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Jane Eyre, the Victorian Cinderella

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Jane Eyre, the Victorian Cinderella

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Do you know a child that would not be able to continue the well known opening phrase of various fairy tales ‘Once upon a time...'? One thing every society, culture and nation has in common is a wealth of fairy stories and folk tales of our ancestors that are part of our collective consciousness and subconscious thoughts. The serious interest in folklore among the British intellects was spurred by the translation of the stories, in 1823, collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Adults were originally as likely as children to be the intended audience of the fairy stories and the folk tales which evidently resulted in providing ‘not only pleasure but form and inspiration'(1) to those successful voices such as Charlotte Bronte's in Jane Eyre, that can be viewed in many ways as a variation of Cinderella. Bronte is able to connect easily to her readers by both using and twisting the conventional ideals and elements presented in Cinderella story and thus succeeds in re-shaping the prototype of the female.

Although the story of Cinderella and Jane Eyre are not exactly the same, there are extremely close relations between the two in terms of the theme and the plot. Throughout there is the theme of the poor, mistreated girl who in the end meets her prince or in Jane's case Mr. Rochester. The evil stepmother is characterized by Aunt Reed who isolates Jane from herself and her family because she considers Jane ‘not worthy of notice'(2). The evil stepsisters from Cinderella can be compared to Eliza and Gorgianna Reed, Jane's cousins by whom Jane is treated poorly. Moreover, Jane claims to be abused ‘as a sort of under nursery-maid' employed ‘to tidy the room, dust the chairs...'(2) that fully parallels the way Cinderella is treated and abused. Thus the gray frock of Cinderella can be associated with Jane always wearing plain gray dresses. Another common link to the Grimm's story is that Jane chooses to flee Thornfield just as Cinderella chooses to leave the ball by midnight....