Why Not More Love for the Brontë Sisters?

image courtesy Wikipedia

This is a part of my Brontë April. I have dedicated this month to mostly blogging about these three sisters. You can read a bit about it here.

Over the last 20 years or so there has been a love affair with Jane Austen and her novels. Beloved TV adaptations, movies, modern-day settings for movies are all based on her beloved works. But, in spite of the rush to make money off all the 19th century female novelists on the shelf, the fan love seems to be denied the Brontë Sisters. There are a few TV movies based on Charlotte and Emily’s most famous works produced over the last 20 years, but the fans of the Brontë’s just don’t seem to have the same love for them that Jane Austen enjoys. And I’m not really sure why this is so. I think it’s time for the Brontë Sisters to be in the spotlight.

With feminism getting a boost post-election, it seems to me to be a great time to go back and read Jane Eyre. It contains metaphors of the sort of growth and independence that feminism celebrates. It also has a hint of the intersectional feminism too. You know, Bertha. (Bertha gets her own story in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys which is really good. You should read it, too.) Jane is a strong willed woman who is fascinating and strong and takes no crap from any man (I’m looking at you, St John). So why not a miniseries based on this complicated and emotionally intense novel about a girl overcoming her traumatic childhood and a dicey love affair to come into her own and know her own worth? The movies produced in the past 20 years just don’t do this story justice. Someone needs to call Netflix and give them a heads up about this lack in our lives.

And in this world that seems to be shocked by so many readers reading about a women’s  obsessive love of a domineering and cruel man (yeah, I’m looking at you Twilight and your naughty descendant 50 Shades of Grey) Emily’s Wuthering Heights is absolutely the great grandparent of those modern stories. Wuthering Heights, in its day, was just as shocking to the public as 50 Shades was when it was originally published. Remember all the scandalized think pieces all over the web about women choosing to engage in an S&M relationship in the novel and women all over the world were reading this book and breaking sales records set by the Harry Potter series?  The idea of that kind of relationship fascinates readers. And the original Wuthering Heights, should be outselling Twilight and 50 Shades.

Anne. The poor girl is constantly ignored. I’m guilty of ignoring her too. Anne’s books aren’t out in special editions as far as I can tell after looking through Amazon. And according to IMDB, there is only one filmed version of her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It’s a miniseries produced by the BBC and shown in the USA on PBS, so I’m sure it must be available somewhere out there in the universe on some platform or another. If I find it I’ll let you all know. I just started reading her most well received novel this month. Is she as good a writer as her two sisters? Well, that’s what I’m hoping to find out.

I think what I’m trying to convince you to do, Dear Reader, is read the Brontë Sisters if you have not, and reread them if you have. Watch the mini series and movies based on these women’s works to encourage those that have the power to produce new versions, and possibly better versions of these stories. Help give these sisters the spotlight they deserve.

***UPDATE: I found the BBC 1996 version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall on Amazon Prime. It isn’t free. But for the low, low price of $4.99 you can own all three episodes. There are also DVDs available for around $15 dollars on Amazon, too.

So what do you think about the Brontë Sisters? Are you fans of their novels? Do you think they need a large and joyful fandom similar to Jane Austen’s? Let me know in the comments below. And if you know where I can get the 1996 BBC version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall do let me know in the comments!

12 thoughts on “Why Not More Love for the Brontë Sisters?

  1. I completely echo your sentiments – but there is a reason why the three sisters aren’t more universally known and you touched on it when you discussed Wuthing Heights – all their books are far trickier reads than Austen’s books. While Austen doesn’t flinch at showing women’s economic powerlessness, all her heroines are relatively insulated – even Fanny in Mansfield Park isn’t as bereft as Jane Eyre or Lucy Snowe in Vilette. The Brontë sisters don’t have the comedic vein running through their work which Austen employs so effectively and their depiction of women is far less cosy. We have been turning to the past as a comfort blanket ever since 9/11, but that past has to be reasonably comfortable, or it doesn’t work as an escape – which is why Jane Austen and Agatha Christie are more popular than the Brontës and Dorothy L. Sayers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that is a huge part of why the Brontë Sisters aren’t more “fangirled.” While there is dark subtext in Jane Austen’s works, her heroines are less rough around the edges than the Brontë Sister’s are. The darkness isn’t hidden behind the wry humor. The darkness is front and center. And the sisters are not comfortable. Or cosey. Or wearing lovely muslin gowns with pretty hair. Their world is grey and brown woolens and coal schuttle bonnets and restained hair (early Victorian fashion is just ugly in comparison to the Regency.) But now that the world-our world- is in such turmoil, I want the Sisters to be a guide for us to become our best selves and overcome the patriarchy that represses us all.

      I feel like I’m asking all my readers to pick up some pitchforks and storm the castle. 😎

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah! Now that isn’t a problem… we have one in every room, thanks to a series of random electricity cuts a couple of years ago when a local generator suddenly went belly-up…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “I think what I’m trying to convince you to do, Dear Reader, is read the Brontë Sisters..”

    I see what you did there 🙂

    Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are two of my favorite novels of all times! I wonder if the Bronte sisters are not as popular as Jane Austen because the Bronte sisters wrote on the more gothic side?


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