illustrated portrait of English author Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë

Start Free Trial

What is the message in Charlotte Brontë's poem "Life"?

Quick answer:

The attitude to life that Charlotte Brontë is recommending in the poem “Life” is one of hope and optimism. The poet acknowledges that there are dark moments in life but that they will eventually pass. Instead of succumbing to despair, we should bear the trials of life with fearlessness and courage.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The message in Charlotte Brontë’s poem “Life” is that we should be hopeful rather than hopeless and optimistic rather than pessimistic. In the first stanza, Brontë lists a series of weather events which are usually perceived as negative and shows why each should in fact be perceived as positive. When “clouds of gloom” gather overhead, she says we should remember that they are “transient all,” and that these showers “will make the roses bloom.” The clouds are, of course, metaphorical and allude generally to hard times. Likewise, the roses are metaphorical and allude generally to good times. The message is firstly that bad times will soon enough give way to good ones, and also that bad times are often necessary precursors to good ones.

In the third stanza, Brontë describes hope as “elastic,” meaning that no matter what pressure is exerted upon it, hope will always return. Hope is then described as having “golden wings . . . strong to bear us well.” The message of the poem is emphasized in the final line, in which Brontë asserts that “courage can quell despair!” The tone here is rather defiant. It’s as if Brontë refuses to accept the dominion of death and sorrow and instead is determined to see only hope and courage.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The central message of the poem "Life" by Charlotte Brontë is optimism. Brontë talks about the transience of negative situations, advocating for a "This too shall pass" attitude towards them.

She says that life is not "So dark as sages say." Like most poets, she uses rain to symbolize the troubles of life, but she says that the rain often "Foretells a pleasant day" and causes flowers to bloom, so there is no reason to "lament its fall." In other words, bad things happen for a reason, and for every cloud, there is a silver lining.

She says that even if death takes away our loved ones, and sorrow "seems to win, / O'er hope," hope—personified here as an angel or other celestial being with wings—will always return, bouncing back like elastic.

Finally, she urges us to bear our troubles as stalwartly as we can, for "victoriously, / Can courage quell despair."

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Explain the attitude to life that Charlotte Brontë is recommending in the poem "Life."

“Life” by Charlotte Brontë encourages in the reader an attitude of hope and optimism towards life and its numerous trials and tribulations. Although she readily acknowledges that life has more than its fair share of ups and downs, Brontë believes that the various hurdles we encounter can be overcome if only we develop the right attitude.

To some, this may seem something of a complacent attitude. But Brontë wants us to focus on the bigger picture, as it were, to recognize the fleeting nature of all the many bad things that happen to us:

Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?

As these lines indicate, the bad things in life will not only pass away eventually but will also generate good. Brontë uses the image of roses in relation to a shower of rain to illustrate her point. We wouldn't have all those nice pretty roses blooming if no rain ever fell. By the same token, the good will often come out of the bad. Under such circumstances, it's pointless to give in to gloom.

Each day is a trial, with all the potential difficulties that that entails. But Brontë believes that the best way of dealing with such problems is to face up to them with courage and fearlessness.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the message of the poem "Life" by Charlotte Bronte?

Initially, the narrator suggests that sometimes life can seem bleak but then the sadness gives way to happier times. She says, "Oft a little morning rain / Foretells a pleasant day." In other words, things might look dark in one moment, but, soon, the darkness dissipates and everything gets bright again. Further, she says, "Sometimes there are clouds of gloom, / But these are transient all." The gloomy times will always pass and lead to happier ones. In fact, the happy times will pass too, and so that is all the more reason we should enjoy them while we have them. She says that we must "Enjoy them as they fly!" At some point, the good times end, and "Death . . . steps in" or "sorrow seems to win"; soon enough, however, "Hope again elastic springs." Hope is "buoyant" and will always return to carry us with its "golden wings." Everything is "transient" then—the good times and the bad, the bright moments as well as the dark—all we must do is keep our courage about us, because it will "quell despair," according to this narrator.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the message of the poem "Life" by Charlotte Bronte?

Bronte's speaker asserts that the way to look at life is optimistically; moreover, she believes that hard times actually make us stronger. She claims that the hard times in life will be fleeting. She also puts forth the belief that experiencing the hard times is what make the good times enjoyable.

The speaker also makes the point that life passes very quickly, and so it is important to spend one's days as cheerfully as possible. She acknowledges that when we lose the ones we care about, we can question the point of life, but she reiterates her belief that hope will return, and that we should embrace it when it does.

The speaker's final words are an exhortation to not shrink from hard times, but to meet them "manfully, fearlessly," because courage can "quell despair."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on