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Essay: Bronte: masculine dominance of the Victorian society

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
  • Reading time: 3 minutes
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  • Published: June 18, 2021*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 700 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 3 (approx)
  • Tags: Charlotte Bronte essays
  • Bronte: masculine dominance of the Victorian society
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The Bronte sisters are of literary origin. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne created fantasy worlds which created the starting point of their ventures into fiction. Anne Bronte teamed up with Emily Bronte and developed the idea of imaginary country called Gondol. Charlotte and her brother Branwell created an imaginary country called Angria.

Charlotte Bronte struggled to prove herself and to prove woman’s identity during the Victorian period. It was strange to find a woman writer during that period. So, Charlotte Bronte wrote under the pen name Currer Bell. Charlotte Bronte’s choice of Currer Bell enabled her to generalize her authorial power in a way that she thought her name could not. The female authorship was difficult to recognize. Charlotte Bronte indicates in describing her and her sisters’ decision to adopt pen names:

“Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Elis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names, positively masculine, while we did not like to decline ourselves, women, because we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice” Gaskell (p. 286).

By choosing ambiguous names the Brontes concealed their identity whether masculine or feminine. This is because of the nineteenth century’s more stances towards women writers. The Brontes’ decision to use pen names was validated. James Lorimer published a review of their novels asserting if they are the production of a woman, she must be a woman pretty unsexed. It was something unusual to find a woman writing in such a way. Up to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the domain of writing as a craftsmanship was men dominated. The Brontes have collaborated and successfully participated in the production of novel as a new literary genre especially as a landmark of the Victorian period.

Charlotte Bronte sent Robert Southey some of her poems hoping for his feedback and advice. Unfortunately, his reply was:

“Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure she will have for it, even as an accomplishment and a recreation. To those duties you have not yet been called, and when you are you will be less eager for celebrity”

This reply portrays the masculine dominance of the Victorian society. Literature, according to Southey is the business of man’s life only. The reply is not encouraging. However, Charlotte Bronte was up to challenge this duty at the nineteenth century till literature became a business of women and allowed them to dominate the fiction market. Southey’s response indicates that there were political hurdles women faced as they tried to enter the literary field in Victorian England. Domestic responsibilities were expected to require all their energy, leaving no time for creative quest. Despite a lack of support from the outside world, Charlotte Bronte found sufficient internal motivation and enthusiasm from her sisters to become a successful writer and author.

Many critics agreed with the poet Robert Southey that literature is the business of men. George Lewes is with this view especially before his relation with George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). George Lewes asked “Does it never strike these delightful creatures that their little fingers were meant to be kissed, not to be inked” . George Lewes is with the opinion that woman is an angel in the house. So, the hands of these delightful creatures – women – must be kissed rather than inked. The Victorian society was against woman in all the fields of life. It was dominated by men even those educated critics were patriarchal in their behaviour. Patriarchy was not only social but also literary. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, George Eliot and many other female writers fought against the oppression of men in a society which was mainly male dominated. Such novelists were the harbingers of the feminist movement which flourished during the twentieth century.

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