AbstractsWomens Studies

Nineteenth Century Women Writers and the Challenge of Gender Roles: Feminist Heroines in the Novels of the Brontë Sisters

by Tinna Sif Sindradóttir 1992

Institution: University of Iceland
Year: 2015
Keywords: Enska
Record ID: 1221633
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/21334


This essay explores the challenges that women writers faced in the nineteenth century, as well as women in general. Therefore, the concept of gender roles is examined, along with the restrictions that women faced. In addition, the notion of separate spheres that were dominant in this period is briefly outlined to exemplify the male-dominated society that these women lived in. However, the main issue focused on is how women writers were able to speak out against this patriarchal society and the traditional gender roles that women were subjected to. Indeed, by becoming professional writers, they challenged the notion of the domestic sphere and the idea that women were mainly supposed to be wives and mothers. As a result, women writers had the ability to empower other women and influence the course of history. In particular, the Brontë sisters will be discussed to illustrate women writers that challenged the patriarchal society of the nineteenth century. Through their novels and their heroines, the sisters addressed issues that their society faced and they did this in their own unique ways. Special emphasis is placed on Charlotte Brontë and Anne Brontë, as well as their novels. Charlotte and Anne concerned themselves predominantly with problems such as gender roles and equality between the sexes. However, they were also concerned with the education of women and issues concerning the domestic sphere. The novels discussed are Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. In addition, the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is briefly outlined. The novels in question can be considered as feminist novels. Indeed, the key aspect discussed in Jane Eyre is the empowerment of women through the heroine, Jane Eyre, as well as her demand for equality. Moreover, the battle for women’s rights and independence is explored in the The Tenant of Wildfell Hall through the novel’s heroine, Helen Huntingdon. Finally, it can be argued that Emily challenged gender roles through the way that she wrote, as well as through the heroine, Catherine Earnshaw, in Wuthering Heights.