Class, Power and Charlotte Bronte

Helen Burns, the saintly schoolgirl of Jane E y e , has an interestingly ambivalent attitude to the execution of Charles the First. Discussing the matter with Jane, she thinks ‘what a pity it was that, with his integrity and conscientiousness, he could see no farther than the prerogatives of the crown. If he had but been able to look to a distance, and see how what they call the spirit of the age was tending! Still, I like Charles-I respect him-I pity him, poor murdered king! Yes, his enemies were the worst: they shed blood they had no right to shed. How dared they kill him!’ Helen’s curious vacillation between a coolly long-headed appreciation of essential reformist change and a spirited Romantic conservatism reflects a recurrent ambiguity in the novels of Charlotte Bronte. It’s an ambiguity which shows up to some extent in Helen’s own oppressed life at Lowood school: she herself, as a murdered innocent, is partly the martyred Charles, but unlike Charles she is also able to ‘look to a distance’ (although in her case towards heaven rather than future history), and counsel the indignant Jane in the virtues of patience and long-suffering. That patience implies both a ‘rational’ submission to the repressive conventions of Lowood (which she, unlike Jane, does not challenge), and a resigned endurance of life as a burden from which, in the end, will come release. The problem which the novel faces here is how Helen’s kind of self-abnegation is to be distinguished from the patently canting version of it offered by the sadistic Evangelical Brocklehurst, who justifies the eating of burnt porridge by an appeal to the torments of the early Christian martyrs. Submission is good, but only up to a point, and it’s that point which Charlotte BrontE’s novels explore. Jane’s answer to Brocklehurst’s enquiry as to how she will avoid hell-‘I must keep in good health, and not die’--mixes childish naivety, cheek and seriousness: ‘Ihad no intention of dying with him’, she tells Rochester later. And indeed she doesn’t: it is mad Bertha who dies, leaving the way clear for Jane (who has just refused St. John Rivers’s offer of premature death in India) to unite with her almost martyred master. Helen Burns is a necessary symbol, but her career is not to be literally followed. When she smiles at the publicly chastised Jane in the Lowood classroom, ‘It was as if a martyr, a hero, had passed a slave or victim, and imparted strength in the transit’. The conjunction of ‘martyr’and ‘hero’ here is significant: martyrdom is seen as both saintly self-abnegation and heroic self-af.firmation, a realization of the self through its surrender, as

she triumphs in the end over tyrannical convention. Like Jane. unfitted for ‘ordinary intercourse with the ordinary world’ . but she is also an ‘upper’ servant. supposedly. and so (unlike. It is. Where Charlotte Bronte differs most from Emily is precisely in this impulse to negotiate passionate self-fulfilment on terms which preserve the social and moral conventions intact. that ‘I. an overheated and discursive imagination’-and tells us this. and that of reality. they do collide if they aren’t wedged deliberately apart. and William Crims- . other servants) furnished with an imaginative awareness and cultivated sensibility which are precisely her stock-in-trade as a teacher. hourly work. It is a splitting of the self common in Charlotte’s novels: Caroline Helstone in Shirley feels herself ‘a dreaming fool’. with notable reluctance that Lucy is brought to confess the existence of an inner life at all: at the beginning of the novel she tells us. She lives at that ambiguous point in the social structure at which two worlds-an interior one of emotional hungering. ‘I seemed to hold two lives’. but unlike Jane that triumph is achieved through her own death. moreover. subservience and self-sacrifice. that old garden had its charms. through long generations after her poor frame was dust. gushing Romantic fantasy and canny hard-headedness. who fails to keep in good health and dies. . the privileges of the latter might remain limited to daily bread. At least. Her response to the ‘ghost’ who flits through Madame Beck’s garden is almost comical in its clumsy lurching from romance to realism: Her shadow it was that tremblers had feared. symbolises in the end only one aspect of this desirable synthesis. indeed. ‘the life of thought. that of passive renunciation. Independently of romantic rubbish. enduring. a contradiction closely related to their roles as governesses or private tutors. says Lucy Snowe in Villette. and. quivering sensitivity and blunt rationality. however. for timid eyes. in a suspiciously overemphatic piece of assertion. moonlight and shade had mocked. in the context of an awed reference to ghostly haunting. plead guiltless of that curse. everyday self which adheres to them.226 Critical Quarterly the name ‘Burns’ can signify both suffering and passion. It is. Her protagonists are an extraordinarily contradictory amalgam of smouldering rebelliousness and prim conventionalism. . as they fluctuated in the night-wind through the garden-thicket. and a roof of shelter’. provided the former was nourished with a sufficiency of the strange necromantic joys of fancy. locked into their separate spheres to forestall the disaster of mutual invasion. The governess is a servant. But Helen. and an external one of harshly mechanical necessity-meet and collide. in fact. and so preserve intact the submissive. Lucy Snowe. not through someone else’s. her black robe and white veil that. trapped within a rigid social function which demands industriousness.

