Sunday, 17 April 2016

Emily Brontë (ILI): Personality Type Analysis

Emily Jane Brontë was an English poet and writer who lived in the first half of the 19th century, one of the Brontë sisters, along with Charlotte and Anne. Unlike her sisters, Emily published only one book, 'Wuthering Heights', before her death at the age of 30; but that one book is now considered one of the greatest works of English literature.

Like her sisters and her brother, Branwell, Emily grew up in circumstances that encouraged her into spending a lot of time reading and writing. Their father, Patrick, became the curator of the church of the small town of Haworth, in Yorkshire, and he was strict about silence in the house while he worked, so the children got used to spending many hours together in the same room not just reading but also writing their own poems and stories. The Brontë children were in a relatively unusual social situation: their father’s position meant the occupation of a very large house and a comfortable income during his lifetime, but next to nothing in terms of income or estate that he could leave them. Therefore, how the children would support themselves adequately after Patrick Brontë’s death was a question always present in their minds.

For highly-educated and literate girls such as the Brontës, at the time, the most obvious career paths (apart from marriage) were as teacher, or governess in a wealthy household. The three of them did attempt to pursue those careers, but only Anne was fairly successful in such positions – Charlotte had a few such jobs but found them stressful, but not as much as Emily, who quit a teaching position after only about 6 months. It seems that what Charlotte and Emily found stressful was not so much the long working hours but having to deal with unruly children. Trying to improve their credentials so that they could open a small school of their own, Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to study French and German, both making quick progress and impressing the headmaster. However, upon their return to Haworth, their attempt to run their own school failed, largely because of the scarcity of interested students in that isolated area. Emily’s career prospects were more or less settled as she became the curate’s (i.e. at the time, her father) housekeeper, leaving Charlotte as the most worried about her future.

Since childhood, the four children had distracted themselves by creating their own fantasy world and writing poems and stories about it; Emily and Anne focused on a fictional island, 'Gondal'. None of their stories have survived, but from poems and fragments it seems that they were a sort of 'Game of Thrones' thing. Charlotte discovered Emily’s 'Gondal' poems (much to Emily’s annoyance) and suggested that the three girls should publish a collection of their poems, which they did, under the pseudonyms of 'Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell'. Their poetry book was a flop commercially but it encouraged Charlotte to give another try in publishing, this time novels. Charlotte wrote 'The Professor', Emily 'Wuthering Heights' and Anne, 'Agnes Grey'. By the time Emily’s and Anne’s books had found a publisher, and Charlotte’s hadn’t, Charlotte had already completed her second novel, 'Jane Eyre', which became a quick bestseller, far more so than her sister’s books. Eventually 'Wuthering Heights' also became a huge success but Emily Jane died before she would be aware of that.

The available resources for analysing Emily Jane’s type are what is known of her life, testimonies of those who knew her, and, I would argue, her masterpiece 'Wuthering Heights'.  Although its plot, characters, and cultural background are firmly anchored in the Yorkshire moors near Haworth, where Emily liked to go wandering, in fact 'Wuthering Heights' was largely derived from Emily’s fantasy world of Gondal. Unlike Charlotte, who struggled a bit with writing her first two books, Emily seems to have had no difficulty in sitting down and 'translating' into the Yorkshire background some of the characters, and plots, among the many she had already conceived in her mind when thinking and writing about Gondal. In fact, even as she settled down as the curate’s housekeeper, she never lost her interest in her Gondal fantasy world, which she shared mostly with Anne (who however had become less enthusiastic about it). Gondal was Emily Jane’s 'alternate reality', created for her own amusement and refuge. That she spent many years creating and developing one single fantasy world in her mind, a world with little direct connection to her immediate daily surroundings, already points to T rather than I as a quadra value, and even to T as a strong function, so likely T1 or T2.

Some of the basic themes of 'Wuthering Heights' (and so, I have to assume, of her Gondal stories) were: the effects of intense relationships, of deep love and hatred, between a very limited number of characters, over decades, even beyond death; resentment, and revenge, long after the original injuries; the use of wealth as a tool of power and of satisfying revenge. All of those are Gamma themes. Also, the book’s structure to tell a story spanning decades is not chronological, it follows back-and-forth jumps between time periods while focusing on the same narrow number of characters, with the result that the characters’ internal consistency is perceived as going beyond their ages or specific circumstances. That is also a characteristic of Gamma values (R+T). Also, remarkably, the book conveys so accurately the cultural and physical environment of the Yorkshire moors that the Gondal influence was only spotted much later: Emily recorded perfectly the local Yorkshire dialect in the character of Joseph, and the machinations of the character Heathcliff to become the owner of two large properties, based on the archaic law of Entail, are fully consistent with the actual law of the time, according to a legal scholar. That suggests P as a quadra value: Emily felt the need, like a historian, to make sure that the story she created accurately reflected the reality of the environment in which she set it (by contrast, for a new edition of 'Wuthering Heights', Charlotte decided to 'dilute' Joseph’s Yorkshire dialect, sacrificing accuracy for the sake of readability).

As a person, by all accounts, Emily was extremely reserved, shunning broader social contact and preferring to focus on her own Gondal world, her studies of German and French, her daily job as a housekeeper, her immediate family, her pets (cats and dogs), and solitary wanderings in the moors. Apart from her studies in Brussels, she was far less likely than either Charlotte or Anne to travel away from home. Those who knew Charlotte and Emily in Brussels found Charlotte shy and insecure but longing for social contact and making an effort; Emily, by contrast, was seen as deliberately avoiding socialising. In the same context, Charlotte (who was very short and insecure about her looks) made an effort to adapt her attire to the Brussels fashion; Emily couldn’t care less about that and stuck to her 'odd' Yorkshire moors clothes – despite being, by all accounts, the most conventionally pretty of the three sisters. That suggests a much lower focus on E than R.

Two people who knew Emily well have left descriptions of her. Charlotte (likely to have aimed at being as positive as possible) had this to say:

My sister's disposition was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home. Though her feeling for the people round was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought; nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced. And yet she knew them: knew their ways, their language, their family histories; she could hear of them with interest, and talk of them with detail, minute, graphic, and accurate; but WITH them, she rarely exchanged a word.”

Constantin Héger, their Brussels headmaster, commented (in a slightly old-fashioned, sexist way):

She should have been a man – a great navigator. Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never have given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman... impairing this gift was her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned.

Also, it is interesting that for a person who avoided social contact so much, she was confident with 'Wuthering Heights' when writing in the first person from the perspective of characters very different to herself, very convincingly, which suggests that she was indeed very interested in understanding other people and their relationships. This points to Valued R along with the very Weak E - and R as not too weak a function.

All the available information about Emily Brontë points to general Gamma values; to T as an Ego function (T1 or T2), to near non-existing E (so likely E4), and to R as a Valued but Weak function, but not as much as R5, so fitting R6 best. All of it points very clearly to ILI as Emily Jane’s type (and it’s even difficult to find arguments for another type, in my opinion).

Recommended reading and sources: I have relied on Juliet Barker's biography. 'The Brontës', as well as 'Wuthering Heights'. The legal-historical analysis of Heathcliff's manipulation of the law of Entail can be found here. The only certain portraits of Emily Jane are (low-quality) drawings by her brother Branwell; it has been doubted that the picture above does represent her but neither is it certain that it's not her.

To learn more about ILI, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

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