Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte • Was born of Irish ancestry in 1816 • Lived at Haworth, a parsonage • Mother died of cancer when Charlotte was 5 years old.
Charlotte’s Religious Views • Father, Patrick Bronte, was an Anglican clergyman • Due to her upbringing, she often wrote about religious hypocrisy—those who preach one doctrine but live by another
The Bronte Sisters • Charlotte had four sisters and one brother. • After their mother’s death, Brontë and her sisters were sent to the Clergy Daughters’ School. • The food was bad • Discipline was harsh • Disease was rampant • Bronte’s two older sisters (Maria & Elizabeth) died of tuberculosis.
All in the Family Charlotte Bronte • The Clergy Daughter’s School at Cowan Bridge would became the model for Lowood, the fictitious girls’ school in Jane Eyre. • Charlotte’s sisters Anne and Emily Bronte both became successful writers. • In 1846, Charlotte & her sisters started publishing poems and began writing novels: • The Professor was Charlotte’s attempt to fictionalize her love for a college professor she had met at Brussels. • In 1847 Wuthering Heights was sister Emily’s first success. Charlotte followed with Jane Eyre. • Charlotte’s brother, Branwell, was a gifted painter. Emily Bronte Anne Bronte Branwell Bronte
All 3 Bronte Sisters… • Used a masculine pen name because women writers were not taken seriously at that time in Victorian England. • Charlotte used the name Currer Bell and her famous sisters were Acton and Ellis.
Marriage Bells • In 1854 Charlotte married her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nichols. • The next year, she became pregnant, then ill. • She died a month before her 39th birthday.
THE NOVEL Jane Eyre was published in London in 1847.
All events are told in the past from Jane’s point of view. The setting is early 19th Century England. Jane Eyre is classified as both a Gothic and a Romantic novel. Key Facts
Jane Eyre • Our protagonist • Orphaned as a child • Becomes governess at Thornfield • A feisty young child, who grows into a strong woman. • Embodies the English working-class woman. • Will marry . . . . ?
Edward Rochester • Jane’s boss at Thornfield • Gruff and rude • Made wealthy by family money • Benefactor to Adèle Varens • Very secretive and sometimes deceitful
Bertha Mason • Bertha is locked in the attic at Thornfield • Starts the bedroom fire, and eventually burns the house down • Kills herself in the house fire • Exotic, sensual personification of the Orient – ‘the other’
Bronte’s Gothic Influence • Jane Eyre displays some characteristics of the gothic novel: • Imprisoned women • A heroine who faces danger • Supernatural interventions at crucial moments in the plot • A romantic reconciliation
Jane Eyre’s Romantic Heritage • The Romantic Movement • Came into play in at the end of the 18th Century. • Championed for the rights of the individual over the demands of society. • Believed that humans were inherently good • Valued imagination over reason • Inspired by nature
Thornfield Hall • After posting an advertisement in a local paper, Jane becomes the private governess at Thornfield Hall. • Her pupil is a young French girl named Adele. • Thornfield Hall belongs to a Mr. Rochester • Jane does not meet him for months. • Finally, Mr. Rochester returns home and stays longer than usual at Thornfield Hall
Role of the Governess • With the new stress on female education, governesses were in demand. • Pay was poor, but it was one of the only jobs available to educated, yet impoverished young women. • Employers & other servants often shunned the governess because they felt they were “putting on airs.” • Their employers would often ignore them, too, because they had a superior education, which intimidated many people – especially men.
Jane Eyre: A Ground Breaking Novel? • The heroine is small, plain, & poor • The heroine is the first female character to claim the right to feel strongly about her emotions and act on her convictions • This romantic ground had previously been reserved for males • Such a psychologically complex heroine had never been created before
A lot of Feminist work on Jane Eyre was written in the 1970’s and perhaps the most famous is Sandra Gilbert’s ‘Plain Jane’s Progress’ from her book with Susan Gubar - Jane Eyre: A Feminist Reading
Sandra Gilbert and other Feminist writers like Elaine Showalter placed the novel in the context of female experience and within the tradition of other female authors. . Jane became the embodiment of youthful rebelliousness, independence and admired for achieving equality in marriage. A Feminist ‘reading’ of Jane
Sandra Gilbert’s essay explores the following critical points: Gyno-criticism – a literature for women by women The nineteenth century woman’s escape through madness and from ‘the angel in the house’ ideology The sense of ‘doubleness’ experienced by Jane – Bertha as her ‘secret self’/ ‘other’ Plain Jane’s Progress
Gyno-Criticism – a literature for women by women Gynocriticism, or gynocritics, refers to the literary study of women as writers. It is a critical practice exploring and recording female creativity.
