The Evolution of Form

  • Cynthia A. Linder


Charlotte Brontë’s novels present a problem for the critic who is concerned with the study of narrative patterns, as there appears to be only a very superficial similarity between the four novels she wrote for publication, The Professor, Jane Eyre, Shirley and Villette. Three are written in an autobiographical form, whilst the fourth, Shirley, is a chronicle of society set in historical time, and narrated by the omniscient and present author, who observes and comments on character, action and event. Furthermore, in two of the three novels written in the autobiographical form, there are ‘gothicisms’ which seem to be extrinsic to the main story. In Jane Eyre there is the description of the mysterious third floor at Thornfield, the suspicious behaviour of Grace Poole, screams, and the inexplicable accidents that take place in Rochester’s bedroom, while in Villette, there is the apparition of a nun who flits through the garden and attic room of the Pensionnat de Demoiselles, but Charlotte Brontë has not made use of the non-rational elements in her third autobiographical novel, The Professor. This is the first problem the critic has to solve — is the supernatural material extrinsic or intrinsic to the work as a whole; is it included for the excitement of the reader, in which case it is extrinsic to the main purpose of the novel, or does it advance the plot, explain the character and background?


Superficial Similarity Suspicious Behaviour Narrative Technique Honourable Mention Main Story 
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© Cynthia A. Linder 1978

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  • Cynthia A. Linder

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