Who is your favorite Brontë?

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Who is your favorite Brontë?

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Mar 4, 2009, 1:08pm

I thought this might be an interesting question. I love Charlotte Brontë. I think Jane Eyre is the best book ever written. I also enjoy Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne. However, it is Charlotte that I love.

Mar 4, 2009, 1:27pm

I'm a fan of Emily myself, although I haven't read much of Anne (and nothing by Branwell).

Mar 4, 2009, 4:39pm

I don't think Branwell wrote anything except for one or two poems that he got published before his sisters published any of theirs.

Mar 4, 2009, 4:40pm

Yes, I know, but I haven't read those. I have read some of Emily's poetry but I don't care for it.

Mar 4, 2009, 4:48pm

So you like Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is too ruthless for me. I read it the first time when I was fifteen. I didn't like it. Then about two years ago I read it again to see if I would like it when I got older and more mature. I confess I still didn't like him; he was just too evil for me.

Mar 4, 2009, 4:48pm

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Mar 4, 2009, 5:16pm

I checked out a book of her poems from the library and am enjoying it. I also realize that in critical circles Wuthering Heights is better written than Jane Eyre.

Mar 12, 2009, 8:34pm

Jane Eyre's is my favorite book (Number Two is Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita), but I have an enormous respect for Wuthering Heights, for Emily's use of multiple unreliable narrators.

The problem I have with Wildfell Hall is Anne's ineptness at use of narrative voice. She writes in the form of an epistolary novel, Gilbert writing to a male friend, and with Gilbert disclosing to his friend the contents of Helen's diary. This is really an outrageous invasion of Helen's privacy, but Anne just didn't have any way to avoid this because she was trapped in the convention of an epistolary novel and needed to use Gilbert as her narrator.

Charlotte, on the other hand, allows her central characters to speak directly to the reader, and Emily even more skillfully makes Lockwood a likeable but unreliable narrator who himself narrates the tale of another unreliable narrator, Nellie Dean.

Oh, and by the way, don't let's forget the "honorary Brontë" -- Elizabeth Gaskell. I get a kick out of her references to Charlotte in several of her novels, especially with the "Battle of the Books" in Cranford -- Captain Brown supporting The Pickwick Papers over Deborah Jenkyns' support for Rasselas.

Mar 12, 2009, 8:46pm

I don't know how I feel about Gaskell. I read the Life of Charlotte Bronte and liked the excerpts from the letters much better than her prose. I wasn't sure I could believe her. When I read bronte myth I really got a little pissed at Gaskell. All that said, I really enjoyed Wives and Daughters.

Mar 12, 2009, 11:07pm

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is one of my top five, maybe three favorite novels, so I have to jump in here in defense of its structure. Here's part of what I wrote in a casual review of it which I posted in my livejournal (my lj is friends-only, or I'd post a link):

"We start off with Gilbert, an immature, selfish, and privileged young man as narrator. He meets Helen, fails like everyone around him to understand her situation, and falls in love with her in a very self-centered way. The reader is exasperated with him, but sees his potential at the same time. Gilbert's misunderstanding (and unworthiness) of Helen comes to a head, and she lends him her diary to read. What we read over his shoulder is the bulk of the book, and while I found it totally engrossing of itself, I was also aware of Gilbert fitting himself into the story--of his presumptions rebuked by her honesty, and of him finding his own behavior disagreeably reflected in that of characters from her past. So her story, written entirely without him in mind, becomes, as it takes him (and us) out of himself, the catalyst for the development in his own character. The last part of the book returns to his perspective and we get to see the fruits of this education. In the end, Helen finally gets have control over her own life, and Gilbert finally understands why it matters that she have it."

I am not a Bronte scholar, so perhaps there are relevant facts I'm not aware of, but it seems to me that Anne didn't have to use an epistolary structure--she chose it because she thought it would fit her story best, with its relatively brief love story in the present and extended personal history in the past. Nor did she have to use Gilbert as a narrator--she could have used Helen, and if the story were simply about Helen's life this would have made more sense. But I see Gilbert as standing in for a conservative, repressive, but ultimately well-meaning English society that Anne believed must be transformed by and for women like Helen.

