Brontë's second published novel, written after the success of Jane Eyre, is set inYorkshire around 1812 in the midst of the Yorkshire textile industry. The novel uses the traditionally masculine name of Shirley for a female character, popularizing the name for females in generations to come. The book follows two different women, the wealthy Shirley Keeldar and impoverished Caroline Helstone, as they attempt to find their identities in life. In contrast to the first person style Brontë utilizes in Jane Eyre, Shirley is narrated by an omniscient third-person narrator.
If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend.