Themes and Characters
A plain, shy, frail girl with vast reserves of pride and determination, Charlotte Bronte is the main character in Girl with a Pen. Her shyness makes her reluctant to leave home, but her handling of the girls in her class at Madame Heger's pensionnat and her trip to London to confront George Smith prove her ability to think quickly and act decisively. Her letter to Robert Southey demonstrates her ambition. She will consult no lesser authority than the poet laureate, and his negative response hurts her pride. Nevertheless, her persistence leads her to continue writing and to mail her novel to London publishers despite the rejections she receives.
While Girl with a Pen is Charlotte Bronte's story, her sisters Emily and Anne also play important roles. Emily, the more forceful personality, combines shyness and brusqueness. She resents any invasion of her privacy, but her kindness to animals reveals a softer side to her nature. When family members approach her tactfully, they persuade her to cooperate in ventures such as the proposed boarding school and the publication of the sisters' poems and stories. Anne seems the most passive of the sisters, but her insistence that their novels be published reflects her determination. Considerably less important is Charlotte's brother, Branwell. He helps to stimulate her youthful imagination and ambition, but his failure adds an element of pain to her success.
Also important in this story are Charlotte's father, Patrick Bronte, and her maternal aunt, Miss Elizabeth Branwell. Patrick's eccentricities—such as unloading his gun by shooting out the back door each morning or refusing to allow curtains, carpets, or dresses of certain fabrics—heighten Charlotte's self-consciousness, and his withdrawal from family life after his wife's death increases both Charlotte's shyness and her desire to win his approval. The narrative depicts Miss Branwell as a stern disciplinarian who attempts to teach the Bronte sisters social graces and financial practicality. Her character is softened by her willingness to assist them in setting up their school, as well as by her...
(The entire section is 869 words.)