3.85* out of 5 to The Professor By Charlotte Bronte.
Well, to begin with I took up this book solely for the fact that it was a Charlotte Bronte work and having read Jane Eyre I had much higher expectations from The Professor as well. I say had because sadly it was not on the same level as Jane Eyre. If I keep it independent of Jane Eyre, I do acknowledge it as a nice work, and being a first it is no doubt a commendable effort.
The book is a narrative of Mr. William Chrimsworth, who is The Professor, and I must acknowledge that Charlotte Bronte had done the difficult task of writing from a man’s perspective and that too in such an era. Also, at the same time this narrative had given Bronte freedom to pen a man’s thoughts on various feelings chief of which was the narrator’s acknowledging the attractions to the female sex and his very close observations of them, which she would have been unable to accomplish had she written a regular story in third person or if it was a woman’s narrative.
It’s the story about the orphaned William Crimsworth who is trying to figure out what place of the society he would fit in or rather what profession would put him in the way to lead a life of his liking with no constraints and where he could enjoy his freedom and his life the way he wants. It is about his growth and self-awareness. How he understands his situation in life and how he strives to make a position for himself form the chief components of the story. Being a very realistic story you will not find a very attractive and dashing hero with unimaginable and extraordinary good looks with exquisite qualities and tremendous wealth but he is a very ordinary looking man, with no connections and no means at all and he understands this and also the fact that if he wants to live a good life, he will have to strive for it and make his own way. The thing I liked about his character is that he is very real. Not just about physical appearances, but his thinking and way of life. He acknowledges that he is not a stoic and that he can very well succumb to the wiles of beauty, he also pays very close attention to every detail of a girl’s appearance. At the same time he is very diligent and just to have the girl of his choice for his wife he keeps all qualms to bay and with his determined struggle endeavours to achieve his dream.
The story of the book is about ordinary people without influences and fortune trying to make a place for their selves in Society through sheer endurance and hard work in order to live a calm and peaceful life they dream of in some future period of time. There is no beautification and no unrealistic fancies. No rosy picture, this book. Regular people determined to lead their regular lives and make ends meet is the basic theme of the book.
Some parts of the book are really very interesting. Like the initial part of the book where he is very unnaturally treated in a brutal fashion by his own brother is very touching. How he trembles with excitement just to meet his only brother but is bitterly disappointed and just how he gazes at his late mother’s portrait would speak a lot about his character. I loved it when after enduring for long, William does give him an eye for an eye and had actually wanted him to plant a punch or two in his brother’s face! Also, the phase when Frances Henri enters William’s life and the initiation and growth of their relationship and how he strives to be more worthy of having her as his wife are very interesting.
From William’s narrative, Frances Henri comes up to the reader’s mind with an impression of being a very strong willed, educated and hard working person. She bears immense endurance to life’s troubles and is seen as being very progressive. She is not a beauty, but she is very intelligent and that is what attracts William to her. William’s influence over her mind and her personality can be seen in the gradual progress she makes through her career and her eventual success. She bears extreme respect for William which is very apparent from the regard she always bestows upon him and their relationship seems perfect and they completely suit each other.
Mademoiselle Reuter and Monsieur Pelet are two very deceptive individuals. Mdle Reuter though being very calm and grave on the front succumbs to the charm of William when he seems unreachable and treats her with indifference and goes to lengths just to alienate him from Frances. M Pelet is a two faced man who shows his true colours when he gets insecure of Mdle Reuter’s regard for him. They teach William some toughest lessons in life.
The character of Mr. Yorke Hansden is different and the relationship he shares with William is unlike we come across usually. Major progress in fact in William’s life is because of the push he gets through Hansden’s influence. William neither ever acknowledges his favours nor a relationship with him but towards the end it is indeed felt that he plays a very close part in their lives, and when they do settle down, it is he who is closest to them.
One important thing for any future readers of the book is to know that there are many conversations and sentences purely in the French language, so if you have knowledge of the same it is very well, others may please keep a translator at hand.
The book is good, but why didn’t I give it a complete 5*? The reason for that is fairly simple: the book has at many places indiscriminately criticized The Roman Catholic Faith, which according to me is very offensive. I don’t know whether at that time any objection was raised at this point, but it is sadly not the thing I like. Things go a trifle hurriedly towards the end of the book and a span of a decade is covered in a very few lines. That gives a sense of being rushed to the end. Being the narrative of his self, we never get to understand the perspectives of the other characters of the book throughout the story.
Being the book of such a prolific writer as Charlotte Bronte, the book has to be read by lovers of her genre of writing. There is a certain charm in her writing, and the realism is more relevant to the lives we currently live and reading her works gives us a view of how majority of the world lived at that point of time, and sadly in many cases, even does now!