Literary Heroines of the 19th Century
Despite the prevailing notions of gender during the 19th century, the bluestockings were pursuing their intellectual interests, universities opened to women for the first time in Britain and elsewhere and a plethora of amazing women were writing some of our best loved classics; making the 19th century a fantastic time for literature.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
The most beloved of Jane Austen’s novels and a fantastic example of 19th century literature. Through the life of protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, Austen paints a picture of the societal and financial pressures women faced and their limited rights during the 19th century. Elizabeth’s quick wit and fierce opinions make her one of Austen’s most charming and intelligent characters.
Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women
Follow the lives of the four marvellous and varied young women Alcott created in her classic novel, Little Women. Alcott highlights the challenges of 19th century American life, whilst telling the story of the fabulous feminist, Jo March, in pursuit of her childhood dream to become a writer.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley’s Frankenstein is an absolute classic. A twisted tale of loneliness and despair, which Shelley imagined as part of a ghost story contest between her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori and herself. Frankenstein was an instant hit, giving way to a whole new genre of science fiction novels. 200 years later, it remains one of the most thought-provoking science fiction novels ever written.
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre
Charlotte Brontë explores the themes of love and liberty through the story of the inherently independent protagonist, Jane Eyre. The novel was considered both progressive and regressive at the time of its publication in 1847, due to its exploration of gender equality. Whilst the outspoken, protagonist Jane Eyre eschews traditional 19th century femininity and speaks of equality, literary critic Elizabeth Rigby, noted that Bronte romanticises the power imbalance between Jane and her employer.
Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
Emily Brontë’s gothic novel Wuthering Heights is a complex and tragic tale of passion and obsession between Catherine and Heathcliff.
The young Catherine and her love story with Hareton lies in contrast to the codependent and desperate love between Catherine and Heathcliff. In these two young lovers, Brontë gives us something of a happy ending, whilst continuing the themes of social class, abuse and love.
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