Jane Eyre Book Review
Poster From the 2011 Movie Jane Eyre
The Book Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of the best books I have ever read. With a rural 19th century England setting, Bronte has created a fictional account of the early life of Jane Eyre which every reader can not help but enjoy. In this novel, we get to recognize the conflicts between love and independence, conscience and passion, and the struggle of a young girl and woman to maintain her self-esteem. These were all pioneering themes in the patriarchal society of Victorian England in the 1800s. In this article, I will first give a brief biography of Charlotte Bronte, and then give a sketch of the setting, characters, and plot of Jane Eyre, before concluding by commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of the novel.
Photo of Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte was an English novelist and poet, and the eldest of three Bronte sisters who were all writers. Born in Thornton, Yorkshire, in 1816, Charlotte's father was an Irish Anglican clergyman. After Charlotte's mother died of cancer in 1821, the clergyman father had no time to care for his daughters. Therefore, in August of 1824, he sent Charlotte with her two sisters to the Clergy Daughter's School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire. This school became the basis for Lowood School in the novel Jane Eyre. Bronte then continued her education at Roe Head in Mirfield 1831-1832 and subsequently became a teacher there 1835-1838. In 1839 Bronte accepted a position as a governess to families in Yorkshire. Her experiences of teaching and work as a governess are reflected a great deal in Jane Eyre. During the period 1843-1844, Charlotte attended a language school in Brussels, Belgium. While in Belgium, she fell in love with a married professor at the school. This life experience is strongly shown in Jane Eyre in the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester at Thornfield Hall.
In May of 1846, Charlotte and her younger sisters, Emily and Anne, self-financed a joint collection of poetry under the pen names of Currer Bell, Ellis Bell, and Acton Bell. These assumed pen names were all masculine because the Bronte sisters didn't want to declare their feminine nature since their mode of writing and thinking at the time wasn't politically correct for women.
Bronte's first novel, The Professor, was rejected by publishers in 1846, but in 1847, Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, was published in London by Smith, Elder, and Company. The first American edition was released in 1848 by Harper and Brothers in New York. Bronte published two other later novels, but they were not successful like Jane Eyre.
In 1854 Bronte married Arthur Nicholls, at one time assistant to her father. Unfortunately, in 1855 within one year of the marriage, Bronte died while still pregnant.
Throughout her life, Charlotte Bronte preached and practiced tolerance rather than revolution. She had high moral principles. Although she was shy in public, she was always prepared to argue her beliefs. All of these traits come through in Jane Eyre.
All of the facts in this biography are taken from Wikipedia.
Cover From the First Edition of Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre in Front of Mrs. Reed
The Book - Jane Eyre
The setting for the novel Jane Eyre is in the northern England countryside and the fictitious villages of Gateshead Hall, Lowood, Millcote, and Moor House during the 19th century.
The main character in the novel is Jane Eyre, a nine-year-old orphan, who is being raised by her maternal aunt (wife of her uncle), Mrs. Reed.
Important characters at the Lowood Boarding School are Mr. Brocklehurst, the head of the school, Miss Temple, the chief instructor, and an older classmate, Helen Burns, who becomes a role model for Jane.
After Jane goes to Thornfield Hall at Millcote, the main characters are Mr. Rochester, master of Thornfield Hall, and Adele Varens. a young French girl Jane is teaching.
Finally, towards the end of the novel, Saint John Rivers becomes an important character in the novel.
The plot of the novel follows essentially five stages: one, Jane's childhood at Gateshead; two, the girl's education at Lowood School; three, Jane's work as the governess at Thornfield Hall; four, time spent with the Rivers' family at Moor House; and five, an unexpected conclusion.
As the story begins, Jane is in her ninth year of life at Gateshead. Telling her life story in the first person, Jane relates how as an orphan since being a baby, she has been raised by her maternal uncle's wife, Mrs. Reed. Recently she has been treated very cruelly both physically and emotionally by her aunt and cousins. After one run-in with her bullying older cousin, Master John, her aunt locks her overnight in the room where her uncle died. After Jane stands up to her aunt to keep her self-esteem, she can not successfully convince Mrs. Reed of not being deceitful. As a result, her aunt decides to send Jane to a boarding school for orphans at Lowood School run by a clergyman, Mr. Brocklehurst.
After arriving at Lowood School, Jane is cruelly humiliated and called deceitful by Mr. Brocklehurst in front of the study body. With the help of the chief instructor, Miss Temple, Jane proves she is not deceitful and restores her self-esteem. After being a model student and surviving a typhoid epidemic at the school during her first year, Jane graduates from Lowood six years later and stays two more years as a teacher. When Miss Temple decides to get married and leave the school, Jane decides to find work as a governess.
After finding work as a governess at Thornfield Hall near Millcote, Jane starts to find some real happiness in life. She is entrusted with educating the ward of the master of Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester, a man of about 40 who is often outside of England.
Shortly after starting work at Thornfield Hall, Jane unexpectedly and unknowingly, while walking from Thornfield Hall to Millcote, encounters Mr. Rochester after he is thrown from his horse. It is love at first sight when Jane helps Mr. Rochester get back onto his horse. After formally meeting Mr. Rochester and numerous hours spent talking together, Jane truly falls in love with her brooding and stormy master. It is not long, however, that a series of bizarre and spooky events occur at Thornfield Hall which force Jane to leave and seek her fortune elsewhere.
After Jane leaves Thornfield Hall, she endures hardship until finding a kind clergyman, Saint John Rivers, and his sisters, who care for Jane and find her new employment. The climax of the book then comes after some unexpected twists and turns.
Movie Clip from Jane Eyre
Main Themes in Jane Eyre
What do you think is the main theme in Jane Eyre?
Main Themes in Jane Eyre
The main themes in the book are a conflict between love and independence, and a conflict between conscience and passion. Other themes are Jane's struggle to maintain self-esteem and her social criticism.
The conflicts between love and independence and conscience and passion are brilliantly shown in the relationship between Jane and her master, Mr. Rochester, Jane knows it is morally wrong and against her conscience to love and seek marriage with Mr. Rochester, however, it is difficult to control her passion. Immediately after tearing herself away from her master, Jane says in the book:
"Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonized as in that hour left my lips: for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love."
Jane's struggle to maintain self-esteem is seen primarily in Jane's relations with Mr. Rochester, her relation with Mrs. Reed, and Jane's relationship with Mr. Brocklehurst.
The theme of social criticism is reflected in Jane's comments about the haughtiness of the gentry class towards subservient classes.
Jane Eyre Book Review
Jane Eyre has numerous strengths which have obviously made it a classical piece of literature. These strong points include writing in the first person to get close to readers and a vivid portrayal of conscience versus passion. The descriptions of people and especially nature are excellent in this book, You definitely won't want to put this book down, because there are so many unexpected events in the plot. All human emotions such as happiness, sorrow, anger, fear, hate, and pity are also masterfully brought to life in this book.
If there are any weaknesses in this book, I would list the overuse of French in some places and the neglect of giving English translations for the French. At the end of the book, everything is wrapped up very quickly in a short concluding chapter. I think it would have been worthwhile to say more about Saint John Rivers in the concluding chapter.
Jane Eyre is a book which all people should read at some point in their lives. Considering all of the experiences portrayed in this book, Jane Eyre would probably be appreciated more by an older person who has experienced everything Jane has.
Another Book Review of the Bronte Sisters
- Agnes Grey Book Review
Agnes Grey is a novel which all people will enjoy reading. After finishing this classic, you will empathize with the maltreatment of governesses and of women in the Victorian period of England.
© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn