"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
Charlotte Brontes first published book "Jane Eyre" a twisted Victorian Novel's encompassing book review. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books to discuss and debate on, so it might be just a tad long.
Bronte's Jane Eyre is heavily influnced from her personal life, her own thoughts regarding marriage, love and the status of the British Empire. It's an amazing read with a lot of contents.
It has been a while since the last time I read Jane Eyre, so forgive me if I don't give the correct name to certain people, mansions and don't give a plot based review.

Submitted: December 29, 2009

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Submitted: December 29, 2009

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Most of us are familiar with the Bronte sisters and their works. Or at least have heard their names before. Truth be told, the Bronte sisters are pioneers of women in literature. During the times the Bronte sisters lived, living statuses and customs were much different than our times. Writing was exclusive to gentleman and gentleman only. The lesser of the sexes; women were not viewed as smart enough to think, let alone write. They originally published their works under different pen names and went through great lengths to hide their writing from others. I wanted to share this bit of information before I actually proceeded to write the review of the book. Because not all of us have read Bronte sisters’ work and one reading this article might blindly assume that Charlotte Bronte is oppressive in women roles. On the contrary, comparing Bronte sisters’ women in their fictions comparing to those of others in real life and in fiction, they are radical and revolutionary. I just wanted everyone to be aware of this piece of knowledge before reading the rest. Charlotte Bronte originally published Jane Eyre under the pseudonym Currer Bell.

The book is written in first person narrative, from Jane’s perspective. We live through Jane as she lives her life, we share her sentiments, her thoughts, her feelings and we become quite acquainted with her throughout the novel. The setting of the story begins in England at late 1800s. Jane Eyre is an orphan raised by her late maternal uncle’s wife. Jane is viewed as an ugly, plain girl with curiosity to the outside world, and a raging temper. She despises her aunt, and her children. They constantly abuse her and when she tries to stand up for herself of course she is punished severely. After a fall out with her aunt, Jane is transferred to a religious, all girls’ school under a strict Reverend. There she faces the hardships of life, under Christian rules. They are made to wear thin clothing, provided with little morsel of food, relatively no heat, and no mercy by the Reverend who upkeeps the school. The teachers and their students share a close bond with one another. Jane yearns to learn as much as she possibly can. At this school Jane meets a girl her few years senior named Helen Burns. Helen is a very intelligent girl with a vast knowledge, but she is just a bit of a goof and forgets to do things properly. She is always punished for forgetting things and not doing things on time. Helen has great dignity and shoulders her punishment gracefully without bearing any ill will. She says she needs to be punished so she can be a better person in the future. Helen and Jane become very close over her stay until a break out of consumption (tuberculosis) occurs at their school. Helen dies in Jane’s arms of consumption. With most of the students in her school dying or already dead, people come to severely criticize the Reverend and his way of running the school. Certain members of the elite take charge and build a proper school with better necessary essentials provided for their students. The next phase of Jane’s life begins here after a few years.

Jane graduates from her school and becomes the next mistress of the school. Jane grows up to be a well thought lady with a finer taste in life and polished skills. She loves her students, teaching and learning as well. But there is something amiss in the way Jane views herself and the way she feels. She longs to broaden her horizons, experience life, and embark on adventures. She wants to change her life, do something better with herself but she isn’t sure how to do that or where to begin. Jane gives an ad on the local newspaper to become the governess of a home. Soon enough a reply comes back and Jane embarks on her new journey.

Jane becomes the new governess of Edward Rochester’s home. Edward takes care of a girl named Adele, labeled as a French bastard. Her mother was a French Opera dancer. Adele’s mother was Mr. Rochester’s mistress. It is widely known that Adele’s mother, Celine was unfaithful to Mr. Rochester. Although he is unsure if he truly is her father, he doubts he is Adele’s father and still Mr. Rochester brought Adele to England after her mother abandoned her. Mr. Edward Rochester moved Adele to his mansion and takes care of her economically. Mr. Edward Rochester rarely comes home, often traveling the world extensively. He is described as an older cruel, gruesome, stern, not particularly handsome and a man of temper. He is known to like finer women, and have finer tastes in life. Jane and Edward slowly fall in love through their shared home while Mr. Rochester visits. Jane criticizes Edward for his relaxed ways, liberal ideology on life, women, carnal desires, and his life in sinning. They overcome their challenges through lengthy and thorough conversations while walking in the garden or in the art room of the mansion. Edward proposes to Jane. Jane is hesitant at first, and deliberates on this topic for a while. Edward finally convinces Jane to marry him. Through Jane, Edward comes to regret his liberal views of life and his lust after women. However, there are mysterious events happening at the mansion. There are unexplained fires, ghost appearances and broken furniture. Jane is lead to believe the mysteries in the mansion are the fault of Grace Poole, a woman living on the third floor of the mansion. Jane wonders who this woman is, but she never really gets a straight forward answer.

