todayschristianwoman/charlotte brontes radical cour:
I’m so thankful that Charlotte Bronte had the courage to follow her calling.
I could go on and on about Charlotte’s courage: her courage to reject two marriage proposals and remain single because of her convictions about love and equality; her courage to press through grief when both sisters and her brother died of illness in a relatively short time frame; her courage eventually to risk her heart and marry a friend she’d grown to love.
Bronte’s courage, both in her literary works and personal life, stemmed from her deeply-rooted faith.
Unfortunately, the spiritual aspects of Bronte’s work are often overlooked or misunderstood. Many movie versions of Jane Eyre seem to be stripped of the Christian themes driving the novel’s narrative (Bronte’s novel quotes Scripture, for goodness sake!). Further, James’s Secret Diaries and Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte both downplay and misstate her faith, portraying it as a fairly unimportant part of her life. (Gaskell, who was a Unitarian, further skews Bronte’s beliefs as she interprets them through her own less-than-orthodox theological lens.)
Yet we know, particularly from Bronte’s letters to her friend Ellen Nussey and correspondence from her eventual courtship and marriage to pastor Arthur Bell Nicholls, that her Christian faith was in fact a profoundly significant part of her identity. This faith in Christ, this deeply ingrained theology, this disciplined spiritual life drove and inspired what some scholars have dubbed Bronte’s “radical Protestant feminism.” Though her views seem tame to us 21st-century readers, it was in fact “radical” in her day to believe that there was an inherent God-given equality between men and women and to assert that women had something important to offer the world and the church.
Charlotte had much cause for discouragement in her life: she lived as a “spinster” in a culture in which singleness was less-than encouraged. She tragically lost close friends and beloved family members to death and disease. She dealt with entrenched gender-barriers as she sought to pursue her call to write. I’m certain—and we can see this in her letters—that Bronte faced periods of intense discouragement. Yet in her pattern of regular Bible reading and memorization, I like to imagine her reading and contemplating these lines: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
I’m thankful that Bronte held such “radical” views about women. I’m glad she created Jane, a protagonist whose passionate personality and Christian virtue continue to inspire women across the globe. And I’m especially grateful that Bronte found the courage to answer God’s call to write—and to make a profound mark on literature that will continue to endure.
Kelli B. Trujillo is a contributing editor to Kyria.com. She is the author of Faith-Filled Moments: Helping Kids See God in Everyday Life and Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival. www.kellitrujillo.com