"I felt glad to have it in my power to torment her": The Significance of the Male Villain in Brontes' Works
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This dissertation will analyse the role of the male villain in the following primary texts: Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848). The male antagonists of these texts will be explored in relation to their violence and crime, sin and revenge, and redemption; additionally this dissertation will compare their representation with other Victorian villains, to understand why these antagonists have enduring significance in contemporary society. This investigation will apply a historical and cultural analysis to the texts, in order to evaluate the role of the Brontës’ male villains in relation to Victorian customs. Consequently, this dissertation challenges Suzanne Hesse’s (2004,no page) belief that the stereotypical Victorian male was an ‘honourable’ gentleman, and will therefore demonstrate that the Brontës, in addition to other Victorian writers,portrayed the real villain within society. This dissertation will focus on Rochester, Heathcliff and Huntingdon as the male villains from the Brontës’ works. The opening chapter, ‘Violence and Crime’, begins with a psychological understanding for the root of the characters’ later crimes. This analysis will continue into the next chapter to investigate the ways in which they openly sin against God. The final chapter explores how the villains are punished for their sins, and whether they can achieve any form of salvation whilst placing its relevance to Victorian values. Having analysed the motivations and actions of the three villains from the novels, whilst comparing the allusion to conditions in society at the time, this dissertation will conclude that the significance of the male villain in Brontës’ works reveals a complex human figure that is both dangerous and sympathetic.
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