Solitude, spinsterhood, and single blessedness : the BronteÌˆs and redundant women in nineteenth-century Protestant England.
Date of Award
College of Liberal Arts
Bachelor in Arts
This thesis examines how the works of Victorian novelists Charlotte and Anne BronteÌˆ respond to the growing population of unmarried women, dubbed "redundant" by nineteenth-century England. It engages a feminist reading of four primary texts, Charlotte BronteÌˆ's Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853), and Anne BronteÌˆ's Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), with scholarship that illuminates the historical moment and culture in which they were written, paying particular attention to the role of the BronteÌˆs' religious ideology in their work. This thesis tracks the thematic threads that run through the four primary texts, while still acknowledging that each of the BronteÌˆs had her own distinct approach to analyzing the condition of women. Chapter 1 examines how Charlotte BronteÌˆ's Shirley speaks to the underlying questions of womans purpose, autonomy, and selfhood, in the redundant women debate. Chapter 2 deals with the portrayal of female solitude as independence in Charlotte BronteÌˆ's Villette. Chapter 3 contrasts female independence with the image of marriage as bondage, which we find in Anne BronteÌˆ's Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848). These three chapters draw connections between each of the four primary texts, showing how they challenge Victorian society's elevation of marriage by suggesting that single life is, more often than not, the better option for women. This conclusion is reached by recognizing the influence of the BronteÌˆs' Protestant ideals in their work. In interpreting gender relations through the lens of Protestant-Catholic doctrinal difference, the BronteÌˆs conclude that a single woman is not only a complete individual, but also a paradigm of Protestant individualism.
Caputo, Mariel Anna, "Solitude, spinsterhood, and single blessedness : the BronteÌˆs and redundant women in nineteenth-century Protestant England." (2014). Drew Theses and Dissertations. 28.