Title

“An Oak in a Flower-Pot”: The Brontë Sisters’ Depictions of Female Agency During the Victorian Era

Date of Award

5-2021

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

English BA

Department

English

First Advisor

Alexandra Valint, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

English

Abstract

This thesis discusses the most popular novels written by the Brontë sisters – Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – in the context of the overbearing patriarchal culture of the Victorian era, specifically through the characterization of feminine agency displayed in each novel. By engaging with the novels as a trinity, this thesis uniquely reveals the more nuanced aspects of the novels through the sisters’ respective depictions of female agency following the lives of their respective protagonists – Jane Eyre, Catherine Earnshaw, and Helen Graham. Additionally, this thesis seeks to engage in conversation about the ways in which a patriarchal society indoctrinates women in systematic oppression beginning in early childhood and extending well into their adult lives, sometimes even beyond that. By departing from the traditional narrative of agency as a form of rebellion, I seek to reimagine agency as an empowering tool of escape that manifests itself in many different forms in each novel.

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