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‘Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within as on the state of things without and around us.’
Considered one of her less well-known novels, Shirley is Charlotte Brontė’s only historical work, set during the Napoleonic Wars. Wealthy and independent, Shirley is very different from her friend Caroline, who has few prospects and is dependent on her uncle. Struggling mill owner Robert Moore considers marriage to the monied Shirley in order to secure his financial future; however, it is Caroline who he loves, while Shirley has fallen for Robert’s brother, an impoverished tutor who is deemed an unsuitable match for her. Unsentimental, yet unflinching in her honest portrayal of love, class conflict and identity, Brontė uses the backdrop of her beloved Yorkshire to play out the tensions and dramas of a society facing social and industrial upheaval.
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Following the tremendous popular success of Jane Eyre, which earned her lifelong notoriety as a moral revolutionary, Charlotte Bronte vowed to write a sweeping social chronicle that focused on "something real and unromantic as Monday morning". Set in the industrializing England of the Napoleonic wars and Luddite revolts of 1811-12, Shirley (1849) is the story of two contrasting heroines. One is the shy Caroline Helstone, who is trapped in the oppressive atmosphere of a Yorkshire rectory and whose bare life symbolizes the plight of single women in the nineteenth century. The other is the vivacious Shirley Keeldar, who inherits a local estate and whose wealth liberates her from convention. A work that combines social commentary with the more private preoccupations of Jane Eyre, Shirley demonstrates the full range of Bronte's literary talent.About the Author:
Charlotte Brontė (1816–1855) was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontė sister authors. Her novels are considered masterpieces of English literature – the most famous of which is Jane Eyre.
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