Growing up in glass town : an investigation of Charlotte Brontë's individuation through her juvenilia




Conover, Robin St. John

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The writings of Charlotte Brontë are often thought by critics to be psychologically revealing of the author; certainly her juvenilia, read in chronological order, illuminate several stages in Charlotte's psychic maturation, both as a writer and as a young woman. They also anticipate, in large part, Carl Jung's system of individuation, deviating from his dialectic at those points so often raised by Jung's feminist critics. Hence, the juvenilia, offer a test case which generally supports Jung's theorie's on development, while at the same time indicating the need for a feminist corrective to those theories. Adopting a male persona at thirteen, Charlotte joins in collaboration with her brother, Branwell, in the creation of the African kingdom, Angria. Both siblings then fashion daemonic, swashbuckling archetypes, which undergo a demonic modulation, and threaten to engulf and possess their creators' young psyches. Charlotte's dark side, personified by Zamorna, King of Angria, embodies all that Charlotte yearns to express, but finds, as a young nineteenth-century woman, she must sublimate. Zamorna represents Charlotte's rebellious, passionate spirit, her suppressed anger, and her libidinal urges—all of which are incompatible with her role as dutiful daughter, expected to set aside such proclivities in order to promote her brother's career in the world. In time, filled with much self-conflict, Charlotte finds herself possessed by this “inflated archetype,” this shadow side, prompting her spiritual crisis of 1836, when she must test herself against this demonic agency, and synthesize these colliding worlds. In learning how to confront, then integrate this dark side of herself, Charlotte initiates a reconciliation with her gender and her straitened circumstances as a woman without means or social standing, obligated—as the eldest surviving child—to sacrifice her own destiny for that of her younger siblings. She leaves the decade-long collaborative partnership and begins creating stories of her own making. These novelettes are imbued with a new realism and more viable personae who serve as her future role models and become her lifeline in this individuation process, anticipating those strong-willed heroines found in the adult novels, and allowing Zamorna to take his more rightful place as Charlotte's positive animus, a muse-like role he will play for the remainder of her writing life. A number of noted critics—Sally Shuttleworth and Helene Moglen among them—have explored the culture of selfhood in Charlotte's writings, though none but the Jungian Barbara Hannah have studied her work through a Jungian lens, nor have any concentrated solely on a detailed analysis of Charlotte's juvenilia, where the process of individuation begins. By examining this psychological journey through the childhood works, taking into account the biographical information of Charlotte's life, as well as her correspondence and journal entries composed during her formative years, we can better understand the motivation and mechanisms which lie behind her adult work. In the juvenilia, and later, in the published novels, we find Charlotte was documenting her own interiority and maturation process, making of them works of art, like an Entwicklungsroman. In viewing her narratives as a psychic map, we discover them opening up to us in entirely new ways, allowing us to perceive the artist undergoing individuation as no other body of work does. Moreover, we begin to appreciate the importance of reading the juvenilia alongside the adult work. Without them, we are reading only half a life. The juvenilia, like a cipher, contain the key to the psychological meaning of the dream-like narratives, the dense imagery, and the complex symbolism found in Charlotte’s later novels.



Brontë, Charlotte