On the day of their wedding, truth comes to light. It is revealed that Mr. Edward Rochester is already actually married and cannot marry Jane legally. Jane is heartbroken, her pride is shattered, and she tries to find a way to find her dignity back. She blames Edward for his failure as a husband. She says it’s not Bertha Mason’s fault. Bertha Mason is the first wife of Edward Rochester. She is a beautiful Creole woman who became violate, volatile, insane, bestial, and mentally ill. She turned this way shortly after their marriage. We find out that Grace Poole is actually her nurse and keeper. Bertha is kept in a secret room behind Grace Poole’s own room on the third floor of the mansion. Grace sometimes drinks a bit much and falls asleep and Bertha escapes to the mansion causing panic and terror. Jane feels betrayed and asks guidance from the Lord to make the right decision. The morning after, she makes her decision and abandons the mansion really early in the morning. Jane leaves Mr. Edward Rochester without as much as a word or a letter.

The third arc of the story begins here. As Jane without any arrangements and money leaves the Rochester Mansion and goes away on her own. After traveling for a long distance Jane runs out of money. She sleeps outside in the woods and finds food through suspicious means. One day, she becomes very ill, hungry and living out in the open for a long time she finds herself at the door step of a family. She is taken in by a reverend and his two sisters. Here she is nursed back to health and slowly repairs her broken heart. Through many dialogues and discourses with Saint John we find out about Jane’s parents. In later revelations we find out about John Eyre, Jane’s deceased uncle who leaves a large sum of money to her. Through this inheritance ordeal it is revealed that St. John and his two sisters are actually cousins to Jane. Jane decides to share her fortune with the Rivers siblings, her cousins. After sharing her inheritance with her cousins, instead of taking off to another part of the country Jane decides to stay by her cousins. Live like a family. In order to do good work with her money and keep herself independent, Jane decides to open a school to the children of the peasants. Jane becomes this newly founded school’s governess. Jane creates a life for herself in this new found family, town and her school. She occupies her time through meaningful and important work. However, Jane is emotionally unstable and she is dealing with the after math of her broken love with Edward.

St. John announces he will be leaving for India soon. He also proposes to Jane to be his wife. Jane refuses to marry a man she does not love. St. John pursues Jane and he is very determined about taking Jane with him to India to do God’s work. St. John thinks that Jane would make the absolute wife and a great Christian worker. He explains to the reader that Jane is smarter than average woman, who does not shy away from speaking and following the word of the Lord and as she is a very hard worker, Jane was born to be a missionary worker. St. John tries to persuade Jane by trying to explain to Jane, why her qualities exist, and why they make her the absolute wife for a Christian man. Jane agrees to go to India with him, however not to be his wife. St. John says she can only come with him if she agrees to be his wife. Any other way would be against Christian ways. As St. John prepares to leave for India he slowly pressures Jane to accept his proposal. Jane is afraid of hurting John who has been so kind to her, but she feels no love towards St. John. St. John also admits he doesn’t love her in that way, but that’s not what matters he says. Jane still refuses, saying there is no hope that St. John would ever love a woman the way she desires to be loved. Jane refuses St. John again. But, one day, Jane finally agrees to St. John’s proposal. Both prepare to leave for India. However, one late night, a few days prior to leaving for India, Jane hears Edward Rochester’s voice calling for her. She becomes suspicious and worried, so she decides to see Edward to say goodbye and see his well being before she leaves for India.

