society, whose suffering in the hands of men is evident throughout history.

Berg, M. "Hapless Dependents": Women and Animals in Anne Bronte's Agnes

Grey." Studies in the Novel, 34(2), 177+. (2002).

Comparing animals to the oppressed nature of women under a patriarchal society, Berg provides a viable contrast to Grey's perceived 'fall' from a moral governess to one who commoditizes relationships as she comes to see animals in relationship to food. This perspective will provide catalysts to the thesis since Agnes Grey is largely considered a non-philosophical text but has deep undercurrents to feminine power and control.

Beetham, Margaret. "Thinking Back Through our Mother's Magazines: Feminism's Inheritance from Nineteenth-Century Magazines for Mothers." Nineteenth Century Gender Studies. Issue 6.2, Summer 2010. Web. March 18, 2011.

This article gives a picture of how mothers lived in the 19th century. This information is largely based on magazines, and the overarching message is that women were largely under the apron strings of men with limited authority. Therefore, this article is part of the evidence that that the position being disputed by the thesis indeed exists.

Braithwaite, W. S. The Bewitched Parsonage: The Story of the Brontes. New York: Coward-McCann. (1950). 

Braithwaite provides germane insights into the lives of the Bronte sisters which informs their writing and perception of the world around them as well as their own influence and power (or lack thereof) in their lives. This work will contribute valuable insights into the sisters' defenses, perceptions, and belief systems among an unusually tragic set of circumstances.

Bump, J. "The Family Dynamics of the Reception of Art." Style, 31(2), 328+. (1997).

Bump's article has been selected for this work due to his exploration of the self as it applies to understanding and applying the work of the Bronte sisters. A "socially isolated and individualistic view of the self that precludes the possibility of enduring attachments or responsibilities to another" (328) fully informs the thesis upon which this work is grounded.

Coontz, Stephanie. A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s .New York: Basic Books.2011.

Stephanie Coontz is responding to the work of Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique. She agrees with Friedan that women may have undergone suffering in society, but they had the powers to alter these circumstances. Therefore, this book is in line with the assertion made in the thesis.

Dalley, L. L. "The Least 'Angelical' Poem in the Language": Political Economy, Gender, and the Heritage of Aurora Leigh." Victorian Poetry, 44(4), 525+. (2006).

A decidedly secondary, perhaps even tertiary source to this work, Dalley's insight into Victorian women's power and political effects is critical to understanding the view women held of themselves during this era and further lends scholarship to the hypothesis that such unchecked power can be very destructive.

Donaldson, Laura. E. Decolonizing Feminisms: Race, Gender & Empire Building. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. (1992). 

Donaldson's book was selected to lend a particular misprision - a psychological and cultural mis-recognition of gender-solipsistic power and influence among women across many cultures and eras. This work will enhance the thesis by providing a compass for where to begin recognizing the subtleties of feminine power and control.

Duggan, Lisa & Hunter, Nan. Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture. New York: Routledge, 2006.

This book is the work of two deeply informed women whose knowledge of social issues is beyond question. Together, they present a clear picture of how men and women have each vied for social supremacy. The strength of each gender is appreciated, with the emphasis that both have the potential to advance society. The book serves to discount the theme of victimhood among women in both the Bronte novels and other works.

Ermarth, E. D. The English Novel in History, 1840-1895. London: Routledge. (1997). 

Ermarth's book was selected for its contribution to the way "social common denominator" construct toward "social problems … corporate order and personal identity" (vii) form a basis for feminist thinking in Victorian times and the methods by which the Bronte sisters overrode masculine power to achieve their objectives. The significance will be found in applying these writer's personal impetus within their books with the hypothesis of this study.

Flynn, E. A. Feminism beyond Modernism. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. (2002). 

This book is essential as a secondary source since it serves to support the debunking of several feminist myths which prevent women from recognizing both their innate power and ultimate responsibility in using that power over men. As Flynn separates and identifies the political, intellectual, and social perspectives of feminism beyond the modern construct, this work will serve as an essential text to support the thesis of women's ultimate power over their environment, in general and men, in particular.

Friedan, Betty & Quindlen. The Feminine Mystique .New York:W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.

