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Jane Eyre

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E.J
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Jane Eyre: Charlotte Brontë One of the most brilliant works of Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre was published in 1847 during a time when women were considered social embellishments, and nothing more than offspring bearers for that matter. She defied these beliefs by doing something no women did in that time, write. This book was revolutionary, especially since the release of Jane Austen’s works, which had a lot more of a happy ending feel that were published a century before. Charlotte Brontë and her sisters Emily and Anne, wrote novels that were much more dark and mysterious. Jane Eyre became one of the most successful novels of its era. This novel is set in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and depicts themes such as social class, religion, and gender relations. The novel is a hybrid of three genres: a romantic novel, a bildungsroman novel, and a gothic novel. Each of these genres are used in Jane Eyre, and rightfully so. They help to tell the story of Jane Eyre’s life in the most mysterious, sometimes supernatural, and retrospective way. I believe that Charlotte Brontë depicted her life through the novel of Jane Eyre, she did this by using her own experiences in life, namely through some key developments from her life translated into Jane Eyre’s life. Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë embody each others lives. This is clear through all the similarities between the novel and real life. Some examples of these are: both Jane and Charlotte being orphans, both living with an aunt, Jane attending Lowood and Charlotte attending Cowan Bridge, a school for clergymen’s daughters, Charlotte losing her sisters to tuberculosis and Jane losing Helen, her dear friend to a sickness, both becoming a governess for a rich family. The similarities and life experiences between the Jane and Charlotte are more than evident. However, I want to highlight some of the most important developing stages of of Jane Eyre’s life and compare it to that of Charlotte Brontë. Beginning with Jane’s childhood at Gateshead, where she was under the care of her aunt. ‘Care’ wouldn’t be a word that would justify the way Jane was treated in her aunt’s home, for she was abused; physically, emotionally, and mentally. A place where she was told, by John Reed, her cousin, You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense... (Brontë 1847 p. 11-12).
Unlike Jane’s experience under the care of her aunt, Charlotte’s experience with her aunt Elizabeth Branwell was one where she felt Elizabeth to be as her own mother. She really was both an aunt and mother to Charlotte and her siblings. Secondly, the comparison of Jane’s education at Lowood School, and that of Charlottes at Cowan bridge, a school for clergymen’s daughters. Jane’s experience was a challenging one, including teachers accusing her to be a liar, and poor conditions at school causing her friend Helen to pass away. This is similar to the experience of Charlotte and her siblings. Her two eldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth died of tuberculosis while at Cowan Bridge (Caskell, 1995, p. 61). The death of her sisters was very hard for Charlotte, and because of the conditions of the school her father and aunt decided to bring her back home to continue her education there. Another two important stages of development take place when Jane meets the Rivers family and works at Marsh end at a charity school for girls and her marriage to Rochester. Charlotte as well starts a school at Haworth parsonage, but no pupils show up and this discourages her so she stops (Everett, n.d. para. 12). Lastly, the novel Jane Eyre ends with Jane’s marriage to Rochester. She was once in love with him, but could not marry him at that point, however, at the end of the book she realizes that he is truly the love of her life and she marries him. Charlotte’s love life, was in some ways similar to that of Jane Eyre’s, but also in many ways was vastly different. Charlotte, after four proposals from other men, finally marries her fourth suitor, Arthur Bell Nichols (Cody, n.d. para. 10). As you can see, each of these developmental stages in Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë’s life were not mirror images, but were snippets of Charlottes life embedded into the novel of Jane Eyre. When reading this book, I questioned why Charlotte Brontë didn’t write a book about her own life and her own experiences with love, the society that she lived in, the way she was viewed as a women and so forth. I believe that she wrote Jane Eyre as fiction so that she could change the things that she might have wanted differently in her own life, somehow making the life of Jane Eyre better, adding a twist to make it more magical. I find it interesting that through the novel, and her own life she seems to portray that a woman can be just as fulfilled and happy without marriage to a man, but in both the novel and her own life, she ends up choosing ultimately for marriage.

This links to my personal relation to the book as well in the way that I have also chosen for marriage, though I see myself as an independent woman, that doesn’t ‘need’ someone to fulfill my happiness. It seems that in the 1800’s it was what every woman was expected to do, but today, sometimes you are looked down on for being so ‘old fashioned’. In some ways I agree with this because it might have a large impact in my life that I cannot foresee yet. It might constrain me in ways that I cannot predict now. Also the thought that as a Business Administrations major, what will the corporate world think of me, being so young and ambitious, but yet married, already? I can imagine that in the eyes of many it might seem like striving for two opposing things. However, I believe that we live in very different times when it comes to the expectations of a marriage, and the expectations of a man to a woman, and vice versa. Today, we are more equally educated, it isn’t taboo anymore if a woman is the breadwinner, it isn’t taboo if a woman is even more highly educated than her husband or partner, and many other things. What matters today, in my opinion, is if you can offer love, companionship, intellectual likeness, and stability in each others lives. It is interesting to see the way not only marriage, but women were viewed in the nineteenth century, and comparing that to the twenty first century. So many things have changed, yet so much has stayed the same. In summary, Jane Eyre’s life and Charlotte Bronte’s had a lot of similarities, and also a number of differences. I believe this is a very powerful novel for women to read, not only because it is world literature, but it shows you how far we have come from then, and how much worlds as women, have progressed for the better. As I mentioned before, Jane Eyre was both a gothic and Bildungsroman novel. I believe Jane Eyre was a true Bildungsroman, as Summerfield, G., & Downward, L. (2010) stated, “...the typical Bildungsroman traces the progress of a young person toward self-understanding as well as a sense of social responsibility” (p. 1). Looking at the different stages of Jane and Charlotte’s life, it is clear that Jane Eyre writes the book retrospectively, showing the traces of progressing into a young woman who slowly starts understanding herself better, and know her place in life. Jane Eyre is world literature to me because it is personal, relevant through all generations, historic, and written so effortlessly. This book has carried on as an important symbol from the nineteenth century, and I hope we can continue to do the same for the next generations, seeing how they will view history comparing it to the present. You see that in the world we live in today, not only have things changed drastically for women, but also mens view on women. I am so grateful to know that the men in my life want nothing less than for me to be empowered and to be ambitious. To do whatever it takes to achieve my dreams and goals. I believe that Charlotte Brontë depicted her life through the novel of Jane Eyre, she did this by using her own experiences in life.

Bibliography

Brontë, C. (1847, October 16). Jane Eyre 2 pdf free ebook download from www.planetebook.com. Ebook Search & Free Ebook Downloads - Ebookbrowse.com. Retrieved November 29, 2012, from http://ebookbrowse.com/jane-eyre-2-pdf-d274376839
Cody, D. (n.d.). Charlotte Bronte: A Brief Biography. The Victorian Web: An Overview. Retrieved December 14, 2012, from http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/brontbio.html
Everett, G. (n.d.). A Charlotte Brontë Chronology. The Victorian Web: An Overview. Retrieved December 17, 2012, from http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/brontetl.html
Gaskell, E. C. (1995). The life of Charlotte Brontë ; Vol. 1. Champaign, Ill: Project Gutenberg.
SparkNotes: Jane Eyre. (n.d.). SparkNotes: Today's Most Popular Study Guides. Retrieved November 29, 2012, from http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/janeeyre/
Summerfield, G., & Downward, L. (2010). New perspectives on the European Bildungsroman. London: Continuum.

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