Brontë Sisters : Literary Contribution

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The Brontës

      Their Lives : Charlotte (1816-1855), Emily (1818-1848), and Anne (1820-1849) were the daughters of an Irish clergyman, Patrick Brontë, who held a living in Yorkshire. Financial difficulties compelled Charlotte to become a school-teacher (1835-1838) and then a governess. Along with Emily she visited Brussels in 1842, and then returned home, where family cares kept her closely tied. Later her books had much success, and she was released from many of her financial worries. She was married in 1854, but died in the next year. Her two younger sisters had predeceased her.

Their Lives : Charlotte (1816-1855), Emily (1818-1848), and Anne (1820-1849) were the daughters of an Irish clergyman, Patrick Brontë, who held a living in Yorkshire. Financial difficulties compelled Charlotte to become a school-teacher (1835-1838) and then a governess. Along with Emily she visited Brussels in 1842, and then returned home, where family cares kept her closely tied. Later her books had much success, and she was released from many of her financial worries. She was married in 1854, but died in the next year. Her two younger sisters had predeceased her.
Brontës

       Their Works : (a) Charlotte Brontë: Charlotte's first novel, The Professor, failed to find a publisher and only appeared in 1857 after her death. Following the experiences of her own life in an uninspired manner, the story lacks interest, and the characters are not created with the passionate insight which distinguishes her later portraits. Jane Eyre (1847) is her greatest novel. The love story of the plain, but very vital, heroine is unfolded with a frank truthfulness and a depth of understanding that are new in English fiction. The plot is weak, full of improbability, and often melodramatic, but the main protagonists are deeply conceived, and the novel rises to moments of sheer terror. In her next novel, Shirley (1849), Charlotte Brontë reverts to a' more normal and less impassioned portrayal of life. Again the theme is the love story of a young girl, here delicately told, though the plot construction is weak. Villette (1853) is written in a reminiscent vein, and the character of Lucy Snowe is based on the author herself.

      The truth and intensity of Charlotte's work are unquestioned; she can see and judge with the eye of a genius. But these merits have their disadvantages. In the plots of her novels she is largely restricted to her own experiences; her high seriousness is unrelieved by any humour; and her passion is at times over-charged to the point of frenzy. But to the novel she brought an energy and passion that gave to commonplace people the wonder and beauty of the romantic world.

      (b) Emily Brontë: Though she wrote less than Charlotte, Emily Brontë is in some ways the greatest of the three sisters. Her one novel, Wuthering Heights (1847), is unique in English literature. It breathes the very spirit of the wild, desolate moors. Its chief characters are conceived in gigantic proportions, and their passions have an elemental force which carries them into the realms of poetry, In a series of climaxes the sustained intensity of the novel is carried to almost unbelievable peaks of passion, described with a stark, unflinching realism.

      A few of her poems reach the very highest levels, though the majority lack distinction. They reveal the great courage and strength of her passionate nature, and, at her best, she uses simple verse forms with great intensity and a certain grandeur. Her finest poems are probably "No Coward Soul is Mine" and "Cold in the earth, and the deep snow piled above thee."

      (c) Anne Brontë: is by far the least important figure of the three. Her two novels, Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), are much inferior to those o aer sisters, for she lacks nearly all their power and intensity.

      Their Importance in the History of the Novel : With the Brontës the forces which had transformed English poetry at the beginning of the century were first felt in the novel. They were the pioneers in fiction of that aspect of the romantic movement which concerned itself with the baring of the human soul. In place of the detached observation of a society or group of people, such as we find in Jane Austen and the earlier novelists, the Brontës painted the sufferings of an individual personality, and presented a new conception of the heroine as a woman of vital strength and passionate feelings. Their works are as much the products of the imagination and emotions as of the intellect, and in their more powerful passages they border on poetry. In their concern with the human soul they were to be followed by George Eliot and Meredith. The following extract is taken from Wuthering Heights. In the heroine's declaration of the intensity of her passion for Heathcliff we see the heart of a woman laid bare with a startling frankness and depth of understanding. The lyrical tone, bordering on poetry, is new in the English novel.

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