finds little chance to prove that he is not ‘a block. Her refusal to act prematurely for her own ends both satisfies restrictive convention and leads ultimately to a fulfilling transcendence of it. as the mad Mrs. the world of internal fantasy must therefore be locked away. ‘Order! No snivel!-no sentiment!-no regret! I will endure only sense and resolution’. but an acting. tact and observation espoused by William Crimsworth-the wary. The tactic most commonly employed here is the conversion of submissive conventionalismitself from a mode of self-preservationto a mode of conscious or unconscious self-advancement. invasive. Mrs. Reed’s remark to Jane in the red room-‘It is only on condition of perfect submission and stillness that I shall liberate you’-is triumphantly validated by the novel : it is Jane’s stoical Quakerish stillness which captivates Rochester. Jane must therefore reveal enough repressed. The inner world must yield of necessity to the practical virtues of caution. . thinking. in Lucy Snowe’s revealing words about herself. enticed into bigamous marriage. it isn’t. vigilant virtues by which the self‘s lonely integrity can be defended in a spying. Power and Charlotte Bronte” 227 worth of The Professor. Rochester stays locked up on an upper floor of Thornfield. To allow passionate imagination premature rein is to be exposed. Rochester would not of course find Jane attractive if she were merely dull. whispers Jane Eyre to herself. The Romantic self must be persistently recalled to its deliberately narrowed and withered definition of rationality.Class. She must demonstrate her quietly self-sufficient independence of Rochester as a way of keeping him tied to her. the strategy of the novels is to allow the turbulent inner life satisfying realization without that self-betrayingprematureness which would disrupt the self’s principled continuity-a continuity defined by its adherence to a system of social and moral convention. sentient man’. but neither would he love her if. she sees shrewdly that ‘a lamb-like submission and turtle-dove sensibility’ would end by boring him. blending flashes of flirtatious self-assertion with her habitual meek passivity. Blanche-like ‘spirit’ beneath her puritan exterior to stimulate and cajole him. Jane manages this difficult situation adroitly during their courtship. she were consciously after his money. of course. ‘bent on success’. predatory society. slipping out to infiltrate the ‘real’ world only in a few unaware moments of terrible destructiveness. fiing her errant thoughts on the hard fact that her relationship with Rochester is of a purely cash-nexus kind. without any suggestion that she is. With the ambiguous exception of Villette. a society on the watch for the weak spot which will surrender you into its hands. slaving away as an under-paid clerk. vulnerable and ultimately self-defeating: it is to be locked in the red room. alien. ensnared like Caroline Helstone in a hopelessly self-consuming love. like Blanche Ingram. paradoxically. or a piece of furniture. Passion springs from the very core of the self and yet is hostile. and so. In the end.

