The Women of Shirley

        In many works, authors use a type of process to lead towards the end of their work.  In Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley the two major female characters, Shirley Keeldar and Caroline Helstone, go through two different paths.  Social status is the rank, for a better term, of a person in society.  It is where an individual stands in regards to his or her respective community.  Sometimes the presence or lack thereof a prominent business, wealth, political power, or family name plays a major role in a person’s position in society.  Social status can affect an individual’s personality.  Personality is the character of an individual; it includes how a person carries his/her self, attitude, and demeanor.  Personality can affect the individuals’ love life and interests.  It plays a significant role on who an individual is attracted to, as well as who is attracted to said individual. To state this succinctly: Social status can affect personality, and personality can affect someone’s love life and interests.  The goal of this essay is to analyze the processes that Caroline Helstone and Shirley Keeldar go through.  I will specifically analyze the idea of love and relationships regarding both characters.  The aim is to show the paths these women take and how they determine their futures.  

        The title character, Shirley Keeldar, is introduced relatively late in the novel in chapter eleven.  From the moment her character appears on the written page, it is obvious what role she will play: the strong independent woman.  There is an aura that separates Shirley from other women during the nineteenth century in Europe.  She is confident, not solely due to her heiress status but also because, as Bronte states, “Shirley Keeldar was no ugly heiress:  she was agreeable to the eye” (211).  In contrast to Caroline, Shirley seems slightly brighter in many ways; she is slightly taller, better looking, better off financially, and last but not least, not an ordinary woman of the time.  Caroline is of average financial status.  This presence of a prominent family name and business gives Shirley the confidence necessary to be independent and not depend upon a marriage to support her.  This is in direct contrast with Caroline and her struggle with the thought of becoming an old single woman.  Shirley states that Caroline may become “an old maid” and Caroline replies, “I shall be one: it is my destiny…. no one else will ever marry me” (235).  This ‘woe is me’ attitude can be seen throughout the work.  

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        Obviously an individual’s personality is affected by his/her confidence level; confidence level is often times effected by a person’s social status.  Shirley’s strong demeanor is commonly referred to throughout the work.  This is due to her manly attributes.  This is obvious and can be seen in the choice of name given to her at birth.  As Bronte introduces her into the novel, she states, “Shirley Keeldar (she has no Christian name but Shirley: her parents, who had wished to have a son, finding, that after eight years of marriage, Providence had granted them only a daughter, bestowed on her the ...

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