Charlotte and Anne Brontë’s Visions of Religion, Conventionality, and Morality
In this thesis I explore how religion shapes moral awareness and agency in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. After briefly discussing the religious and philosophical framework of moral agency in the nineteenth century, I examine Jane Eyre’s questioning of the relationship between religion, conventionality, and morality by examining key passages in which Jane’s most decisive actions are framed within religious language and moral awakening. In the third chapter, I explore how Helen Huntingdon’s view of feminine morality affects her agency, paying particular attention to her response to definitions of femininity which limit her spiritual integrity. In the fourth chapter and conclusion I compare the endings of the two novels and examine the ways in which reading the development of the female characters’ moral agency through the lens of religion expands our interpretation of their radical individuality and social critique.