Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (Ph.D)



First Advisor

Rachel Hollander

Second Advisor

Amy M King

Third Advisor

Granville Ganter


The dissertation approaches feminism and identity in the novels of the Brontë sisters, in which characters have struggled with the tension between outsider and insider. The study will discuss, in Part I, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) and Villette (1853), and in Part II, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), seen through multiple lenses such as feminism, psychoanalysis, postcolonialism, etc. Various versions of powerless male protagonists in the Brontës are examined, for they help illuminate the situation of the female protagonists. Marginal males try to take over the central position by using the marriage system while domestically marginalized women similarly try to win the center by pushing colonial others to the periphery. I address the tensions between feminist and postcolonial readings within the socio-economic and psychoanalytic domains. To approach the issue of feminism and identity behind those authors’ creation of their characters, the study begins with the analysis of the issue of what I call “reality” and “appearance,” which are the keywords of my study. What makes my study new is the element of “interchangeability” between reality and appearance. To prove how this mechanism is reflected in the novels, the study applies Lacanian theories to illuminate the novels, which can help me argue the relationship between reality and appearance using Lacan’s L-Scheme, and the mechanism of deceiving eyes using his theory of the gaze. I view the definition of appearance as the mirror image of reality, for one might most likely believe visible elements as reality. Another key element that makes my study new is reading the novels from the viewpoint of narcissism. When the argument develops into narcissism, I observe not only overt narcissism but covert narcissism. This analysis views the struggle of the Brontës’ characters as epitomizing the effort of human beings living in that time to create identities, contrary to the norms of a patriarchal society; when the study develops to the issue of narcissism, we will find the struggles of characters are not merely the victims of the patriarchal family but dysfunctional family.