but whereas the philistine Edward has inherited. and the combination proves unbeatable. a rationalist with feverishly repressed impulses. and it is this quality which. are certainly shared by William Crimsworth. she muses. perseverance. Crimsworth is able to make classic bourgeois progressnot. Rivers’s bourgeois values (‘endurance. only from his father. however. as reason rather than feeling is his guide. Not prematurely. but on terms which utilise rather than negate his ‘genteel’ accomplishments. if sinisterly unfeeling in Jane’s eyes. talent’). too. if pressed too far. Rivers must of course be rejected. too delicately genteel to endure the deadeningly oppressive clerical work to which his manufacturing brother Edward sets him. provoking smiles’. If Rochester recognises Jane intuitively as a soul-mate. wholly insignificant that Rochester’s comment to Jane in the original manuscript‘coin one of your wild. as with Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe. action. John Rivers. his desire to rise higher insatiable. unslacked endeavour’. Yet Crimsworth is not a middle-class philistine but a feminine. so after all does St.feeling without judgement. ‘Reason sits f i r m and holds the reins. provoking smiles’-is misprinted in the first edition as ‘wild. industry. temperamentally. and his favoured virtues ‘endurance. who tells her that his ambition is unlimited. perseverance. on the crudely materialist terms of his brother. and Jane’s career can only culminate successfully when ‘feeling’ can be ‘rationally’ released . is ‘a washy draught indeed’. but judgement without feeling is ‘too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition’. Crimsworth‘s mother was an aristocrat and his father a manufacturer. shy. is ‘Hope smiles on effort’. He is superior in imaginative sensibility to both Edward and Hunsden (who hates poetry). sensitive soul. combined with a quietly industrious knack of amassing a little capital through i m to prosper years of ‘bustle. allows h as a private teacher in Europe and return to England as a gentleman of leisure. and Jane’s own behaviour: in her case. Even so. anyway. He reproduces the fusion of aristocratic quality and driving bourgeois effort effected in his parents’ marriage. sly. and she will not let the feelings burst away and hurry her to wild chasms’.228 Critical Quarterly of staying tied to and safely dependent on him. perhaps. would seriously undermine Jane’s credibility as a character -should be obvious enough : it isn’t. Crimsworth has conveniently inherited qualities from both parents. and does so in . That this involves a good deal of dexterous calculation-calculation which. But it is also the quality which. yet his progress throughout the novel represents an interesting inversion of his original victimised condition. suitably. and certainly not to early death in India. sardonic Whig capitalist Hunsden. talent’. there is more than a superficial relationship between Rivers. industry.Crimsworth is despised by his brother and jocularly scorned by the radical. brings him at first to suffer isolated torment at the hands of a crassly dominative society. whose motto.

like Crimsworth. perhaps. they also knew something of social transition in a more direct way). he turns his martyrdom to fruitful profit in this world rather than the next. Reuter is stung by his coolness. the Whig reformer and dashing Byronic sceptic. But if the West Riding was undergoing rapid industrialisation. quietly tearing up a pupil‘s essay before her eyes. is both spirited and conventional. as is evident enough if he is contrasted with Edward on the one hand and Hunsden on the other. they knew the power-relationship from both sides.Class. although in a considerably more conscious and ruthless way. that both Charlotte and Emily had been first pupils. and then pupil-governesses. he learns to turn his protective self-possession to devastating advantage in his relentless power-struggles with Mllde. and among the gentry were men who had gone into manufacturing. meekly cautious conservative. Power and Charlotte Bronti! 229 more propitious conditions: his mother had been disowned by her family for marrying beneath her. He gains faintly sadistic pleasure from the effects of his own self-defensive impenetrability. and in this sense the sisters were involved in the process of social transition. in fact. Characters like Hunsden. . which created the demand for governesses who would give the children of wealthy manufacturers an education equivalent to that of the gentry.’ like Jane. althougha ‘tradesman’. as Phyllis Bentley has pointed out. and like Jane also. To consolidate this progress requires of Crimsworth both a potentially rebellious independence and a prudently conservative wariness. at the Pensionnat Heger in Brussels.Hunsden. is secretly proud of his ancient lineage and is bidding ‘It is of some interest in this context. is a marriage of identifiably bourgeois values with the values of the gentry or aristocracy-a marriage which reflects a real tendency of the ‘spirit of the age’. they grew up in a context of rapid industrialisation and the growth of a wealthy manufacturing middle-class. They are presented as Carlylean ‘natural aristocrats’ : cultivated gentlemen sprung from a long Yorkshire lineage who combine a settled paternalist tradition of ‘blood’ and stubborn native pride with a rebellious. (As the daughters of an Irish peasant farmer’s son who had married into socially superior Cornish stock. his brother is a congenital misfit who defiantly throws up a safe job in the name of freedom. Crimsworth is a pallid. independent spirit of anti-aristocraticradicalism. enjoying the way Mllde. The Brontes were born at a time when a centuries-old system of cloth-making in the West Riding was coming to an end with the advent of water-power and then steam. from the viewpoint of Hunsden. Part of what we see happening in these novels. therefore assume a particular symbolic importance within the novels. It was this phenomenon. Crimsworth the victim becomes Crimsworth the dominator. In fact Crimsworth. or Yorke in Shirley. From Edward’s conservative standpoint. it was also a traditional stronghold of the landed gentry. Reuter and her unruly girl-pupils. like Jane.

