On my 12th birthday, my grandmother gifted me a copy of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. For the next week, I wandered around with my nose buried deep into the life of a woman unfolding her moral and spiritual sensibilities in the throes of a rigid English society. While the story spoke of a time and age that I knew nothing about, it was the conflict within the mind of the protagonist that I felt drawn to, even at the highly naïve but impressionable age of 12.
And therein lies the power of the pen. Charlotte Bronte has often been called the ‘first historian of the private consciousness’ on account of her simple yet rich insight into human consciousness and emotion. As a woman writing under the guise of a pen-name to avoid sexual discrimination, prejudiced societal norms formed a major backdrop in a majority of her novels. Born in Thornton, Yorkshire to a country-bred family, Charlotte had to take on the maternal reins of the family at an early age, following the sudden passing of both her mother and older sisters. Through most of her growing years, she was trapped in the battle between taking care of her three younger siblings – Emily, Anne (also famous 19th century writers), and Branwell, and her desire to travel overseas and seek inspiration for her writing.
A lifetime of monetary limitations, orthodox restraints, and maternal burdens allowed Charlotte to explore the themes of religion, sexuality, gender, and rebellion through her critically acclaimed writing. Other than Jane Eyre (1847), the most published of the three Bronte sisters also received a positive response to her two other famous novels Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853).
As a tribute to her timeless literature, here are a few quotes to remember her on her 201st birthday.