In a literature class a few years ago I learned about something the professor called the "absent presence"--a character who never speaks or bodily appears in a narrative but is vitally important to it. It really works for me to think of Gilbert as an absent presence in Helen's diary. She didn't know of his existence when she was writing most of it, but her act of giving it to him to read adds further intention to the story and injects his presence into it.

I'm not sure I've explained this exactly the way it appears in my head, but when I think of it this way the structure of Wildfell Hall seems like a really brilliant use of technique.

Editado: Mar 12, 2009, 11:37pm

But my problem is, why the breach of Helen's privacy by Gilbert's disclosure of such intimate details of her life to his male friend? If Gilbert was to be used as the narrative voice, fine and well, but then AB tried to come up with some "realistic" way of giving Gilbert a "voice" and the way she chose was to have him communicate his narration in correspondence with Halford.

AB didn't have to use an epistolary structure. CB dispensed with that 18th century technique and had her first person narrator speak directly to the reader, and EB did it even more skillfully with her highly unreliable narrators. But I just don't think AB had the skill of her sisters.

That's not to knock Wildfell Hall. In fact, my own love is Jane Eyre but I have a greater stylistic respect for Wuthering Heights. I just don't think AB had the skill of her sisters in developing a narrative voice that was "realistic" but at the same time faithful to her intent (because I don't at all think that she intended Gilbert's breach of Helen's privacy).

Editado: Mar 13, 2009, 12:06am

Currer go look at my comment in "Thank you for joining." I think Anne had just as much potential as either of her elder sisters, though your namesake is my obsession.

Mar 13, 2009, 11:03pm


While I was reading your comments I kept thinking "but if Helen *wanted* Gilbert to read her diary, that's not a breach of privacy!" but until I reread the bit where you said "Gilbert's disclosure of such intimate details of her life to his male friend" I had entirely forgotten about the fact that the whole novel is supposed to be letters to Halford!

Now I agree with you. I still love the diary-within-Gilbert's-narrative part, as I explained above, but I don't love the letters, and I do see them as a terrible breach of privacy.

I wonder why she chose to use this structure. Apparently it didn't make much of a difference for me, since I saw the strengths and entirely forgot about the epistolary part, but still! You've made me think again...

Abr 9, 2009, 9:59pm

I have never thought of Gilbert passing on parts of Helen's diary to his friend as a breach of Helen's privacy. I've always imagined that he had Helen's permission to do so. He is sharing this story through letters, so he has had opportunity to discuss it with her before he embarks upon this. Halford is his brother-in-law and not only Gilbert's acquaintance, and Gilbert doesn't give the diary to Halford in its entirety - he says as much.
I like Gilbert, despite his mistakes and selfishness, and so in my reading of his character, I cannot see him sharing the diary without Helen's permission, or believing that because she is his wife, her diary is his to do what he likes with. (If he sees Helen merely as his property, he is a fool who hasn't read her diary properly, and she is a fool to have agreed to have married him. And Helen's a determined, independent woman...)
But if Gilbert IS betraying his wife in such a way - and I don't think he is - I would see that as not being a flaw with the novel, but a flaw with Gilbert himself. Or perhaps a reflection on the attitudes on the times... I'm not sure. Whenever I've reread The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, it's been for entertainment value rather than to critical analyse it...

Anyway, back to the main question... Out of the Brontës, Charlotte is probably my favourite. Jane Eyre is one of my most favourite books and I reread it at least annually. I also really, really like both of Anne's books. I never got into Wuthering Heights - read it once and have never felt compelled to reread it.
And if Gaskell counts as an honorary Brontë - I love North and South almost as much as Jane Eyre.

Abr 14, 2009, 10:17am

I don't think he was violating her privacy, but I've always found his writing to his friend a little far-fetched.

Abr 15, 2009, 4:51pm

Thanks for inviting me! I love all of them, but I have to say Charlotte is my favorites. I have a steel engroving of her from about 1860, and she has the sweetest smile. My favortie book by her is Villette, partly because it is pretty autobiographical, and partly because of the erotic scenes -- particulalrly when Lucy receives a letter from Dr. John.

