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Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

1847

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

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  • Intro

    Jane Eyre (1847) secured Charlotte Brontë’s status as one of the greatest Victorian novelists. It tells the story of an orphan girl turned governess who overcomes hardships and setbacks to marry her beloved employer, Mr Rochester. It is also a passionate expression of the rights of women who lacked the money and social connections to make their voices heard:

     

    ‘Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart!’

     

    Brontë had her own deeply personal reasons for making this plea. Jane Eyre draws heavily on her attempts to make her way in life as the daughter of a Yorkshire parson, and Jane’s miserable childhood years at Lowood have their roots in Brontë’s experiences at the Clergy Daughters’ School in Cowan Bridge, where poor living conditions led to the deaths of her older sisters Maria and Elizabeth.

     

    The novel was first published under the pseudonym ‘Currer Bell’, but there was so much speculation about who could have written such a powerful and unusual novel that Brontë was forced to reveal her true identity. Denounced by some contemporary reviewers for Jane’s ‘unchristian’ rebellion against her lowly status, Jane Eyre has been seen since as an archetypal love story, a key text in the feminist canon, and a classic example of Victorian Gothic.

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  • Transcript

    Jane Eyre

     

    Chap. 1.

     

    There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.

        I was glad of it; I never liked long walks - especially on chilly afternoons; dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.

        The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their mama in the drawing-room; she lay reclined [on a sofa by the fireside, and with her darlings about her (for the time neither quarrelling nor crying) looked perfectly happy.]

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