Charlotte Brontë · Shirley
Shirley opens with a robustly drawn 'then and now' framework. 'Of late years,' the unidentified narrator tells us, 'an abundant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England . . . but in eighteen-hundred- eleven-twelve that affluent rain had not descended.' Shirley's 'then' is self-evidently 1811-12. Its 'now' (as Brontë's subsequent reference to the Oxford Movement makes clear) is the period of writing and first publication of the novel, 1848-9. The location of the novel is as precisely staked out--the West Riding of Yorkshire, a setting from which the narrative will not stray by so much as a yard into any neighbouring county.
In her opening paragraphs, the narrator (a Yorkshire- woman, as we deduce) promises a story strenuously purged of sensational event:
Do you anticipate sentiment, and poetry, and reverie? Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama? Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard. Something real, cool, and solid, lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning. (p. 1)
This promise is belied by the novel which follows. Shirley is passionate, stimulating, and melodramatic: a page-turner; as a modern publicist would say. Much is compressed into the eighteen months of chronological time which the narrative covers ( February 1811 to August 1812). Caroline Helstone almost dies for frustrated love of Robert and discovers her long-lost mother in the shape of Mrs Pryor
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?More Puzzles in Classic Fiction. Contributors: John Sutherland - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 88.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.