Religion is part of the texture of Charlotte Brontë’s novels as it was of her mind. The daughter of a clergyman, with strong Wesleyan connections on her mother’s side, and throughout most of her life frequently in the society of churchmen, one of whom she eventually married, brought up in a God-fearing household, educated at schools where religious principles were strongly upheld, she could hardly have ignored religion; it was the medium in which she lived. The impact on her writing is subtle but profound. Her novels do not discuss faith or theology, or argue principle. They do not even concern themselves with simple morality. But her characters are generally conscious of the demands of conscience; they are concerned with right behaviour. There is always, in her work, the sense of an enfolding providence, and her characters think of their lives as having purpose and direction. The concern with religion is therefore a general one: though her characters sometimes worry themselves over doctrinal differences, it is not apparent that they cause the author much anxiety. Only in Villette is the clash of Rome and Canterbury crucial: the earlier novels treat religion less specifically. The powerful influence of religion comes across most clearly in her style.
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