6 Times The Brontës Were a Big Mood

By: Sam Fletcher, September 6th, 2023 10:09 am.

What can you say about the Brontë sisters that hasn’t been said a thousand times already? One of the most important literary families in history, it was not one, but three geniuses making their mark. Hitting back against social conventions, the Brontës were renowned for their conviction and clarity.

Unsurpassed, they gave women a voice with their mastery of the English language. And it’s no accident that they remain standard classroom texts.

Okay, that’s the red carpet done. Now it’s time to get down to the top moments that really stand out, with spoilers (obviously).


The slamming of Helen’s bedroom door – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)

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People have been re-evaluating this novel for some time now, and there’s still some way to go. The ending struck a powerful chord on its release, so much so that it’s widely regarded as being one of the first feminist novels. Running contrary to the doctrine that ‘women must stay with their husbands to the bitter end,’ Anne Brontë ruffled lots of feathers (including her own sisters).

Dealing with alcoholism and domestic abuse, it’s powerfully direct. And just mentioning these issues was scandalous. Then, to top it off with a slam of the door that apparently ‘reverberated through Victorian England,’ Anne shut the door on all abusive husbands of the era.


Lovers across the moors – Wuthering Heights (1847)

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This is the Gothic classic (not the Kate Bush classic) of unbridled passion across the murky moors. It was also the only novel that Emily Brontë published during her lifetime.

In it, Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff are star-crossed lovers yearning for each other. The West Yorkshire moorland provides the perfect backdrop for their tormented love, becoming a character in its own right. Tearing deliriously through the wind and rain, Catherine loses herself in the darkness of the moorland after Heathcliff vanishes.

Later their ghosts haunt the moors as lovers forever more.


‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will’ – Jane Eyre (1847)

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Getting inside the mind of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë pushed the boundaries with her coming-of-age novel. The line ‘I am no bird’ encapsulates female empowerment, bucking against the patriarchy (this being the buttoned-up Victorian era after all).

Standing up for herself, Jane delivers the line to Mr. Rochester after he demands she stop struggling ‘like a frantic bird.’ She plans to quit as his governess, but everything changes once he proposes. Jane sees birds as being vulnerable, while Rochester sees them as wild and untamed.

But Jane’s not having any of this, giving him a piece of her mind straight.


Heathcliff and Catherine’s coffin – Wuthering Heights (1847)

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While rural Yorkshire provides the perfect atmosphere, it was Heathcliff mourning over Catherine’s coffin that brings some truly stand-out moments. I will mention Catherine’s ghost near the beginning as well, as that often gets overlooked in establishing an ambiance.

But Heathcliff dealing with Catherine’s death is where it begins to transgress boundaries, even by today’s standards. Showing an unhealthy obsession with her body, he asks the priest to remove her coffin’s lid. Later he attempts to embrace her by digging down, but fortunately never arrives.

Well, this story was famous for not holding back emotions.



Mercy killing a bird – Agnes Grey (1847)

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While all three sisters debuted together, it’s believed this overlooked novel by Anne Brontë was the first full work of prose they published. Many also believe it was an inspiration for Jane Eyre.

In it, Agnes Grey works in the service of English gentry families as their governess. One particularly privileged brat is Tom Bloomfield who’s yet again torturing animals. He’s got the idea from his equally awful family that ‘might is right.’ Now he’s looking down on a nest of baby birds with sadistic glee. Failing to talk sense into him, Agnes decides enough is enough and drops a rock on them putting them out of their misery.

It remains a brutal scene, so you can imagine the reaction back then. It’s still crucial in defining the cruelty of human nature behind the facade of respectability. And, very likely, based on real experiences from Anne’s work as a governess for the rich.


‘If life be a war, it seemed my destiny to conduct it single-handed’ – Villette (1853)

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So it’s maybe not the best quote, but it’s one that perfectly sums up Lucy Snowe’s character and her struggle against the odds. Like many of Charlotte’s leading ladies, she’s not accepting her lot in life lying down.

Heading off to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette, Lucy Snowe will teach there. Looking at themes of isolation and repressive gender values, Lucy steps up holding her own.

And that’s where this quote comes in.

Not only does it help summarize Lucy’s character, but it also captures the struggles of the Brontë heroines fighting back against the world.

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