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"Created for our convenience": Human use of animals in the novels of Anne Brontë
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 23:19 authored by Elizabeth King
Depictions of human use of animals form an important aspect of Anne Brontë's broader critique of structures of control and domination in her society. From working horses to lap dogs to hunted prey, her representations of animals dominated by human characters reveal an underlying critique of a society governed by an instrumental attitude to animals. Harriet Ritvo has noted the general Victorian understanding that animals "had been created for human use" ("Learning" 37). This thesis explores how Brontë critically engages with the idea that animals exist in order to be used by people and her examination of how the otherness of animal experience is used to justify practices of domination. Beginning with Brontë's scenes of overt violence against animals, I draw out how these scenes expose the position of animals within human society. In the second chapter I consider Brontë's interrogation of contrasting structures of control that inform relationships between humans and domestic animals. Finally, I examine her exploration of alternative ways of relating to animals, and her positive engagement with both relations of use and understandings of difference between human and animal experience. In all three chapters, I examine her representations of physical use of animals, as well as how she interrogates the conceptual use of animals within figurative language. This discussion focuses on both Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.