Crimsworth. significantly.for the traditional aristocrat turned prosperous non-manufacturing bourgeois. In this sense they have a peculiar attraction for the cast-off. since the historical incidents it deals with do in fact closely concern the relations between Tory squirearchy and Whig manufacturers in the West Riding in the early years of the nineteenth century. h d s Hunsden (bourgeois and ‘natural’ aristocrat) both attractive and repelling: he is attractive in his energy. Yet the relationship isn’t without its conflicts and ambiguities. but he can also choose to speak very pure English and takes a quiet interest in the fine arts. Yorke prides himself on being down-to-earth and speaks a broad Yorkshire dialect when he wants to. free-thinking Whig reformism. next to Hunsden’s estate. who finds in them at once a ‘higher’ expression of his or her own fiercely repressed defiance. he is a hard-headed anti-sentimentalist. The final relationship between Crimsworth and Hunsden.230 Critical Quarterly to repair through trade the ‘partially decayed fortunes of his house’. Frances is needed as a representative of alternative. Romantic-conservative values. The central dramatic action of the novel-the Luddite attack on Robert Moore’s mill-re-creates the assault in 1812 on William Cartwright’s mill at Rawfolds in the Spen Valley. down-trodden character lowerin the social scale. These characteristics of Hunsden offend those aspects of Crimsworth which are externalised in his dutiful AngloSwiss wife Frances : her meek piety and Romantic-conservative patriotism provide an essential foil to Hunsden’s racy iconoclasm. free-wheeling bourgeois independence with the culture and status of the traditional gentry. in opposition to the oppressive and venal society which has forced him into exile. ShirZey is perhaps the best novel to demonstrate this theme. Insofar as Hunsden’s bourgeois hard-headedness allies him with the hated Edward. but the two positions are saved from pure mutual antagonism by the fact that Hunsden’s personal energy and impeccable pedigree render him impressive in Romantic-conservative eyes. the traditional social order is merely obstructive and superannuated. but Frances and Hunsden continue to argue over politics. but at the same time Crimswotth clearly can’t afford to endorse Hunsden’s radicalism to the point where he would risk undermining the very social order into which he has so painfully climbed. but unpleasant and rather dangerous in his sardonic. Crimsworth and Frances settle. who is both bourgeois and ‘blood’ aristocrat. For the progressive bourgeois manufacturer. then. and Cartwright’s ruthless . The bourgeois values of Crimsworth ally themselves in one direction with the bourgeois radicalism of Hunsden. including a respect for ‘blood’ aristocracy. that order still has its value. but has a library wellstocked with European literature and philosophy. Both men unite a spirit of wilful. and the embodiment of a respected social tradition to admire or aim at. initiative and independence. is one of antagonistic friendship: on their return to England.

