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“The passions may rage furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall have the last word in every argument, and the casting vote in every decision.”1 Such powerful words were found in the famous romance novels of Charlotte Bronte. Through her novels Jane Eyre and The Professor Bronte’s life experiences were reflected by her main characters as they sought independence, conceived images as symbols of important events in their lives, and they exhibited commitment to their goals.
Like Charlotte Bronte both William Crimsworth and Jane Eyre encountered hardships early in their lives therefore they sought independence. Crimsworth’s need to leave his brother Edward and Hunsden reflected the independence “[sought] by Charlotte in order to pursue her career as a governess.”2 Since Bronte’s mother died when Charlotte was very young her father allowed their aunt to educate and raise the children until they were old enough to seek a career. Their aunt was a stern woman and “was rather content receiving obedience than affection”3 which is similar to the character of Aunt Reed in Jane Eyre. Although Hunsden did not hold any blood relation to Crimsworth the relationship between the men was cold which forced Crimsworth to find separation form ridicule and harsh criticism as did Bronte from her aunt. The novel Jane Eyre further illustrated Bronte’s desires of seeking autonomy as the central character, Jane, represented the romantic relationship Bronte had experienced with her professor at the young age of 18. The storyline between Rochester and Eyre held true to the emotions of Charlotte Bronte because she felt the frustrations, helplessness, and happiness in a romance. “Isolation allow[ed]the heroine’s self-development, but it impede[ed] her romantic yearning to be thoroughly lost in love.”4 Yet, due to the hardships she faced in her romance Bronte still saw the need for separation from her beloved as did Eyre from Rochester and Francis from Crimsworth. Although it was hard for the author to leave her happiness, her frustrations were expressed in Jane Eyre:
“I grieve to leave Thornfield . . . I love it, because I have lived
in it a full and delightful life. I have not been trampled on, I
have not been petrified . . . [However] I see the necessity of
departure; and it is like looking at death.”5
Albeit Jane and William faced the difficulty of pursuing independence from harsh family and romantic situations, most important to both characters was to find equality among their social statures.
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Similar to Bronte, Eyre and Crimsworth tried to find independence from the hardships of their family, their romances, and their career.
Also reflecting Bronte’s life was the concept of her main characters conceiving images as symbols of important events in their lives. The split tree after the storm in Jane Eyre symbolized for Jane the stability of the friendship that existed between her and Rochester. For Bronte it was merely foreshadowing future events in the novel. Still, symbolic elements such as the split tree, in both novels were common in Charlotte’s novels. Symbols were techniques used to foreshadow but also a means of formulating the decisions of the main characters. The split tree in Jane Eyre allowed Jane to examine her own motives and question if they still pursued her goals. The red room in Jane Eyre “suggest[ed] violence, enclosure, rebellion and rebirth,”7 a stage Bronte after went through after her sister Anne died. To Bronte the red room was also a symbol of failed love as the room was dark, cold, and it was the place where Jane’s uncle died under the care of Aunt Reed. Despite that The Professor didn’t carry the same measure of symbols as Jane Eyre and thus didn’t produce that same foreshadowing and ironic effect, “Bronte drew heavily on her recent experiences in Brussels [seeking] to disguise this personal element by making her narrator-protagonist a man. . .”8 Perhaps not looked at as a “symbol” or “conceived image,” a male narrator was created to hide Charlotte’s personal emotions of her lifetime experiences thus, in a way it can be a symbol of the need of privacy imagined by Bronte. Charlotte often incorporated motifs from her Angrian tales because they were her symbolic images that later in her life aided in her decisions regarding her family, romantic relationships, and career options.
As Bronte’s life was represented through symbols and images, it was also reflected through the commitment of Crimsworth and Eyre to their personal goals. When Crimsworth came to the epiphany that he loved Frances, he saw that pursuing her was only way to win her. With this knowledge he became the hero as he stayed committed to finding and rejoicing with his love:
“You tiny creature, it is your professor who seeks you now. It is I, who
must love you entirely. For you have become my companion and confi-
dante and you must have me the same.”9
Resembling Jane Eyre who also stayed committed to Rochester during her stay at Thornfield, both characters pursue their personal goal to fulfill their need and want for love. Charlotte, who was saddened after the loss of her “true love” still persevered to remember him and expressed her tragedies and happiness in her four novels: Shirley, Jane Eyre, Villette, and The Professor. Thus, Bronte’s commitment to her personal goals are exhibited by the commitment of Jane to Rochester, William to Frances, and both characters persistence to rise above their reputation as “dependents” in their societies.
Jane Eyre and William Crimsworth from The Professor portrayed the story of Charlotte Bronte in several different methods. First they sought independence from family as well as romantic relationships. Second, they conceived images as symbols of important lifetime events. Third, they stayed committed to achieving personal goals. Since Bronte had experienced much in her life, she converted these results into her novels thus proving the statement, “The truth of the outside world is only the truth reflects the narrator’s/ [author’s] feelings and perceptions.”10 Bronte was able to create “a story of myth [since] everything that had deeply affected her was present in the book’s
emotional content.”11 With all this in effect the reader becomes avid to Charlotte Bronte’s emotional plights.