In her novel The Professor, author Charlotte Bronte details and develops the life and experiences of narrator and main character William Crimsworth.

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Elsbeth Loughrey

Writing 125

February 19, 2002

        In her novel The Professor, author Charlotte Bronte details and develops the life and experiences of narrator and main character William Crimsworth.  After graduating from Eton College in England, Crimsworth is in need of an occupation.  He stubbornly refuses offers from his uncles, and consequently finds himself with no other choice than to work for his tyrannical brother in the menial position of clerk.  However, his conditions soon become unbearable, and through an acquaintance’s recommendation, William secures himself employment as a professor at a boys’ school in Brussels.  William’s arrival in Belgium presents him with new opportunities both professionally and personally, as he almost immediately meets two women who are to change his existence dramatically: Zoraide Reuter and Frances Henri.  

Bronte creates and emphasizes many differences and similarities between these two women using various techniques and methods, which primarily include comparison and contrast.  Zoraide and Frances each have their own significant and individual role in the life of and interaction with William Crimsworth.  Each woman possesses different kinds of physical and mental attributes, comes from a unique background, and enters into and affects his life in a contrasting way.  These differences, along with a few similarities, are explored through the author’s use of imagery and irony.

Initially, Zoraide and Frances become involved in Crimsworth’s life in completely dissimilar ways.  These conditions reflect a hint of irony, as their initial roles are complete reversals of their ultimate functions.  Zoraide and William’s initial encounter is one that has been arranged by her mother, who has offered him a teaching position at the girls’ school over which Zoraide presides as directress.  Thus, Zoraide appears suddenly and pronouncedly; the importance of her and Crimsworth’s interactions, and her influence upon his life and work are immediately made evident.  Their relationship is established as one in which she is his superior both in position and in age.  However, a romantic possibility is also suggested in the scene containing their introduction.  While walking together in her garden, William implicitly compares Mdlle. Reuter’s form to the “well-trimmed beds and budding shrubberies” of her garden, and her complexion to “the bloom on a good apple” (108).  William and Zoraide’s affections are further developed in this natural setting, as the majority of their romantic interactions take place in her garden, a sort of forbidden Garden of Eden into which she allows him access.  The nature and plant imagery that pervades his descriptions is continued throughout the novel and is also used in portrayals of the other primarily influential character in his life: Mdlle. Frances Henri.

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As opposed to the entrance of Mdlle. Reuter, Frances arrives in William’s life quietly and without notice as a sewing teacher of whom he has previously observed but never taken notice.  This condition is made evident in his statement, “A…maitresse I sometimes saw…but of her I never had a more than passing glimpse…I had no opportunity of studying her character or…observing her person” (132-133).  Her important and influential role develops gradually throughout the subsequent months.  She later becomes one of his pupils, thus establishing their relationship as one in which William is the superior: he is the authoritarian teacher and ...

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