Written by a recognized feminist, this book marked the rise of feminism when it first appeared in the 1960s in the United States. It details the different views that existed in society at the time of publication and recognizes the fact idea that women had and still do have the potential to take the lead in determining their lives. This book is a positive endorsement of the thesis.

Graman, Marilyn & Walsh, Maureen. The Female Power Within: A Guide to Living a Gentler, More Meaningful Life (1sted.).New York: Life Works Books.2002.Print.

This is a book by recognized feminists who have unshakeable confidence in the power that women have to determine their lives' direction instead of crying of victimhood. It enhances the thesis of the dissertation.

Hymowitz, Kay. Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys. New York: Basic Books.2011.Print.

Like Naomi Wolf, Kay portrays women as powerful and able to meet their obligations without complaining. She uses humorous examples to show how men become powerless when women utilize their powers in society, especially within the family setting as well as the workplace. To the dissertation, this book supports the thesis by showing that women are indeed powerful.

Jackson, Arlene M. "The Question of Credibility in Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall." English Studies 63:3 (1982): 198-206. Print.

In a well written article, Arlene Jackson makes a detailed commentary on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. At some point, she acknowledges the claim that women were subjected to suffering during the Victorian period. This serves to enhance the view of victimhood on the part of women. This is the position that the dissertation seeks to tear down by use of evidence from the Bronte novels as well as other sources such as The Female Power Within: A Guide to Living a Gentler, More Meaningful Life by Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh.

Joshi, P. "Masculinity and Gossip in Anne Bronte's Tenant." Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, 49(4), 907+. (2009).

Joshi's work could almost be a source of primary literature support for the thesis; relegated to a secondary one, however, will provide equally important substantiation for the hypothesis of this study. Comparing feminine influence and Bronte's novel, Joshi attempts to find middle ground between "repudiation of women's culture…" and "…aggrandizement of women's influence" (908) through modern debates on the subject.

Langland, E. "The Angel out of the House: Philanthropy and Gender in Nineteenth-Century England." CLIO, 32(3), 351+. (2003).

In this secondary source, women's roles as philanthropists are examined for the inherent power in class and gender-based activities. Through Langland's findings, the subtle power and control viewed through this lens is insightful and lends themselves to this hypothesis.

Levy, E. P. "The Psychology of Loneliness in 'Wuthering Heights.:. Studies in the Novel, 28(2), 158+. (1996).

Exploring the construct of loneliness in Wuthering Heights consequently lends a psychological depth to the understanding of this hypothesis' premise of feminine control and power in interrelationships with men. The article was selected for this contribution to a well-balanced study that offers most readers a platform on which to stand.

McKernan, Susan. "Feminist Literary Theory and Women's Literary History: Contradictory Projects." Hecate, 17(1), 150+. (1991).

Although McKernan writes to a primarily Australian readership, the concepts of feminism and literature's history provides valuable insights into the movement and its determined rejection of women as an accountable force in relationship management. This article will provide an accurate backdrop and contrast to this hypothesis and will largely compare to the remaining literature used in this study.

McMaster, Juliet. "'Imbecile Laughter' and 'Desperate Earnest' in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall." Modern Language Quarterly 43:4 (1982), 352-68.

In this highly critical analysis of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, McMaster addresses several issues such as the credibility of the novel as well as the message. One thing she acknowledges that is relevant to the dissertation is that the novel shows power structures that favored men. This is a position that the thesis of the dissertation seeks to depart from.

Steinem, Gloria. Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem .New York: Little, Brown and Company .1993.Print.

Gloria Steinem recognizes that women have power in themselves, and if well used, they can eliminate all the suffering they go through in society. This book serves as an endorsement of the thesis that women have powers as opposed to the view that they are powerless sufferers who are always at the mercy of men.

Wolf, Naomi. Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and How to Use it. New York: Ballantine Books.1994.Print.

Written by a woman with enormous know how in feminine thought, this book is meant for women who are seeking to empower themselves for success in a society that is perceived to be tilted in favor of men. It is suitable for the dissertation as it acknowledges that women indeed have power, and the earlier they discover this, the better.