Jane Eyre

( 817 )

Overview

Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous ...
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Overview

Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte's innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

In early nineteenth-century England, an orphaned young woman accepts employment as a governess at Thornfield Hall, a country estate owned by the mysteriously remote Mr. Rochester.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Written in 1847, this novel remains a favorite, especially among younger readers and listeners who continue to be entranced by the young Jane and her mysterious Mr. Rochester. The story of an unhappy orphan and her life as a governess at Thornfield is filled with difficulty, including a shocking revelation on her wedding day. The happy ending finally arrives, though, and Jane and Rochester are united forever. Long criticized as being melodramatic and contrived, Jane Eyre has nonetheless become a romantic classic and is often the book that introduces students to serious literature. Bronte's suspense-filled plot adapts well to the audio format. This version, although abridged, omits nothing of importance. Juliet Stevenson, a Royal Shakespeare Company associate, reads with the drama the story demands and makes each character emerge with life and energy. Recommended for general audiences.
— Michael Neubert, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
— Michael Neubert, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
From the Publisher
"At the end we are steeped through and through with the genius, the vehemence, the indignation of Charlotte Brontë."
—Virginia Woolf
Micael M. Clarke Loyola University
"Joining fiction to history, this edition of Jane Eyre illustrates the way literature addresses important moral and political issues. The original nineteenth-century documents in the appendices provide an invaluable opportunity for readers to view the novel in both its biographical and its historical contexts; it illustrates, in a broader sense, how literature is a vital element in the discourse of an age, and thus helps shape history."
Mary Ellis Gibson University of North Carolina
"While the student who approaches Jane Eyre for the first time or the reader unfamiliar with Victorian culture will find Richard Nemesvari's introduction and annotations very useful, most helpful of all are the appendices, which place the novel in the context of Victorian writing on governesses, gender roles, empire and race. The Broadview edition of Jane Eyre makes it possible for readers to approach Brontë's novel with a fuller sense of the way it engages important Victorian social issues. An excellent introduction to Jane Eyre in its time."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141441146
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/15/2006
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 624
  • Sales rank: 121,125
  • Product dimensions: 5.07 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlotte Brontë

Diane Johnson is the author of many books, including the bestselling novel Le Divorce, which was a 1997 National Book Award finalist, and Le Mariage.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      April 21, 1816
    2. Place of Birth:
      Thornton, Yorkshire, England
    1. Date of Death:
      March 31, 1855
    2. Place of Death:
      Haworth, West Yorkshire, England
    1. Education:
      Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire; Miss Wooler's School at Roe Head

Read an Excerpt

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. Me, she had dispensed from joining the group; saying, 'She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation that I was endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner,—something lighter, franker, more natural as it were—she really must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children.'

'What does Bessie say I have done?' I asked.

'Jane, I don't like cavillers or questioners: besides, there is something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent.'

A small breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room. I slipped in there. It contained a book-case: I soon possessed myself of a volume, taking care that it should be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk; and, having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined in double retirement.

Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near, a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.

I returned to my book—Bewick's History of British Birds: the letter-press thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could not pass quite as a blank. They were those which treat of the haunts of sea-fowl; of 'the solitary rocks and promontories' by them only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its southern extremity, the Lindeness, or Naze, to the North Cape—

'Where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,

Boils round the naked, melancholy isles

Of farthest Thule; and the Atlantic surge

Pours in among the stormy Hebrides.'

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Table of Contents


Introduction     7
Biographical Sketch     9
The Story Behind the Story     11
List of Characters     14
Summary and Analysis     18
Critical Views     45
John Maynard on Jane's Sexual Awakening     45
Irene Tayler on Bronte's Heroines     51
Anita Levy Contrasts Jane, Blanche, and Bertha     56
John G. Peters on Jane's Otherness     61
Lawrence J. Starzyk on the Significance of Pictures     74
Micael M. Clarke Compares Jane to Cinderella     80
Works by Charlotte Bronte     90
Annotated Bibliography     91
Contributors     94
Acknowledgments     96
Index     97
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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Like Frankenstein and Dracula, Jane Eyre is a Victorian novel that has passed into common consciousness and proved remarkably adaptable, generating several film and stage versions. That Jane Eyre shares this fate with the two greatest horror novels of the nineteenth century is instructive. Like them, it speaks to deep, timeless human urges and fears, using the conventions of Gothic literature to chart the mind's recesses.

