Brooding About the Brontes: Discussion questions

BronteSidebarThis week, as you may perhaps have noticed, I’m taking part in the Brooding About the Brontës event hosted by Girl With Her Head In A Book.  It’s a vertiable Brontextravaganza, with multiple daily reviews, guest posts, discussions and more (see the schedule here). Instead of answering the daily discussion questions individually, I’ve taken a cue from Charlene of Bookish Whimsy and answered them all in one post.

What would be your answers? Be sure to hop over to GWHHIAB and join in the fun!

Why do you love the Brontës?
I was slow to appreciate the classics; I think that I was too young for many of them when I was made to read them in school (including Wuthering Heights at age 14), and developed the idea that they were impenetrable and remote from my experience. But when I read Jane Eyre in college, I was completely drawn in by the brilliant storytelling, dreamlike images, and complex array of characters. The book formed a bridge from the fantasy literature I loved as a child into the world of nineteenth-century fiction and literary criticism; I ended up writing my senior project on it (“The Interpreting Mirror: The Fantasy of Realism and the Novels of Charlotte Brontë”) and moving on from all the Brontës to Dickens, Eliot, Gaskell, Trollope, Thackeray, etc… I’m not sure I would have gotten there without Jane.

Pick your favourite Brontë novel
Jane Eyre
— I still find it the most compulsively readable, though I appreciate all the novels for different reasons.

© Santiago Caruso, 2014 - Jane Eyre
© Santiago Caruso, 2014 – Jane Eyre, Folio Society Edition

Do you have a ‘favourite sister’?
I think the dynamics within the whole family are what fascinate me the most. Charlotte had perhaps the dominant personality, and I feel I know her best, but what would she have been without the others?

Pick your favourite Brontë-related book (fiction or non-fiction)
This is not exactly a book, but years ago I saw a British production of Jane Eyre as a play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that I found brilliant; it had the “madwoman” on stage all the time, accompanying Jane and expressing her inner state. It brought out something latent in the text, without wordy critical discussion, and I found it quite convincing.

Are the Brontës being forgotten?
I think they are more popular than ever — look at all the retellings and biographies that have been produced in the last few years! I think the sisters would be stunned if they knew how their literary reputation has endured and blossomed.

Which Brontë fictional heroine (or indeed leading man) do you most closely identify with?
I would like to have as much courage and integrity as Jane, but that’s something I can only aspire to. Sometimes I feel as contrary and selfish as Cathy, and I have the occasional wild impulse to run about on the moors. I can also feel as coldly analytical as Lucy, and I would like to be as generous and brave as Shirley. There’s an amazing range of human emotion and experience represented by the Brontë characters, and I think at least something of them lives in each one of us.

15 thoughts on “Brooding About the Brontes: Discussion questions

  1. Hooray! So glad you could join in 🙂 I’ve been having so much fun with this week! I’ve already decided to run it again. I think next year I will tackle Judith Barker’s biography. There’s a target and a half. There’s still lots of fun to come, more guest posts and I’m hoping to finish The Bronte Myth in time to review it too. I agree though that Jane Eyre is a heroine to aspire to be – I had not appreciated before that her novel was not one about romance but rather of personal integrity and survival. I have learnt so much!


    1. There’s certainly enough material for many years of brooding. Thanks for coming up with so many interesting reviews and discussions, it’s been a great week so far.


    2. I’ve wanted to read that FOREVER and just haven’t done it. It’s sitting on my bookshelf. 🙂 Could be fun with a group!


  2. This post is reminding me that I have only read jane Eyre and no other books from any of the sisters. I really need to rectify that and I plan to read Wutherung Heights this year at least.

    I agree that the Brontes are classic authors that are society has not forgotten.


    1. I’m glad you’ll plan to read more by the Brontes, and don’t neglect Anne! I’ve been meaning to reread The Tenant of Wildfell Hall this year myself.


  3. The Brontes are definitely not being forgotten! When we visited Haworth a few summers ago, our B&B host said that every year there are more visitors to their house, and the little town is increasingly crowded with tourists–of course he said this with a smile, as he profits by it.


  4. So far I have only read Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Shirley; of which Wuthering Heights is my favourite. Which does leave me with plenty more wonderful Bronte novels to read.

    I love the sound of your final project and reminds me I clearly never grew up, as my final written project at university was about The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe 😀


  5. I love how you relate to so many of the Bronte characters – it’s true that there is a wide array of emotion and experience with them, so there is something about them for everyone. Great answers to the questions, and I’m so happy that Jane Eyre is a particular favorite. 😉


    1. I do feel my life has been enriched through encountering all these characters — even the ones I’m not terribly fond of, like Heathcliff.


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