“Fraternal and Sisterly Love”: Observing Disintegration and Resilience in the Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Shirley


The Brontës in 1845 were a tight-knit community in Haworth of three grown-up sisters and a brother – Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell. In chapter 33, "And you", Jane Eyre passionately claims to St. John, "cannot at all imagine the craving I have for fraternal and sisterly love". The fictional Jane Eyre, the orphan, is the protagonist of Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Brontë in 1847. While the three sisters took up pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell and each published novels independently, I argue that the writings in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Shirley are more telling about their tender "fraternal and sisterly love" for each other. In 1848, Anne depicts her "fraternal love" for Branwell who was addicted to drink and drugs in her second and last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Tragedy strikes as he dies of tuberculosis in 1848, followed a few months after by Emily. Subsequently, Anne died in 1849. Surviving with her father, Charlotte continued to write and publish the work that is now known as Shirley. Although not an orphan, I infer that Jane Eyre’s "craving" for "sisterly love" is apparent in her novel Shirley, where critics have suggested that Caroline Helstone is modeled after her sister Anne in her severe illness. I contend that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Shirley are a testimony of "fraternal and sisterly love" delved in Jane Eyre, as well as the resilience to carry on through life by writing literature.

Author Information
Ji-Eun Kim, Yonsei University, South Korea

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2021
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

This paper is part of the ECAH2021 Conference Proceedings (View)
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