The detailed exploration of a strong female character's consciousness has made readers in recent decades consider Jane Eyre as an influential feminist text. The novel works both as the absorbing story of an individual woman's quest and as a narrative of the dilemmas that confront so many women. Its mythic quality is enhanced by the fact that at the time of its writing its author was, like her heroine, unmarried and unremarked, and considered unattractive. In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë created a fully imagined character defined by her strength of will. Though Jane is nothing more than an impoverished governess, she can retort to her haughty employer Rochester: "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?—You think wrong!" (p. 284). Jane's willfulness scandalized many contemporary critics, who called her (and the novel) "coarse" and "unfeminine." Such criticisms were powerless against the novel's popularity, and Jane's indomitable voice continues to enthrall readers more than 150 years after the novel's original publication.

In its first-person narration and autobiographical structure, which follows the title character from childhood to adulthood, Jane Eyre has much in common with another durable Victorian novel, David Copperfield. As with Dickens' novel, some of the scenes readers are most likely to remember are those in which the child narrator is nearly overwhelmed by cruelty. Jane Eyre opens with orphaned, ten-year-old Jane's forcible eviction from her window-seat refuge by her vicious and pampered cousin, John Reed. When Mrs. Reed takes John's side and locks Jane in the red-room, the pattern of Jane's oppression by authority figures is set. At Lowood School Jane is singled out for abuse by the tyrannical and self-righteous headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst. Though apparently powerless—being young, female, poor, and virtually without family—she defies the humiliations Brocklehurst imposes on her. Brontë presents the soft-spoken, forgiving Helen Burns as an example of moral perfection, but it is the outraged and rebellious Jane who is more appealing.

As an adult, Jane faces the romantic prospects of a young woman lacking the social advantages of family, money, and beauty, and therefore especially vulnerable to the allure of admiration and security. By creating two suitors who exemplify opposing threats to Jane's selfhood, Brontë dramatizes Jane's internal struggles against competing temptations, and Jane's efforts to resist both the ascetic St. John Rivers and the sybaritic Rochester provide the most powerful drama in the book. In Jane, Brontë gives us a character able to withstand St. John's missionary call to self-immolation in a marriage to serve humanity and Rochester's attempts to persuade her to indulge her sexual and romantic desires at the expense of her own moral code.

As central to the novel as Jane's conflicted relationship with Rochester is, her connection with his mad, despised first wife, Bertha Mason Rochester, is at least as intriguing, though the two women hardly meet and never converse. The revelation of Bertha's existence, which Rochester has concealed from Jane, saves her from the bigamous marriage that Rochester had planned. Though Brontë's characterization of Bertha, locked away on a top floor, plays into many nineteenth-century stereotypes of the "native" or "primitive" woman, it also suggests a close kinship between Bertha and Jane. Both women are attracted to Rochester; both live in his house; and both are mistreated by him. Critics and readers alike have puzzled over how to understand this connection. To what extent is Bertha a double for Jane, acting on her behalf? To what extent is she a figure for the fate—inarticulate, imprisoned, hopeless—that awaits Jane if she surrenders to the corrupt Rochester?

A similar ambiguity pervades the novel's ending. While Jane's "Reader, I married him" (p. 498) carries a note of relief and triumph, the path to this ending is so convoluted and disturbing as to raise questions about how we are to understand it. If Jane and Rochester's marriage as equals requires not only Rochester's moral regeneration, blinding, and partial crippling, but also Jane's inheriting a small fortune, what is the novel saying about the real-life prospects of a woman like Jane enjoying such a union? Throughout the novel, Brontë asks how a woman in her society can have passion and integrity, love and independence. Jane Eyre does not so much suggest definitive answers as pose the questions with an urgency and a depth of imagination that challenge readers.

