“Fairy-Born and Human-Bred”: From Fantastical to Farcical in Charlotte Brontë’s Fiction


  • Tyler Clark


Charlotte Brontë’s writing has always been conscious of negotiating the truth and the idealistic. Brontë composed her mature novels in sharp distinction to the infernal worlds of the Glass Town saga, the fictional kingdoms she and her siblings created throughout their childhoods. Her juvenilia essentially function as high fantasy genre fiction, though over time, Brontë became more intent on exposing “the extreme of reality, closely depicting characters as they had shown themselves … in actual life” as opposed to these “exaggerated idealisms of her early girlhood” (304), or so writes Elizabeth Gaskell in the author’s posthumous biography. This definition of reality, however, was subject to change over the course of Brontë’s writing career. In the span of eight years, her novels became increasingly psychologically complex, leaving behind the fairytale pilgrimages of her juvenilia and Jane Eyre to make room for the eccentric and pessimistic narration found in Villette. Indeed, when we compare the motifs and genre style found in Brontë’s texts, an overarching lack of the fantastical emerges throughout her narrative arcs.