Emily Bronte, Figure 5. Bront, Branwell 1833.
If reading a poem in the gothic style by a woman with prison, shackles, and captives surprised modern readers, it could surprise them even more to learn that the captive was a woman. By presenting a female hostage as “soft and mild / as sculptured marble saint” (Bront, 1846, lines 16–17), Bront instantly challenges the idea of the male captor. The female character in this poem is portrayed in a Petrarchan manner as being innocent, pure, and seductive, but her status as a prisoner is trivialised. A prisoner’s justification for being detained is instantly called into question when she is depicted as a woman and in the language of historical figurations of the beautiful, virtues lady. It is obvious that she has political goals for the poem, which reflects the tyranny that Bront perceived in her time, with all of its upheaval and uprisings. With a jail scenario representing the status of women in Victorian England, the representation of a female hostage further reveals a female-centric approach. The female hostage, constrained by patriarchal restrictions, displays a longing for liberation, for the capacity to express both her passion and her reason without patriarchal restraint. The hostage expresses ideas of freedom in the poem, saying that “a soundless peace descends; the fight of agony, and passionate impatience stops” (Bronte, 1846, lines 44–45), alluding to a release from the restrictions of patriarchal societal freedoms placed on women.
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