In an afterword, Kyle states that she hopes to awaken interest in a remarkable girl who wrote remarkable books. Her account of the happier aspects of Brontë’s life was approved by the president of the Brontë Society, who read the original manuscript and provided help and advice to the author. As she describes her subject’s development as a woman and an artist, Kyle attempts to inspire young female readers to achieve their own potentials. Kyle establishes Brontë, who overcame her severe shyness and the isolation of her family circumstances to become a recognized author, as a model for contemporary readers.
Kyle writes that her book is a version of Brontë’s story rather than a factual narrative of her life; it can be only loosely categorized as biography because Kyle ignores much known information and weaves large portions of Brontë’s fictions into the book. Yet her sympathetic, and often imaginative, rendering of Brontë’s thoughts and actions does not allow her young readers to understand fully the author of Jane Eyre. Kyle leaves out many significant family occurrences, particularly the early deaths of Brontë’s mother and two older sisters and the progressively debauched behavior of her brother, Branwell. Removing Branwell from the story leaves quite a gap in any account of Charlotte Brontë’s development as a writer, since it was with him that she first collaborated on the childhood stories of Angria.
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Kyle creates a story out of the facts of Brontë’s life, a story that is intended to show that young people with dreams can persist and succeed in difficult circumstances. The author correctly shows that Brontë was most often the one who motivated her sisters and thought of practical ways for them to pursue their careers, either as teachers or as writers. Kyle apologizes for leaving Anne and Emily in the background of her book, but she does not acknowledge that she has also left bits of Charlotte’s character out of the picture as well.
As a corrective to another sort of biography, however, Kyle’s work remains important. Biographies of Brontë through the 1960’s tended to emphasize the tragic occurrences in her life. Beginning with the early deaths of her mother and older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, these biographies tend to dwell on the consequent deaths of Branwell, Emily, and Anne and their devastating effect on Charlotte. Seen as the sole remaining child in a perpetually grief-stricken home, Brontë becomes a passive heroine rather than the feisty, determined young woman whom Kyle presents to her readers. As a model for contemporary young people, Kyle’s Brontë conveys suitable independence of spirit and freedom from repressive societal rules, especially those that serve to restrict women’s choices. Girl with a Pen should not, however, be accepted as biographically accurate or as free from bias.