in Edward Thompson’s words. whose neglect of philanthropy as a manufacturer is implicitly connected with his ill-luck in not having been born a Yorkshireman. all at once’. it is. The novel registers a few feeble liberal protests against this position: Caroline ventures to point out the injustice of including all working people under the term ‘mob’. then. she points out. with nothing but his own energies to back him. she is adamant that trade is to be respected. and believes it to be ‘in the utmost need of reformation’. ‘If once the poor gather and rise in the form of the mob‘. who defended his property with soldiers. In this sense Shirley differs from Robert Moore. That the novel’s main thrust is to re-create and celebrate that classconsolidation. . because she is a conservative paternalist. is obvious enough in the figure of Shirley herself. Indeed. seems less easily excusable on the grounds of shyness). she tells Caroline Helstone. and conveniently enough for herself in the circumstances) can denounce all crying up of one class against another. and determined to defend her property ‘like a tigress’. ‘I shall turn against them as an aristocrat’. significantly. and is reputed to have refused injured Luddites water or a doctor unless they turned informer. and it’s unfair to upbraid him for not having been able to ‘popularize his naturally grave. and even though her attitudes to the mill are significantly Romantic (she is ‘tickled with an agreeable complacency’ when she thinks of it). 1970. She is. a man who entered the district poor and friendless. Shirley provides an important defence of trade. and Moore is in any case defended by the novel by a use of the ‘split self’ image which suggests that a sensitive dreamer lurks behind his ‘hard dog’ social exterior. As a hybrid of progressive capitalist and traditional landowner. Shirley’s position can accommodate a fair amount of reformism: she objects to the Church‘s insolence to the poor and servility to the rich. Cartwright. lThe Making of the English Working Class. Shirley herself who finally comes to the defence of his callousness. and elsewhere Shirley (with no sense of inconsistency. the representative of the gentry who comes to the moral rescue of the bourgeois manufacturer. in other words.Class. but although Moore is critically measured against the robust traditions of Yorkshire paternalism. for instance. Power and Charlotte Bronte 231 repulsion of the Luddites signalled. ‘a profound emotional reconciliation between the large mill-owners and the authorities’l at a time when squire and mill-owner were bitterly hostile to one another over the war and the Orders in Council. but half her income comes from owning a mill. spiked barricades and a tub of vitriol. (Moore’s original. Shirley is a landowner. He is. but her charismatic presence in the novel is also needed to defend Romantic conservatism against bourgeois ideology. achieved as it was by the catalyst of working-class militancy. It is. 613. But her ‘spirited’ attitude is in general endorsed. p. Harmondsworth. quiet manners. not least because it has behind it the weight of her ancient Yorkshire lineage. with its traditions of paternalist care for the poor.

Crimsworth and Hunsden also end up as effectively equal. Pryor. is a good deal larger than the Professor’s. the aristocratic. Shirley. disinterestedness and pride of honour in their narrowly unpatriotic scramble for gain. plain. will add to the income of Shirley (who has mamed his brother). in other words. Caroline’s military-parson guardian. deny chivalrous feeling. include the higher classes of society) are. since between the formalist Helstone on the one hand and the free-thinking Yorke on the other stands Shirley. only one of the terms on which Charlotte Bronte handles relationships: the others are dominance and submission. They deny. when she tells Caroline that ‘Implicit submission to authorities. in fact. It is left to Mrs. and the novel itself underscores this judgement by its emphasis on Yorke’s lack of ‘veneration’. in the novel’s view. given the novel’s structure. of course. reasons other than simple humanitarian ones why Jane and Rochester are not as socially divided as may at first appear. gentry and capitalist. in fact. when stung to righteous anger. but within a formal inequality: Hunsden’s house. Romantic-conservative virtues : and part of the point of the novel is to validate those neglected virtues without adopting too obviously the bigoted ‘Church-and-King’ posture of Helstone. The bond between squire and mill-owner is indissolubly sealed. in fact. the union is literal as well as symbolic: Moore. stands to Yorke as Frances Crimsworth stands to Hunsden : both radicals are admired for their verve and fighting Yorkshire blood (qualities on which ShirZey in particular places tediously chauvinistic emphasis). The novels dramatise a society in which almost all human relationships are power-struggles. it is an inevitably complex affair. scrupulous deference to our betters (under which term I. paradigm of the desired union between Romanticism and reform. Caroline’s improbably long-lost mother. This is simple enough. . obscure. and having been suitably humanised as an employer by Caroline’s influence. Even Jane Eyre. Commerce. for instance. order and progress. double the value of her mill-property and build cottages which Shirley will then let to his own workmen. and little. in my opinion. because I am poor. The effective equality established between Shirley and Robert Moore at the end of the novel is. indispensable to the wellbeing of every community’. indeed. By the end of the novel. Charlotte Bronte remarks. but their lack of reverence counts heavily against them. I am soulless and heartless? There are.232 Critical Quarterly notably hard on the radical manufacturer Yorke. whose doctrinaire Whiggism she sees as unfitting him for true reform. having recovered his fortunes by the repeal of the Orders in Council. is able to claim a fundamentally human equality with Rochester: ‘Do you think. and because ‘equality’ therefore comes to be defined as equality of power. represents a genuine threat to such hierarchial harmony: the mercantile classes. to deliver the most explicit statement of that reverence.