Abr 16, 2009, 2:30am

Charlotte is my favorite, though I enjoy them all.

Abr 16, 2009, 2:46am

Ha ha,I want to say Branwell just to be a snot, but Emily all the way for me. I don't know if there's anything in literature as haunting and poignant as that scene where Catherine and Edgar are talking about the perfect day, and hers is all wind and trees and running and his is a sunny day with a good book. It's like, balancing those impulses, feeling alive enough and still happy, or, I dunno, warm--that's the human dilemma right there.

Abr 16, 2009, 10:26am

I'm sticking with Anne, I just remember how I much I was sorry when Anges Grey ended. I wanted more. Still haven't read 'tenant' yet, hope to get to it soon. drat that TBR pile, it just keeps growing.

Mayo 4, 2009, 6:19pm

I just bought "Agnes Grey" from Half Price Books but haven't read it yet. I've read & re-read "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre" several times each, and "The Tenant of Wildfield Hall" once. I like all of the Brontes and their books, but probably like "Jane Eyre" the most.

Mayo 6, 2009, 3:23pm

My favourite of the three.... I think my favourite novel is Tenant of Wildfell Hall and then Jane Eyre. I'm not sure what I think of Charlotte though: I was growing quite fond of her with Jane Eyre, Shirley and the Professor and I also know one of her poems, but this week I finished reading Villette which I found... well not sure, but in any case a bit strange... I'd love to discuss the novel in a separate thread, but what made me like Charlotte much less is the snobism in the novel, especially expressed in the French names she has for Belgium, Brussels and many Belgian characters. They are very degrading, and the English are set off as much better in many things. Although I'm Dutch and not Belgian (and I love England), it does get on my nerves... I'm still looking forward to reading the Biography of Gaskell (who, by the way, I love as well, especially North & South, one of my favourites).

And on the discussion of Helen's diary being disclosed to someone else: I don't see that technique as stranger than the fact that somebody who is writing from memory is able to recall all the minute details that are described in Villette (or in Jane Eyre for that matter)! I just see it as a technique, a way to get the story in front of us (I also always forget that he's actually writing it to someone). But then again, I'm not at all educated in literature, I just really developed a passion for early 19th century literature!

And Wuthering Heights for me as well is just too evil, it's everywhere and everybody gets drawn in...

Editado: Mayo 7, 2009, 9:42am

I felt just as turned off by her Anti-Catholic sentiment in Villette. When I read it the first time I was going through a terrible depression. (Little cheerful reading, huh?) My faith gave me the strength to go on, and then here was Charlotte bashing on it.

Mayo 9, 2009, 2:40am

Yeah I don't think Villette is the best book to read when you're down...

I was also a bit surprised by the whole Protestantism vs Catholicism. I am not religious myself and I can't really understand that there is so much anti-sentiment between these religions (and others) because both are still Christianity. I know it is and has been the case, but the whole 'trying-to-convert-Lucy'-thing before you can even be friends with a Protestant brought it home a bit more vividly.

Mayo 12, 2009, 4:12pm

Emily for me. I enjoy how fearlessly she explores the unpleasant aspects of her characters, how she constructs the narrative, and how relentlessly she plays with the gothic. No doubt my interest in psychoanalysis contributes to my preference for Emily's work.

Editado: Mayo 17, 2009, 8:20am

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Mayo 17, 2009, 8:22am

That's a really good explanation of Tenant, which struck me as amazing work by a relatively sheltered woman. Anne Bronte's work seems to me to encapsulate a lot of what was so troubling about Victorian society; Dickens and Gaskell cover others.

Nov 1, 2009, 6:11pm

My favorite has always been Charlotte - like many here I've read Jane Eyre more times than I can count, but I'm reading The Life of Charlotte Bronte right now and I'm becoming fascinated by Emily. I'm taking this particular biography with a whole shaker of salt, but based on what Gaskell has to say I want to learn more about Emily. Anne and Charlotte seem shy, but relate-to-able, whereas Emily is a completely different creature.