Towards a Feminist Poetics Elaine Showalter coined the term gynocritics in her 1979 essay “Towards a Feminist Poetics.” Gynocriticism wanted to establish a literary tradition of women without incorporating male authors. Elaine Showalter felt that feminist criticism still worked within male assumptions.
The Madwoman in the Victorian Attic Feminist writers such as Sandra Gilbert have commented on the main themes of ‘enclosure and escape’ in Jane Eyre. The ‘escape’ concerns the means through which Jane escapes from patriarchal society in which she is silenced. There were not many forms of escape for the Victorian woman and Bertha ‘escapes’ through her madness.
The popular Victorian image of the ideal wife/woman came to be known as ‘the Angel in the House’ and had the qualities of the wife Patmore had praised in his poem in 1854. She was expected to be: • Devoted and submissive to her husband • Meek, charming, graceful, self-sacrificing, pious and pure
Bertha as Jane’s ‘dark double’ ‘This is the connection between Bertha and Jane, in which Bertha reflects Jane’s self and ‘truest and darkest double’, the ferocious secret self which Jane has been trying to repress since childhood.’ Gilbert and Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the 19th Century Literary Imagination p360
Claire Rosenfeld Argues that a novelist who uses psychological doubles frequently juxtaposes ‘two characters, the one representing the socially acceptable or conventional personality, the other externalising the free, uninhibited self.’ Bertha does not only act out Jane’s fantasies, she is also an example of how Jane should not act.
Byronic Hero • This term is created by the famous poet George Gordon, Lord Byron. • Characteristics are… • Proud • Gloomy • Mysterious • Passionate Rochester is an example of this type
Influence of Byron on Jane Eyre’s hero Byron first introduced this type of character in his epic poem Childe Harold’sPilgrimage, published from 1812 – 1818, and continued to depict such individuals throughout his later work. We know that Bronte was much influenced by Byron’s poetry; indeed, Jane Eyre, published in 1847, even makes reference to one of his works, The Corsair. Many readers of Jane Eyre over the years have been fascinated by Rochester, as he is not the type of love interest normally found in a romantic novel. He is rude, difficult, and far from handsome. However, Jane Eyre is no ordinary romance, and it seems in keeping with the novel’s gothic atmosphere that its hero should be decidedly Byronic.
So what exactly makes a hero Byronic? First of all, he is prone to moodiness. Rochester is often snappy or terse with Jane, but is also capable of shows of great affection and physical tenderness: “He kissed me repeatedly” (chapter 23). Both the passionate side to the Byronic hero’s nature and his promiscuity is hinted at. This certainly seems true of Rochester: young Adele is “the daughter of a French opera-dancer, Céline Varens, towards whom he had once cherished what he called a ‘grande passion’” (chapter 15). Qualities of the Byronic Hero
A Dark Secret? As well as these indiscretions, Rochester’s past also hides a much darker secret: the existence of a mad wife he married purely for her looks in her youth. (Wide Sargasso Sea explores this more).
The Byronic hero is usually widely travelled, and has often got into trouble whilst on one of these journeys: again, this reflects Rochester’s experience in Jamaica. Much as we may criticise Rochester for keeping such a secret, he does undeniably fall in love with Jane, demonstrating another Byronic trait: complete disregard for social rank. Rochester cares nothing of what people will think when he marries a former governess: “‘You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are—I entreat to accept me as a husband’” (chapter 23). Renaissance man
Rochester is certainly not possessed of traditional good looks: “with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair..’ Chapter 13. Yet he has an immense charisma: people are drawn to him. For many readers the most memorable scenes of the novel are those where Rochester seems most comfortable: talking alone with Jane by the fireside. Whilst some may prefer the more civilised charms of Mr Darcy, for many Mr Rochester remains the ultimate hero, perhaps because of his difficult nature rather than despite it? Physical Appearance