but who is also a ‘masculine’ woman holding ‘a man’s position’ as landowner. and their desire to dominate is matched only by their impulse to submit to a superior will. Jane does not. but she also appears as dominatingly masculine beside Jane’s subdued femininity. who is decisively independent and believes in sexual equality. and control. Charlotte’s characters want independence. Physically she is a superior version of Caroline Helstone. Blanche Ingram is a ‘beauty’. William Crimsworth. whose lamb- . The primary form which this ambiguity assumes is a sexual one: the need to venerate and revere. so that although they are of course socially and economically unequal. Shirley would be ‘thrilled’ to meet a man she could venerate : she dominates Caroline spiritually but desires to be dominated herself. as he finds her both plain and fascinating. T h i s complex blend is a recurrent feature of relationships in the novels. but also to excercise power. Rochester’s blindness inverts the power-relationship between them: it is now he who is the dependent. to whom he plays a ‘feminine’ role. and she thus becomes for Caroline an ideal self-projection to be revered. but they also desire to dominate. She finds him both attractive and ugly. the younger son of an avaricious landed gentleman. Power and Charlotte Bronte“ 233 Rochester. their fortunes spring from the same root. her masculinity leads her to desire a husband who will be a foil to her and not a rival. himself a sort of male Jane Eyre. for example. Despite her claims to sexual equality. who adopts a traditionally feminine role towards him (‘It is time some one undertook to rehumanize you’) is also forced into the masculine role of protectiveness. Jane finally comes to have power over Rochester. whom she resembles. Jane’s colonial uncle dies and leaves her a sizeable legacy. however. ‘metamorphosed into a lion’). and Jane. Her ultimate relation to him is a complex blend of independence (she comes to him on her own terms. The colonial trade which signified a decline in status for Rochester signifies an advance in status for Jane. enough for independence. It suggests subservience. deference. and so perpetuates their previous relationship . and in a series of reversals of sexual roles. but the subservience is also. but it also prompts her to despise effeminate men and admire strong ones. shaggy. (‘Shirley’ was the name her parents intended to give to a son). in a latently sexual relationship. The same applies to Shirley Keeldar. but because he is weak he is also ‘feminine’. of course. of course. a kind of leadership. was denied his share in the estate and had to marry instead into colonial wealth. is in an odd way even more ‘masculine’ than he was before (he is ‘brown’. Whether she likes it or not (and there is no evidence at all that she does). financially self-sufficient).Class. which is a rather more complex relationship. finally claim equality with Rochester: in the end she serves ‘both for his prop and guide’. The maimed and blinded Rochester. expresses itself both in a curious rhythm of sexual attraction and antagonism. but in turn dominates Frances. is dominated by the dashing Hunsden.

