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Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre:


Ever since I first read Jane Eyre back in 2015, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It’s one of those books that strikes a cord with you, embedding themselves deep within your heart and mind. I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t thought, spoke or written about Jane Eyre in some way. I’ve been lucky enough to study it at university, I’ve visited the Haworth Parsonage, and I’m currently preparing to write my dissertation on Charlotte. My appreciation for Jane Eyre has grown substantially over the years, due to my growing love for the author and what the text represents. In my eyes, Jane Eyre is a masterpiece.

The most defining quality of Jane Eyre is the Bildungsroman narrative. Up until this time, this was conventionally associated with male stories, but Charlotte manipulated it into working for her heroine, Jane. The novel opens with Jane as an orphan, sheltering at her aunt’s house after her parents died. It’s here where she receives her first forms of abuse at the hands of her aunt and cousins, an essential plot device for the development of Jane’s character. This volume of the novel is a very poignant start to the story, but it’s necessary for the Bildungsroman narrative to play out. From viewing Jane’s childhood, and her transition into womanhood, we can see the development of a heroine who we are proud of. We are able to see the lessons that Jane learns along the way, as well as journey along with her, thus allowing us to see her moral and spiritual.

One great thing about Charlotte, and all the Brontë sisters for that matter, is her ability to produce such vivid portrayals of landscapes. Charlotte does not hold back on the amount of detail she uses to express the turbulent and vicious moors – the very ones that tossed and flung Jane about, resulting in her near-death. At times, I felt a coldness as if I, too, were on those gusty, barren moors, which illuminates how brilliant a writer Charlotte is. The vast landscape that would run on for miles would frighten me – I was scared for Jane’s safety whilst she was rooming for shelter amongst those moors. Through nature, I could connect to our heroine. In addition to this, Charlotte also poured amazing amounts of detail into her description of the Gothic architecture, most graphically with Thornfield Hall. This manor house is alienated in the countryside, full of unused rooms and frightening hallways plagued with laughter. This contrasted to the beautiful scenery surrounding the house really brought out those Romantic sides of the novel which I enjoyed reading the most. Charlotte’s best writing is those teeming with Romantic techniques and literary devices, Jane Eyre being the best example.

Charlotte also channelled her descriptive and vivid language into Jane’s thought process. At times, I felt like I was living in her shoes. I was the one walking along those corridors, being confined by the walls that not only represented Thornfield, but also the patriarchy. I connected to those passages that were full to the brim of feminism – a favourite of mine being when Jane speaks out about conventional models of womanhood; she suggests women are made for more than just cooking and making stockings. Another brilliant example would be when Jane is adamant she must meet Rochester on equal footing before she can become his wife – they must be of the same class, respect and manner. It’s very clear that Charlotte used her novels as a medium to comment on the harsh treatment of women in this century. As Jane Eyre was first published under the male pseudonym, Currer Bell, this takes on a somewhat more powerful meaning. A male writers commenting on such issues would have impacted contemporary readers more than it would have coming from a woman – unfortunately.

Speaking of Mr. Rochester, I, for one, found him enigmatic. He intrigues me. Not because of his narcissistic and arrogant ways, although I do really enjoy his Byronic portrayal, but because he has a deeper level to his character – one which is left undiscovered. Underneath all those layers, I feel like there is a misunderstood man. In no way am I dismissing his misogynistic and psychotic ways, but I’m interested in why he did this to Bertha? Why must he control women? What happened to make him like this? He has a hidden depth to his character, and for that I can’t help but be drawn to him. Another reason I liked Rochester’s character is down to his cross-class relationship with Jane. He is a rich aristocrat, Jane is a governess, yet he is willing to dismiss the norms of society to be with her. I admire him for this, although he feels saintly for doing so.

Something that I don’t admire about Rochester was the way he treated Bertha. It’s clear Bertha inherited madness from her mother (there are other theories, but this one is more established in my eyes), and Rochester locks her up in order to keep her under control. This control is not only physically, but mentally too. I think it’s clear that Charlotte uses Bertha as a vehicle to comment on the 19th century patriarch – why do men feel the need to lock up women in order to keep them obedient?

Bertha’s death, I think, represents the desperate measures women go to in order to escape this confinement. To me, Bertha’s main role in Jane Eyre was to mirror our protagonist. Jane is the conventional model of a 19th century women – quiet and, to a certain extent, submissive – whereas Bertha is wild and untamed. The latter character represents those emotions women must lock up in order to be accepted in society, and this is why her death is so important. As Bertha represents Jane’s unconventional thoughts, she must die in order for Jane to get married. To be equal with Rochester, Jane must forfeit her untamed thoughts and morph into this tranquil woman that most 19th century men expect. This was a somewhat disappointing turn of events, especially considering how adamant Jane was about meeting equally with Rochester, but that’s the only issue I have with this novel.

Other than that, Jane Eyre is a remarkable piece of fiction. Not only is it an example of proto-feminist writing, but it is also a proto-modern piece of fiction too. There are also elements of psychoanalysis crammed into here, specifically with the mirroring of Jane and Bertha. This clearly shows how ahead of her time Charlotte really was. Jane Eyre has introduced me to more 19th century literature than I could have imagined, as well as more modern literature that use this story as a starting point. I really love this novel, and I recommend it anyone. It’s a universal novel.

Thanks for reading, Lauren Xx


15 thoughts on “Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre:

    1. Hey, I’m new to WordPress so I have no idea how to work it! I don’t even know what a donate button is for, haha. But thank you for your kind words, very sweet! Xx


  1. Truly interesting thoughts on Bertha! I really want to read the sequel Wide Sargasso Sea to see a writer’s interpretation of Bertha, but I love your suggestion that she represents the way women of the nineteenth century smothered their thoughts & feelings. I would add to your remarks that when Jane marries Rochester, he is blind. So it’s almost like he had to be physically destroyed in order for Jane to feel equal enough to him to marry him.

    I wrote (journaled) remarks on the novel here. I only share because it seems Jane Eyre is your favorite novel. I ALWAYS love reading others’ views on my favorite novel. 🙂 Jane Eyre was my first British classic & made me want to devour all classics.


      1. That’s the trouble with a sequel by another writer — they can never quite get the characters right. I’m still interested in reading just for another lens on Bertha though. 🙂

        (Sorry for all my comments in a row. I was scrolling through all your posts. All done now, ha ha.)


  2. When I look for readers, I pay special attention to those who list Jane Eyre among their favorite books. It is one of my favorites, and has heavily influenced my own writing, even though I first read it about SIXTY years ago when I was a child in Mexico.

    Since then, I read it out loud to my own three when I homeschooled them – because everyone with a reading bent should have it in their subconscious!

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts about it.


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