The societal dominance in The Professor by Charlotte Bronte

“That to begin with; let respect be the foundation, affection the first floor, love the superstructure.”- The Professor

With romantic dialogues and contradicting scenarios Charlotte Bronte’s posthumous presentation, The Professor is an attempt at writing with a male’s perspective. An unsophisticated and not so profound, the novel possesses her ensuing representation and writing, culminating the private writings of her. Charlotte, tooling the brevity, stood contradicting the time. She stood challenging the realism. The book is written in the first person, portraying Bronte’s opinion or thought process as a man (the protagonist: William Crimsworth) towards women and staging how a man dealt with life finding for his individuality with no social stature. The novel primarily accounts, the relativity, the relationship between sexual dominance and social identity. With the speculations of this being her first novel, there’s an account of her in which she says, “This little book was written before either “Jane Eyre” or “Shirley”, and yet no indulgence can be solicited for it on the plea of a first attempt. A first attempt it certainly was not, as the pen which wrote it had been previously worn a good deal in a practice of some year. I had not indeed published anything before I commenced “The Professor”………..”

The novel was penned in 1845, but in the previous year a whole new revolution was being initiated. In 1844, a battle to shrive catholic worship was initiated by Johannes Ronge in German states of superstitious practices. In the novel, Crimsworth is a teacher in girls’ school in Brussels pursuing his career in education after unable to endure his sibling’s tyrannical nature. The setting of this later portion depicts catholic practice. The novel challenges the expectations by the representation of its heroine adamant on pursuing with her career of sewing even after marriage. As per the history, this revolution attracted women in large numbers. The aim was simply to empower everyone with equality. It primarily called out for, “full recognition of human dignity, full equality of rights, and for the people, complete sovereignty of the people, which shall give rise to their state institutions.” It became a huge politicized concern. A new dimension of framing the society came up. In nineteenth century a new order, of parity with brethren came into being. Ronge encouraging catholic women raised them to participate fully, which resulted in major participation by non-catholic women as well gradually spreading all over Europe. The division in the catholic system was brought by women, who understood the value of being educated. Following, Luise Otto, “Participation in the interest of the state is not only a right but a duty for women…”

The protagonist, William Crimsworth is a non-catholic and is found criticizing the school girls for their catholic mindsets. “I know nothing of the arcane of the Roman catholic religion, and I am not a bigot in matters of theology, but I suspect the root of this precocious impurity, so obvious, so  general in Popish countries, is to be found in the discipline, if not the doctrines of the church of Rome. I record what I have seen: these girls belonged to what are called the respectable ranks of society; they all have been carefully brought up, yet was the mass of them mentally depraved. So much for the general view: now for one or two selected specimens.”

Further, Crimsworth criticizes even the catholic headmistress Zoraide Reuter, “She has been brought up a catholic: had she been an Englishwoman, and reared a Protestant, might she not have added straight integrity to all her other excellences? Supposing she were to marry an English and Protestant husband, would she not, rational, sensible as she is, quickly acknowledge the superiority of right over expediency, honesty over policy? It would be worth a man’s while to try the experiment, to-morrow I will renew my observations.”

By 1848 however, the development and the aim of advancement, brought women employment opportunities, though with menial wages. The result was assuring, the progress of womanhood. They received respect and became independent in the society. Woman could support themselves as well families or spouse. The work included factory jobs. They could work from home, the garment industry would allow them pieces to complete and earn. Similar was the case of the protagonist’s wife, she would take up the sewing assignments and earned a living. Dissociating with catholic system, the dimensions of the society took different shapes.

The novel brings the readers the reality of the time of nineteenth century, the working conditions of both men and women. The fundamentals of different professions. It brings in spotlight the working conditions of English men and women, the factories and auguring the outset of liberal idealization which led to the European revolution as well. The novel is in itself a masterpiece, if not satisfying to the other novels of the same author.

The text is said to be of a similar plot to “Villette”. The readers find it easy to criticize The Professor for the reasons encountered in comparison among both. Due to the unsuccessful reviews to The Professor, even the critical body is found to be smaller than other books by her.

Charlotte Bronte has been criticized for her immature write up, but on the flip side it seems to be a product of intentional realist novel. She has very finely depicted the working class of nineteenth century with the social conditions of women. Though a narrative through the lenses of a male, the storyline justifies the historical aspects. A narrative by a male voice brings readers closer to the idea of male dominance. The text shows us the side of a male if oppressed, if given sensitive scenarios to tackle and live in.

The novel is a route to a man’s head. Breaking the stereotypes of only females always being subjected to societal hardships, emotional pressure and a search for self in a hard earned world; the novel stands apart. She wanted to pen down a “history of suffering.”

“A man is master of himself to a certain point, but not beyond it.” – The Professor





2 thoughts on “The societal dominance in The Professor by Charlotte Bronte”

  1. It is perhaps the only novel in which Charlotte dares to talk through a man’s point of view signifying hypocrisy of the English Society where the only way to survive is following one’s ideals. This essay is well interpreted and it’s simplicity adds to a clear understanding of the novel. Well done!


  2. The Professor is written by Bronte with her own experiences. And it is explained well enough in this research work. Like it is said in this essay, ” The novel is,obviously, a route to man’s head”. Well explained!


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