Frances continues to call him ‘Monsieur’ after their marriage. regulating and keeping down’. where Evangelical attitudes to childhood strongly emerge. in fact. The outcast bourgeoise achieves more than a humble place at the fireside: she also achieves independence vis-5-vis the upper class. It parallels and embodies the conflicting desires of the oppressed outcast for independence.234 Critical Quarterly like devotion to h i m he smugly savours. to her own puritan guilt. The theme of pampered. for passive submission to a secure social order. viewing this as a falsely ascetic withdrawal from the world. Rochester. but by the novelist. reverence and dominance. Jane Eyre rebels against Brocklehurst’s cruel cant and St. is finally released-not by Jane herself. and in this sense she is torn between a respect for and instinctive dislike of stringent religious discipline. Jane’s repressed indignation at a dominative society. Charlotte BrontE’s attitudes to Evangelical discipline are. she also scorns Eliza Reed’s decision to enter a Roman Catholic convent. The relationship recalls that of Lucy Snowe and the fiery Paul Emmanuel: Paul enjoys abusing Lucy and tells her that she needs ‘checking. in part. grimly disapproving of worldly libertinism. Rochester is the novel’s sacrificial offering to the social conventions. if not her slave’. The worldly Rochester has already been tamed by lire: it is now for Jane to ‘re-humanize’ him. seem too strong a word for what happens at the end of June Eyre. it is a tangible symbol of social oppression and must be resisted. perverse children crops up in almost all of the Bronte’s novels. indeed. to Jane’s unconscious antagonism and. but he is also glad that she (like Jane) isn’t all ‘monotonous meekness’. between pious submission and Romantic rebellion. and the victim is the symbol of that social order. This simultaneity of attraction and antagonism. Insofar as Evangelicalism sets out to crush the Romantic spirit. and the right to engage in the process of ‘taming’ it. and Crimsworth takes a sadistic delight in reproving her. and for avenging self-assertion over that order. has a relation to the novels’ ambiguous feelings about power in its wider senses. Revenge doesn’t. thoroughly ambiguous. and the Evangeliaal responses involved with it are clearly. and is thrilled to discover in her flashes of latent defiance which make him ‘her subject. by satisfying all three simultaneously. it allows her to adopt a properly submissive place in society while experiencing a fulfilling love and a taste of power. in short. But she is at the same time ‘Quakerish’ herself. To put the issue that way is to touch implicitly on the elements of Evangelicalism in Jane Eyre. prudently swallowed back throughout the book. and it is worth adding a final brief comment on this other major image of power in the novels. class-responses- . as is obvious enough if the detestable Brocklehurst is placed in the balance against the treatment of spoilt children in The Professor and Villette. but he abuses her mainly in order to delight in her anger. John Rivers’s deathly Calvinism.

and considers that it should be. sophisticated Ritualist Hatfield is heavily condemned and the ‘simple evangelical truth‘ of the lowchurch curate Weston deeply admired.Class. Evangelical discipline. it is to be rejected insofar as. her ruthless efficiency makes her in Lucy’s eyes ‘a very great and very capable woman’. it turns one away from the world. Power and Charlotte Bronte“ 235 exasperated reactions to the indolent offspring of the rich. or Anne BrontE’s talk of the need to crush vicious tendencies in the bud in the Bloom6eld family scenes of Agnes Grey. the patiently deferential and the actively affirmative self. . is hateful in its sour oppressiveness. but welcomed as a spur to worldly effort and achievement. and decide instead to become a governess. The safest solution is a middle way between Dissent and High Church. gentry and bourgeoisie. God also reform it!’) is symptomatic of the compromising middle-ground which Charlotte Bronte’s novels attempt to occupy : a middle-ground between reverence and rebellion. then. it is a similar impulse which brings Caroline Helstone to reject as false. like Rivers’s Calvinism. It is an Evangelical impulse to avoid the ‘cowardly indolence’ of shrinking from life and sally out instead to put one’s soul to the test which motivates Lucy’s journey to Villette. where the vain. . Lucy Snowe thinks that Madame Beck’s rigid disciplinary system ‘was by no means bad‘. as in Lucy Snowe’s Nelly Dean-like attitude to Polly Home or Ginevra Fanshawe. The double-edged attitude of ShirZey to the Church (‘God save it . . libertine self. if not whipped out of him. as in Agnes Grey. at least soundly disciplined. Romish superstition the idea that virtue lies in self-abnegation. What Hunsden sees as attractive ‘spirit’ in Crimsworth‘s son Victor. land and trade. Crimsworth himself interprets as ‘the leaven of the offending Adam’. but useful in curbing the over-assertive. despite the fact that Madame Beck is wholly devoid of feeling.

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