The Bront"e sisters' quarrel: A social discourse within the Bront"e novels

Terryli McMillan Raine, University of Rhode Island


This study challenges the popularly accepted view that the Bronte sisters shared in common many assumptions and beliefs. In truth, the Brontes are individual writers with differing ideologies who engage each other, within their work, in a discourse about God, love and life in relationship to the Woman Question. These diverse political, economical and philosophical beliefs emerge as a doctrinal argument within their novels. Emily and Anne begin the discourse with Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. Next, Charlotte, in writing Jane Eyre, presents her own views and attempts to correct what she feels are incorrect impressions left by these novels; and then Anne responds to Emily and Charlotte in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Both Charlotte and Anne were concerned about the ramifications of Emily's ideology of power, order and conflict. This ideology is a coherent philosophy embedded within the text Wuthering Heights as an evolutionary doctrine of opposition. She ends her text with a progeny who are the result of an evolutionary process just as they are the future parents of an evolutionary progression: a fusion of opposites. Anne's focus is womankind's relationship to society, claiming that society is failing both men and women in this role by producing unrealistic and impossible sterotypes. In the end, she proposes that the real function of society is to prepare the individual to be a contributing member of society whether as a farmer, lord, lady, governess--man or woman. As surviving sister, Charlotte endeavors to undo what she feels are 'wrong impressions' created by her sisters. She disagrees with Emily's concept of fusion, perceiving it as a loss of separateness and power, and she faults Anne with a 'morbid' preoccupation with death and 'Calvinism'. The result is that she claims Emily shows too much passion and she accuses Anne of too much reason. Charlotte offers instead a balance of feeling and judgement which will endow a woman with individuality and liberty in religion, love and life. ^

Subject Area

Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Terryli McMillan Raine, "The Bront"e sisters' quarrel: A social discourse within the Bront"e novels" (1992). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9239586.