Jane Eyre



When Charlotte Bronte died in 1854, she left behind a husband of one year, the curate A. B. Nicholls, whose offers of matrimony she had resisted for nearly a decade before finally accepting him in her 37th year. She also left behind a substantial body of literary work, the most popular of which is Jane Eyre. Unlike her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights, a fantastical gothic romance, Jane Eyre blends strict realism and character analysis with autobiographical detail and imagination. It contains elements of the gothic: the madwoman in the attic; the dark secret of Mr. Rochester; his passionate romance with Jane. Yet Jane Eyre is not constrained by the genre and very often stretches beyond it to reflect the reality of the rural side of Victorian England in the first half of the 19th century.

Still, the novel’s charm does not rest solely on its realistic reflections interwoven with romance. The novel’s charm is Bronte’s: Reading Jane Eyre is like seeing the world through new eyes; one falls in love for the first time all over again; one feels the tyranny of cruel guardians; one experiences the loss and heartache of friendless nights without food or shelter. One grows with child over the course of a decade and learns anew the old forgotten lessons of faith and friendship, of love and honor, of duty and forgiveness. One identifies with the faults and failings of each of the main characters and hopes to imitate their finer points.

Indeed, it is very likely that the author herself identified to a degree with Mr. Rochester, whose secret is only finally revealed to Jane by circumstances outside of his control. Charlotte’s secret, though not so tragic as Rochester’s, was kept from her father and consisted wholly of the fact of her literary genius. Like her sisters, she told her father nothing of the works she had written. It was only after Jane Eyre had been published in 1847 that, at her sisters’ insistence, Charlotte gave a copy to her father along with a handful of reviews. His response was like...

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Essays About Jane Eyre