Tips for Thought

A Detailed Look at “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë

“Jane Eyre” is a beloved classic by renowned English author Charlotte Brontë. It was published under the pseudonym Currer Bell. The story is a captivating coming-of-age tale, expertly blending themes of social class, gender roles, religion, and morality, all seen through the lens of the titular character, Jane Eyre.

An interesting fact:

It was initially published under the pseudonym Currer Bell in 1847 because, at the time, women authors were not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. The novel was an immediate success, and despite being deemed “immoral” by some critics due to its depiction of a strong, independent female protagonist, it went through four printings in just its first year. Interestingly, Charlotte Brontë dedicated the second edition of “Jane Eyre” to William Makepeace Thackeray after erroneously believing she had found a reference to his personal life in his novel “Vanity Fair.”

Charlotte Brontë’s inspiration for “Jane Eyre” blended personal experiences, social commentary, and prevalent literary traditions.

    • Personal Experiences

Brontë drew on her own life experiences while writing the novel. Like Jane, she lost her mother at a young age and attended a harsh and austere boarding school, influencing her portrayal of Lowood Institution.

    • Role of Women

During the Victorian era, women were often relegated to limited roles. Brontë, who was herself a governess, used Jane Eyre to challenge these societal norms, portraying her protagonist as an independent, strong-willed woman who valued her autonomy and self-worth.

    • Class and Social Inequality

Brontë’s portrayal of Jane as a low-born governess and her exploration of class and social standing was likely influenced by the rigid class system of Victorian England.

    • Gothic and Romantic Influence

Brontë also drew on popular literary traditions of her time. The gothic elements in “Jane Eyre,” such as the mysterious Thornfield Hall and the brooding Mr. Rochester, were inspired by Gothic literature. At the same time, the emphasis on emotion, nature, and individuality can be traced to the Romantic movement.

What is “Jane Eyre” About?

The novel charts Jane’s life journey, starting with a painful childhood full of torment and neglect at the hands of her Aunt Reed and cousins at Gateshead. From there, we follow Jane through her formative years at the strict Lowood Institution, until she takes up a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. At Thornfield, she encounters the mysterious Mr. Rochester and falls into a stormy, almost Gothic romance. After some dramatic twists and turns, Jane leaves Thornfield, eventually finding herself at Moor House, where she faces the prospect of a loveless marriage. The story culminates with Jane returning to a humbled and changed Mr. Rochester, now blinded and injured.

What do Critics Think about “Jane Eyre”?

“Jane Eyre” is lauded as a significant contribution to English literature. It deftly weaves together social commentary with a gripping love story. Brontë’s skillful narrative style, complex characters, and brave approach to the plot make her a masterful storyteller.

Jane Eyre, the novel’s heroine, is one of literature’s most timeless characters. She personifies independence, resilience, and moral integrity. As a strong-willed woman refusing to succumb to the oppressive conventions of her era, her resolve to stick to her principles, even when it means choosing solitude over a deceptive sense of safety, is both inspiring and poignant.

Other characters in the novel are equally well-crafted. Despite his shortcomings, Edward Rochester is rendered with such depth that readers can comprehend Jane’s attraction to him. The struggle between their mutual love and the ethical dilemmas they confront enriches the plot, making the story incredibly engaging.

Brontë’s writing style is elegant, blending vivid descriptions with profound emotions. The haunting atmosphere of Thornfield Hall, the harsh conditions at Lowood School, and the peace of Moor House are all powerfully portrayed, complementing the novel’s themes and storyline.

Nevertheless, some modern readers might find the pace a bit slow, and Victorian language and references can be tricky to grasp. But these minor issues don’t overshadow the significant literary value of the novel.

What Lessons Can We Learn from “Jane Eyre”?

“Jane Eyre” teaches us numerous timeless lessons. Here are some valuable ones:

  • It emphasizes personal integrity and self-respect. Despite her deep love for him, Jane’s decision to leave Rochester highlights the importance of sticking to one’s moral principles.
  • The novel portrays the power of resilience. Despite the numerous adversities, Jane encounters throughout her life, she never succumbs to despair. Instead, she learns, grows, and relentlessly pursues a life of happiness and satisfaction.
  • The book confronts societal norms, particularly gender and class. For example, despite being a poor and orphaned girl, Jane defies her ‘prescribed’ social status, underlining that a person’s worth should not be determined by their social rank but by their character. Similarly, the novel forwards the then-radical notion that women are independent beings with passions, ambitions, and desires.
  • The novel emphasizes the importance of self-reliance. From a young age, Jane learns she can only depend on herself. This hard-earned independence fuels her resilience and enables her to navigate life’s challenges. Jane’s strength of character and steadfastness in the face of hardship underscores the necessity of self-reliance in achieving personal freedom and dignity.
  • “Jane Eyre” teaches the value of compassion and forgiveness. Despite her difficult upbringing and the numerous wrongs she experiences, Jane maintains a compassionate heart. This is particularly evident in her capacity to forgive those who mistreated her, such as her Aunt Reed. By demonstrating empathy and forgiveness, the novel suggests that these virtues can lead to healing and personal growth.
  • The book underscores the importance of equality in relationships. Jane refuses to marry Mr. Rochester until they stand as equals, both socially and emotionally. Her refusal to be seen as less than her partner and insistence on mutual respect and understanding is a potent statement on the importance of equality in any loving relationship.

And that’s it. “Jane Eyre” is a deeply meaningful novel, rich in character development and narrative, and still resonates with contemporary readers. Its teachings about personal integrity, resilience, and challenging societal norms remain as pertinent today as they were during the Victorian era. Jane’s journey from a ‘poor, obscure, plain, and little’ girl to a woman of substance is a powerful exploration of self-discovery and personal growth. It indeed deserves its place among the great works of classic literature.