We Are Three Sisters: Self and Family in the Writing of the Brontës


While biographers have widely acknowledged the importance of family relationships to the Brontes' writing processes, literary critics have yet to give extensive consideration to the family as a subject of the writing itself. In "We Are Three Sisters, " Drew Lamonica focuses on the role of families in the Brontes' fiction of personal development, exploring the ways in which it recognizes the family as a defining community for selfhood.

Drawing on extensive primary sources, including works by Sarah Ellis, Sarah Lewis, Ann Richelieu Lamb, Harriet Martineau, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, and Elizabeth Gaskell, Lamonica examines the dialogic relationship between the Brontes' novels and a mid-Victorian domestic ideology disseminated in conduct books and home guides that held the family to be the original nurturer of subjectivity. Using a sociohistorical framework, "We Are Three Sisters" shows that the Brontes' novels display a heightened awareness of the complexities of contemporary female experience and the,problems of securing a valued sense of selfhood not wholly dependent on family ties.

Chapter one discusses the mid-Victorian "culture of the family, " in which the Brontes emerged as voices exploring the adequacy of the family as the site for personal, and particularly female, development. Chapter two provides an introduction to the Brontes' early collaborative writings, in order to understand the sisters' shared interest in the family's formative role in the context of their own experience as a family of authors. It also shows the influences of Patrick and Branwell Bronte on the development of their sisters' writing.

Chapters three through seven explore the various constructionsof family in the sisters' novels. Of the numerous studies on the Brontes, comparatively few consider all seven novels together, and no previous study has undertaken to examine the Brontes' writing in the context of mid-Vict