• Charlotte Brontë's Gothic Fragment: 'The Story of Willie Ellin'

      Wynne, Deborah; University of Chester
      Charlotte Brontë’s eighteen-page fragment, ‘The Story of Willie Ellin’, written shortly after the publication of Villette in 1853, combines the gothic and realism and uses multiple narrators to tell a disturbing story of cruelty towards a child. The generic instability and disordered temporal framework of this fragment make it unlike anything Brontë had previously written, yet it has attracted the attention of few scholars. Those who have discussed it have condemned it as a failure; the later fragment ‘Emma’, also left incomplete by the author’s premature death, has been seen as the more likely beginning of a successor to Villette. ‘The Story of Willie Ellin’ reveals Brontë at her most experimental as she explores the use of different narrative voices, including that of an unnamed genderless ‘ghost’, to tell a story from different perspectives. It also shows Brontë representing a child’s experience of extreme physical abuse which goes far beyond the depictions of chastisement in Jane Eyre (1847). This essay argues that ‘The Story of Willie Ellin’ affords rich insights into Brontë’s ideas and working practices in her final years, suggesting that it should be more widely acknowledged as a unique aspect of Brontë’s oeuvre, revealing the new directions she may have taken had she lived to complete another novel.