Summary of Clarke's "Bronte's Jane Eyre and the Grimms' Cinderella

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Clarke, Micael M. "Bronte's Jane Eyre and the Grimms' Cinderella." SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900. 40.4 (2000): 695-710.

Clarke explores the similarities and importance of Brontë’s use of the Grimms’ version of Cinderella within the story of Jane Eyre. She outlines how the two stories are parallel and then skillfully explores the symbolism that is present in both. Through her analysis of the ways the two stories are similar, Clarke concludes that the combination of the Grimms’ Cinderella within Jane Eyre allowed Brontë to critique and explore societal views and treatment of women as well as question and suggest alternative religious views such as those of a maternalist system. Critics have had much trouble with the ending of Jane Eyre, which as Clarke suggests is open to much interpretation. Chase, one critic that Clarke discusses, suggests that the injuries of Rochester were a form of “symbolic castration” and others such as Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar view as an expression of female rage that is compensated by the conclusion that cautiously and to a degree suggests “a world of sexual equality”. Other critics such as Adrienne Rich views the novel as suggesting alternatives to conventional ideals with the most important being the redefinition of marriage that Brontë offers, as “a continuation of this woman’s creation to herself”.

Clarke discusses Brontë’s use of employing multiple genres and suggests that the power of Jane Eyre stems from this technique. In using realism, Clarke claims, Brontë was able to portray the character over time as well as delve more into the social circumstances that molded the character. Brontë’s employment of elements of Christian allegory allowed for examination of moral judgment and free will. Clarke suggests that it is the use of fairy tale elements that is a very important part of the novel and allowed Brontë to include magic, fantasy, and the supernatural as an active force. The fairy...
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