The treatment of childhood in the novels of Charlotte and Emily Brontë
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In this thesis I have dealt with Charlotte and Emily Bronte's representation of children in their novels, and the significance of childhood as it reflects or suggests the authors' attitudes to morality, character, and society. I have studied what Charlotte and Emily overtly or covertly say about children and the adults that they grow into, as a means of assessing the similarities and differences in the sisters' attitudes, taking into consideration as well, how these attitudes compare with contemporary images of childhood.
I have chosen to examine the published novels of Charlotte and Emily, and have used for my research both critical and biographical material written on the Brontes. In chapter one, I introduce both writers vis-a-vis two major influences in Victorian literature, namely, religion and romanticism, comparing the extent to which the sisters are affected by these opposing traditions in their treatment of childhood. Chapters two and three deal separately with Charlotte and Emily and their novels. The final chapter offers a conclusion with regard to the similarities and differences between these authors, including the distinction between their narrative techniques that reflect their differing literary motives. Unlike Charlotte, Emily wrote for personal catharsis and awareness rather than for didactic reasons. While both Brontes reveal their moral attitudes on the question of childhood, Emily, unlike her sister, remains non-judgmental. Also, although both sisters accept harsh reality, Emily seems to do so reluctantly compared to Charlotte who is quite unambiguous about it.