The Professor

The Professor - Charlotte Brontë It was good to be back in Brontë-land, even early Brontë. Few authors have that passionate, idiomatic sweep of phrase; it was intriguing to hear this voice coming from a male instead of a female narrator. Other people have summarized at length the various irritants to a modern or liberal reader - the anti-Catholicism, the anti-Flemish scorn - so I won't go on about it here, other than to say it sounds as though Charlotte must have had a pretty miserable time in Brussels. The English Protestant tub-thumping is annoying, but after all, look at her family background.

That said, the element of the romance that most intrigued me here was the much-insisted-upon inequality of the master-student romance, especially as told from the masculine side. On one hand, this feminist is irritated as all get out by power inequality in a relationship when it's presented as the social norm. But there's more going on here, and it reminds me a little bit of C.S. Lewis' musings in one of his sci-fi novels about the eroticism of inequality. There's something of this in Jane Eyre too, but it's magnified here because our narrator is actually looking at and describing his ever-so-slyly-rebellious submissive, not *being* her. Where I always parted ways with Lewis, and I suppose where I part ways with Charlotte Bronte as well, is the implicit assumption that the inequality must always be in favour of the male. The one female in power in this novel, and she's quite a force, is given almost no redeeming qualities - she's a manipulator through and through.

I was pleasantly surprised, in the denouement, that William allowed Frances to continue her teaching career after their marriage, despite his newfound financial stability - and indeed, even after they had their baby, who struck me as being a bit of an afterthought, frankly!