Women Writers - Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte

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Women writers use their personal lives as stimulus when writing works of fiction. As seen in the classic author Charlotte Brontë and her novel Jane Eyre (1847) and also for the contemporary author Kathy Reichs. While Jane Eyre is a novel telling the life story of its title character, it is mostly based upon aspects of Brontë’s life. Kathy Reich’s uses her life and personally traits to develop the main character and her life in her novels as well. There are a few reasons why women use this technique but it all comes back to the point of the need women have to communicate and use written story telling as their outlet. Thus, writing about the personal life become more than just trying to find material to write about, it could almost become therapeutic. Either way, it is clear that women use their lives as writing material and Jane Eyre (Brontë, 1847) and Reich’s novels are examples.

Charlotte Brontë was born April 21, 1816 as one of five daughters born to Reverend Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell Brontë (Cody, 2004). Charlotte lived a sheltered life, spending most of her years confined to Haworth Parsonage (Cody, 2004). With Charlotte’s limited knowledge of the world, it should come as no surprise that the plot of her first published novel, Jane Eyre (Brontë , 1847), contains many parallels to her own life – some very likely intentional, while others may be subconscious or even merely coincidental. Regardless of her intentions while writing Jane Eyre (Brontë , 1847), it is clear that Charlotte Brontë drew heavily on her own identity and experiences in creating the character of Jane. 

Jane Eyre’s childhood seems in some respects to have been modelled after Brontë’s. There are certain aspects of the story in Jane Eyre that seem to be based solely on Brontë’s own life; for example, her childhood. Even though Brontë’s father outlived all of his children (Cody, 2004), both of Jane Eyre’s parents died when she was a baby (Brontë, 1847). Brontë’s mother did die though (Everrett, 2004), and when that happened her unmarried sister, Elizabeth Branwell, moved in with the family (Cody, 2004) – the same way Aunt Reed took care of Jane (Brontë, 1847). Their role of caretaker is not the only feature that Aunt Reed and Elizabeth Branwell share, for the two share similar personality traits also. Elizabeth Branwell is described in Nestor’s biography of Charlotte Brontë as ‘a severe character, ill-suited to the role thrust upon her’ and makes the mention of the role ‘her strict Calvinism’ played in raising the children (1987). As a strict Methodist, Aunt Branwell knew where her duty lay, but she appears to have derived neither pleasure nor contentment from doing of it (Peters, 1974). In Jane Eyre (Brontë , 1847), Jane is raised by her Aunt Reed, who, like Brontë’s Aunt Branwell, does so reluctantly and out of a sense of duty. Of course, the similarities between Aunt Branwell and Mrs. Reed are balanced be the differences; even though Aunt Branwell likely was the inspiration for Mrs. Reed it seems more probably that Mrs. Reed was an exaggeration of Aunt Branwell, rather than an idea that was based on a person.

Although the strongest parallels between Brontë’s life and Jane Eyre (Brontë , 1847) occur in childhood, the similarities continue throughout the rest of the novel as well. Charlotte created Jane after her own image of herself, reputedly telling her sisters, “I will show you a heroine as plain and as small as myself, who shall be as interesting as any of yours” (Gaskell, 2004). Gaskell describes Charlotte as having a “grave serious composure” and her features as being “plain, large, and ill set” (Gaskell, 2004). Jane takes on not only Charlotte’s thoughts and memories, but her appearance as well. 

Jane’s choices of work also reflect Charlotte Brontë’s own experiences with what work the Victorian world provided for women. Nestor describes the Brontë girls’ upbringing as establishing ‘the expectation that they would need to...
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