I have now finished reading every work by Charlotte Brontë that I can get my hands on. Her novels have been my old companions for years, her poetry took me no time to delve into at all, and now I have come to the end of my study of her juvenilia, the short stories and novellas she wrote in her teenage years. I’ve recently written detailed reviews of The Secret, The Spell and The Foundling, and today I’ll be documenting my thoughts on The Green Dwarf, written down as I was in the process of reading.
I have to say, I had higher hopes for The Green Dwarf, probably because it’s green. I really hoped that it would be my favourite of the four juvenile works I own, but unfortunately, it wasn’t. I found that there were too many loose threads, too many moments of seemingly random narration that I couldn’t make sense of. The plot jumps around a lot, and although everything is pretty clearly connected at the end, the process of reading isn’t all that smooth because of the various stories that don’t seem totally related initially.
But, let’s not forget that this is a novella by Charlotte Brontë, and so I loved it even if it wasn’t my absolute favourite. The style is so totally Charlotte that I enjoyed the cadence of the sentences, and I appreciate that Charlotte puts such intricate detail into each of her characters. The novella tries to accomplish a lot, and it delivers a few surprises in the end, so overall, I did enjoy it. I just preferred her other novellas and stories to this one.
Here are my notes, written while reading The Green Dwarf:
- Charles Wellesley is this story’s narrator too (along with The Spell) = he has been sick and this explains why he has not written in awhile = mirrors CB’s life because she was away at Roe Head School.
- a random and slow start = what does Charles’ day have to do with the story the synopsis describes?
- reference to feud between Charles and Captain Tree (narrator of The Foundling) = CB writes as two enemies, depending on her mood I suppose.
- Marquis of Douro (Arthur, Charles’ brother = also Zamorna) is featured! = antipathy between the two brothers.
- “Of course, Bud, according to the universal fashion of storytellers, refused at first…” = Wellesley is planning to tell story told to him by Bud, not “in the original form of words…but strictly preserving the sense and facts.” = some artistic license to the narrator.
- conversation between Bud and Gifford is so random! I have no idea what it has to do with the story in the synopsis!
- Lady Emily Charlesworth has enormous potential and mental faculties BUT, as a woman, she is doomed to be married and focus on pretty, feminine accomplishments. “…that’s the way of all women. They think of nothing but being married, while learning is as dust in the balance.”
- anecdote about Napoleon is VERY random and out of place! So far, the structure and trajectory of this story confuses me immensely!
- Lady Emily = “Her form was exquisitely elegant, though not above the middle size…” = another small but beautiful woman.
- episode of boy selling his soul to the devil is very random (if that’s even what’s happening) and seems unnecessary = lots of moments in the story do not “fit” together!
- Lady Emily’s lineage is confusing and inconsistent = is Lord Charlesworth her only relative or is Bravey her uncle, as CB indicates in the passage about the African Olympic Games?!
- S’death visiting Colonel Percy = another random, loose thread to the story.
- “Rogue – Percy, I mean…” = another narrator reveals a character’s true identity = is Colonel Percy none other than Alexander Rogue (Marquis of Douro/Zamorna’s enemy from The Foundling)?
- detailing of history of Ashantee tribes and prince Quashie is evidence of Charlotte’s admirable commitment to creating vast backgrounds for each of her characters – and keeping them all straight! However, this divergence from the main plot seems very random and it is hard to tell where in chronology it belongs!
- “It may now be as well to connect the broken thread of my rambling narrative before I proceed further.”
- details of Duke of Wellington’s war with Ashantees seem so out of place in this “love story” = they could form a different work altogether!
- the threads tie up rather conveniently and too quickly…BUT then CB has some surprises in store! [SPOILERS!] = Colonel Percy is in fact Zamorna’s enemy Alexander Rogue! = and Andrew (main character’s servant, the green dwarf) is Captain Tree (Charles Wellesley’s enemy and the narrator of The Foundling).
To sum up my thoughts on the story, I have to say that the surprises at the end were worth the journey. It’s a small text, amounting to just over 100 pages, and so it is definitely a fun and light ride that reveals much of Charlotte’s experimentation and growth as a writer.
My final comment on Charlotte Brontë’s juvenilia will be to rank the stories in order of my preference…
4) The Green Dwarf
3) The Foundling
2) The Secret
1) The Spell
I would definitely recommend any and all of these texts to true fans of Miss Brontë! It is fascinating to get into the mind of the young Charlotte, and it develops an intimacy between the reader and this formidable Victorian author that is valuable beyond words.
Girl with a Green Heart