Jane returns to Rochester mansion to only find the blackened ruins of the mansion. She becomes extremely worried and sorrowful. She finds out from other people that the mansion had been burned down by Bertha Mason, who later jumped off the roof as Edward was trying to save her from the fire. She had committed suicide in one way or another. After learning these new bits of information and finding out where Edward now lived Jane rushes to see Edward. Jane finds Edward, disabled and blind. Jane realizes how much she loves Edward and decides to stay with him no matter what. She writes a quick letter to St. John explaining her situation and new decision. Edward and Jane have a long heart to heart talk, where everything is explained and feelings resurface quickly. She decides to take care of him and the two finally agree to marry.

They have a small wedding ceremony and move into a small house. After Mr. Rochester loses most of his belongings and family fortune after the fire, the two are now are economically and socially equal which allows them a happy and fulfilled life. With Mr. Rochester’s handicap Jane actually becomes the giver and the provider in the family. This gives endless satisfaction to Jane. With their first born son, Edward recovers his eye sight slightly enough. The novel ends with a twisted happily ever after.

Now, there are quite a few themes and concepts in this book. There is morality, religion, feminism, love, marriage and family encompassing all. Charlotte Bronte does this very tactfully without bogging down the reader like most authors would have. Jane refuses to marry Edward after the big revelation. She refuses because she views she would become Edward’s mistress without both legally and religious ceremony. She refuses to become his paramour because of her personal beliefs and respect. Thus, forcing her to leave Edward. While she judges and frowns upon Edward’s liberal way of life, she also dismays the way St. John lives; without any feelings, only doing the work of God, delivering the word of the Lord. Although Jane is much attuned to her feelings and her heart, she keeps them in check by her logic, morality and religion.

Jane, an orphan, who is penniless but has been armed with great education, makes her something different than elite. She is not rich, but she also is not poor, she is not illiterate but she had been fortunate enough to be provided with education. Although she should probably be more lenient towards orphans and other less fortunate children, Jane depicts the children she taught in the school she opened herself as a bit more than retards, not expecting much out of them due to their peasantry genes. Class, social and economical statuses are at clash at Bronte’s novel.

Jane deplores the idea of love, marriage, and the coexistence of both in her novel thoroughly. Evidently, she seeks marriage combined with love through her novel. What is more interesting is Bronte seeks balance between the individuals that makes the couple. Edward blinded, disfigured, and now middle class, Jane an educated woman with an inheritance makes a balanced couple. None, economically or socially are higher than the other. Jane’s character also signals the upcoming era after Bronte’s time--the precursor to newly found feminism and the idea of women and man being of equals, at least intellectually. Bronte fixes Edward as someone who becomes suitable to Jane. Although Edward is elite, he is older and now her equal after the plot ravels. Edward becomes depended on Jane. Jane obviously becomes more sovereign in her relationship.

Literarily there are quite a few allusions to other work and motifs in Bronte’s work. Jane Eyre possesses a Gothic fiction feeling, Byronic heroes, and Bertha portraying the German Novel “Vampyre”, and romanticism which make a unique Victorian novel. Bronte uses allusions from Bible, fairy tales, “The Pilgrim’s Process”, “Paradise Lost”, and of course the ever amazing poetry of Sir Walter Scott. There are some unconventional parts of the novel that makes this a unique Victorian Novel rather than a straight up Victorian Novel. Jane is in charge of her own destiny, without being tied down to her own emotions or forsaking them to appease man’s egos either. Bronte avoids depicting “fallen woman” when Jane and her aunt does not reconcile on her death bed.

Bertha Mason is a big symbolism throughout the novel. Although she has a very minor character, what she symbolizes is more important than what she doesn’t do or say. Many critics have claimed many different allusions to her character. Bertha is both catalyst to Jane’s happiness and also her own challenge which allows Jane to grow tremendously and truly by challenging her emotions and her own views and beliefs. By refusing to surrender to Edward, Jane refuses to become his mistress while Edward is still legally married to Bertha. Bertha could also be viewed as Britain’s fear of foreign cultures and traditions at the height of British Imperialism. Bertha, also serves another purpose. As throughout the novel Jane is referred to as fire, warm, bright, with temper and anger. Bertha serves as the outlet of all of Jane’s fiery personality. Bertha is a projection to what could happen to Jane if she does not keep her emotions under check. One could presume that Bertha also symbolizes the much valued Victorian trophy wife. Beautiful, elite women, who have been condemned to home life without any traveling and independence or work outside of home, the trapped Victorian house wife—Bertha is the embodiment of that.


© Copyright 2020 NazireC. All rights reserved.

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