Three writers largely influenced the course of English literature in the middle of the 19th century. The three of them happened to be sisters. I give you Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte, or using their pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
From my modest literary experience I found a trend, which I will call The Bronte Paradox. Despite the family connection and the similar time period, Charlotte and Emily have a different writing style and distinct themes. I judge this by comparing Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights. If I didn’t knew they were sisters, I would have never guessed by simply reading these two novels.
Wuthering Heights is the grim love story of the rich daddy’s girl Catherine and the violent and primitive Heathcliff. Their love is predestined to a tragic end due to the difference in social class. After Catherine’s death Emily depicts with a great imagination Heathcliff’s physical and mental cruelty. I enjoyed this gothic novel because it is very far from the traditional love story. Catherine is capricious and inconsistent; she marries Edgar, her cousin, because of his social status, but she remains in love with Heathcliff throughout her whole life. Heathcliff, on the other hand, is not the typical white knight. Quite the opposite – he is brutal, cruel, morose, and ill-mannered. Surprisingly, the novel doesn’t end with Catherine’s death but continues to explore Heathcliff’s change afterwards and the destiny of their children. Without unnecessary sugar-coating, Emily Bronte gives us a non-conventional love story, which is highly influential.
The more popular sister, Charlotte Bronte, creates the typical happy ending love story. Jane Eyre very much reminded me of a worse version of Cinderella. Jane is an orphan, tormented by an aunt and cousins, who hate her. She spends her childhood in an orphanage, where her individuality is suppressed, and she finds a job in a rich house as a governess. Of course, Jane falls in love with the owner of the house, Edward Rochester, who happens to have a hidden crazy wife. For that reason Jane and Edward separate, only to reunite in several years and live happily ever after. Not only that, but Jane becomes very rich, when a distant relative of hers dies in the right moment and leaves her the only heiress. Trivial, banal, and absolutely boring.
Critics claim that Jane Eyre is one of the best English novels, far better than Emily’s Wuthering Heights. I, however, find Charlotte’s story too shallow and simple. We have heard a million times the story of the poor and tortured girl, who falls in love with a rich and handsome man, who doesn’t care about social norms. Unlike her sister Emily, Charlotte depicts the white knight and pulls out of her ass the happy ending. Not only Jane and Edward meet again by very strange (and absolutely impossible in real life) circumstances, but Jane becomes rich agan by very impossible circumstances. Personally,Jane Eyre was an absolute loss of time.
To conclude, I would just mention that Jane Eyre is the 2nd most favorite English book. I can’t imagine why. Yes, one of my favorite novels shares a similar plot – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The latter, however, impresses with Austen’s great use of irony and satire to humour the norms and morals in 19th century England. Charlotte Bronte’s novel lacks even powerful language and imagination. Even I could come up with a better story.
If you still want to get a sense of the Bronte literature, I strongly suggest you read Wuthering Heights and then watch the movie. As for Jane Eyre, it is the longest version of Cinderella. Largely sugar-coated, extremely insubstantial, and overwhelmingly trivial.