Critical Evaluation

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 471

Charlotte Brontë’s first novel, THE PROFESSOR, if compared to her mature, well-structured works like JANE EYRE, SHIRLEY, and VILLETTE, does fall short in many respects. It fails in balance, character motivation, dynamic moral testing of its hero, and an unskillful author intrusion.

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Its length, neither that of a novel nor a short story, may account for some of these defects. In a full-length novel, Brontë might have worked out better proportion in both the English and Belgian episodes and had time to lengthen or shorten other episodes, such as Crimsworth’s meetings with Mlle Henri. Often the reader feels oppressed by prolonged set descriptions, such as the narrator’s extensive delineation of his three students (Eulalie, Hortense, and Caroline) and the conference with M. Pelet and Mlle Reuter. These might not seem so awkward and irrelevant had the work been longer and contained more characters. Often Brontë spends care on such scenes that have no great bearing on the plot at all. After she makes a close drawing of Edward Crimsworth and his wife, they practically drop from sight; only are they briefly reported on by Yorke Hunsden on his first visit to Brussels.

In fact, Crimsworth’s two entirely different experiences in England and Belgium have little connection, united merely by the slender thread of Hunsden’s friendship. Without rational motivation and after months of silence, Hunsden suddenly writes and appears at Crimsworth’s door. The quite contrived introduction of M. Vandenhuten and his son (rescued earlier from drowning by Crimsworth) are used only as a means of Crimsworth’s getting a job after leaving M. Pelet’s school. They function not at all before or afterward.

The hero himself meets with no impossible choices or tragedies. All is low-key, purposefully drawn so by Brontë. Crimsworth, her narrator, retains a balanced, even...

(The entire section contains 471 words.)

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The Professor, Charlotte Brontë