Girl with a Pen Critical Context - Essay

Agnes M. R. Dunlop

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

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.