Charlotte Bronte lived and wrote in Victorian England, she was born in 1816 and died in 1855. (Merriman, 2007) Ms. Bronte was considered a women’s liberationist for her era, and her book, Jane Eyre was influenced by her life, her place in society, and her intense determination for self-expression and liberation.
The Victorian Age was characterized by a rapidly growing economy, an expansion of the British Empire, relative peace, and the social and economic problems associated with industrialization. Victorian society was conflicted by the changes; they admired the material benefits industrialization brought, as it encouraged great optimism and spurred the growth of the industrial working class and a modern middle class, but it was also a time of social concern. Brutal factory conditions and slums bred poverty and disease. (Literature, the British, 1996)
Victorian society could be quite pleasant, but only if one were fortunate enough to be born into the upper or at the very least the upper middle class. Members of the upper class lived in grand mansions on great estates; they kept busy with parties, dances, and keeping track of what other people in the same social class were doing. The only career for a woman in this society was marriage. Society wives were expected to represent their husbands with impeccable manners and grace and provide no hint of scandal. Etiquette was a full time occupation; what to wear, who to speak to, and when to curtsy, was of the highest importance. One of the biggest fears of the socially aware was ostracism. (Rose, 1999- 2012)
Charlotte and her siblings were not among the fortunate. Charlotte was the third of six children. Her father, Patrick Bronte, was a protestant minister. There are conflicting accounts of Patrick Bronte’s character and personality and how it affected his children. He is described in some accounts as self-absorbed, cold, distant, and egotistical. It is even suggested that he thought of his six children “in the light of pests and nuisances” (Reid, 1997) There are stories of father Bronte firing his gun in the house, and destroying his wife’s only silk dress as she lay dying of cancer. It isn’t clear where or how these stories became accepted as truth for some period of time but today they are widely regarded as false. (Langbridge, 1972)
At any rate, if the Bronte children weren’t abused by their father, their home life was difficult. Their mother, Maria Branwell, died of cancer in 1821 when Charlotte was only five years old. Maria’s sister, Elizabeth assumed responsibility for the Bronte children’s care after their mother died. Charlotte’s two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died young and her only brother, Branwell was addicted to opium and was an alcoholic. The three remaining sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne took care of Branwell throughout his life and during his decline, finding solace and support in one another. Charlotte and her siblings grew up with little...