ABOUT CHARLOTTE BRONTË

Marked by grief, obscurity, and determination, Charlotte Brontë's life closely resembles that of her most famous heroine. Left motherless at an early age, Charlotte, her brother, and her four sisters were raised in the Yorkshire village of Haworth, where their father was curate. Charlotte's two older sisters died of illnesses contracted at the Cowan Bridge boarding school, which Charlotte also attended and which she used as the basis for Lowood in Jane Eyre. At nine, she became the eldest of the four surviving siblings. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, along with their brother, Branwell, read voraciously and created an elaborate fantasy world. The four wrote prolifically, in preparation for the later literary efforts of the three sisters. Charlotte attended school, worked for a time as a teacher, and had a brief career as a governess. In 1842, she and Emily went to Brussels to study languages. Charlotte's teacher there was the charismatic M. Heger, a married man with whom she fell in love. Her emotionally fraught, though celibate, relationship with him served as the basis for her first novel, The Professor. Written in 1846, it was not published until after her death.

In 1845, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne published Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Though it sold virtually no copies, the sisters continued to write under these male pseudonyms, and, in 1847, Charlotte published Jane Eyre, which was a resounding popular success. Both Branwell and Emily died in 1848, with Anne following the next year. Charlotte went on to publish Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853). In 1854, she married Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate, but soon died during pregnancy.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Why does Brontë juxtapose Jane's musings about women's social restraints with the mysterious laugh that Jane attributes to Grace Poole (p. 125-26)?
  • Rochester tells Jane, "if you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours; Nature did it" (p. 153-54). Are we intended to agree or disagree with this statement?
  • After Mason's visit to Thornfield, Jane asks herself, "What crime was this, that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by the owner?" (p. 237). What crime does Bertha represent? Why does Rochester keep her at Thornfield?
  • Does Rochester ever actually intend to marry Blanche Ingram? If so, when does he change his mind? If not, why does he go to such lengths to make Jane believe he does?
  • Rochester's disastrous marriage to Bertha was based on passion, while St. John refuses to marry Rosamund because of his passion for her. What is Brontë saying about the role passion should play in marriage?
  • What does St. John feel for Jane? Why does Jane end her story with his prayer?
  • Jane asserts her equality to Rochester (p. 284), and St. John (p. 452). What does Jane mean by equality, and why is it so important to her?
  • When Jane first appears at Moor House, Hannah assumes she is a prostitute, but St. John and his sisters do not. What distinguishes the characters who misjudge Jane from those who recognize her true nature?
  • When Jane hears Rochester's voice calling while he is miles away, she says the phenomenon "is the work of nature" (p. 467). What does she mean by this? What are we intended to conclude about the meaning of this experience?
  • Brontë populates the novel with many female characters roughly the same age as Jane—Georgiana and Eliza Reed, Helen Burns, Blanche Ingram, Mary and Diana Rivers, and Rosamund Oliver. How do comparisons with these characters shape the reader's understanding of Jane's character?
  • What is the balance of power between Jane and Rochester when they marry? Does this balance change from the beginning of the marriage to the time ten years later that Jane describes at the end of the novel (p. 500-501)?

FOR FURTHER REFLECTION

  • In a romantic relationship, does one partner inevitably dominate the other?
  • Should an individual who holds a position of authority be granted the respect of others, regardless of his or her character?

  • RELATED TITLES

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)
Through the passionate and ultimately self-destructive love of Catherine and Heathcliff, this novel explores questions of identity and the individual's relationship with society.

Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1860)
This prime exemplar of the "sensation novel" uses mistaken identity, wrongful imprisonment in an insane asylum, and other Gothic conventions in a plot that also addresses the theme of women's place in society.

Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1881)
Isabel Archer, the intelligent and independent heroine of James's novel, suffers a fate that contrasts sharply with Jane's when she succumbs to a stifling marriage.

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (1938)
Du Maurier's novel features a mysterious and destructive first wife, a brooding romantic hero with secrets, and a young heroine of equivocal social position.

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
A revisionist telling of Jane Eyre, this short novel is narrated by Bertha Mason and explicitly treats the issues of West Indian slavery and English racism dealt with obliquely in Brontë's book.

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Customer Reviews

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( 817 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 824 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 19, 2011

    Many Many Errors

    I love Jane Eyre, but during "Chaptee 1", Jane's relatives are either the Eeeds, the Keeds, or even the Beeds, but rarely the Reeds. Find another version!

    9 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    So Interesting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I loved this book!!! It really makes you think of all of the possibilities in life. It has really high vocab but the nook has a built in dictionary so you can understand it( Im a 12 year old and I read it).Everyone has to read this book because it teaches you many things about life. I won't say what happened ( because I dont want to ruin it for you) but I reccomend it for everyone.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    Anonymous

    Great book for those whom appreciate details, old english writing style(yet very understandable), a romantic tragedy, and the years of a girl becoming a woman. Although, not many will enjoy such book if your not into classics. Hope you enjoy Jane Eyre or give it a try.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2011

    AWESOME!!!!!!

    Great book. I luved it!!

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2012

    My paper copy fell apart from too many readings...

    I adore this book. Read it for the first time at age ten. Several times since. Its amazing how your reading changes as your understanding does.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2010

    Simply amazing.

    This Charlotte Bronte novel is a wonderful read. I enjoyed everything about this book. It kept me captivated until the very last page. I would recommend Jane Eyre to all readers!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2012

    Enduring

    Start to finish, Jane Eyre remains gripping. Always a favorite, despite many years of rereading.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2012

    Great Classic Book

    I had never read this book in High School like my daughter did and thought it was about time I read it. It is my daughter's favorite book. It was well written and had a good plot. Writers in the distant past payed a lot more attention to describing in detail the surroundings and the thoughts and feelings going on in the main character's head. Today's authors are too much in a hurry to go into so much detail. Some of the description I wanted to be done with already, but others I greatly enjoyed because it gave me insight into Jane and Mr. Rochester. It made them into real people. This book shows how someone who had a rather wretched childhood could grow up to be a very fine woman.

    Great book!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2012

    Should i continue?

    I read some post that mentioned intense romance. Im under the age of 11. Should i keep reading? Ive already started.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2014

    Whole-Heartedly Recommend

    Never before has a book so easily become my favorite. After you get through the first few pages, you can easily understand what Jane is saying in modern terms. I'm not going to lie, it was a little low in the beginning, but as tge story progresses you'll be so sucked into Jane's life. I love this book so much and recommend it 100%!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012

    Jane Eyre!

    I haven't finished the book, but so far it bas been astounding! I saw the recent movie and adored, so I am reading the book. Chapter one is slow, but picks up soon. I am shocked by how hooked I was by chapter four. Very elaborate descrptions, but those never caused any harm. Enjoying thoroughly!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2012

    Loved it!

    Wasnt as dry as others I've read. Might just read it again.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2012

    God!

    The person that wrote the review "Intense read", you write too much. If people wanted to know about the book, then they could just read it themself! Duh!

    1 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    Blah

    All they talk about is talk

    1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2012

    Ehh its boring but has very rich language

    Its a very slow read and often drags on i often enjoy reading classic books but this one just didnt capture my attention it also made it worse that i had to read it for honors english i didnt enjoys it it was pretty boring but i understood it and the language is rich if you are okay with reading a slow paced book this is for you its also very dark andnceepy too

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    Booooo

    Not a good book

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 3, 2011

    Great book bad service

    The book is great but B&N sucks because I never received the book

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2015

    Love!

    LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! This book is so totes amazing, and everyone needs to read it. I mean, I like, couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2015

    Nepeta

    Sits around, playing with a teapot and somesugar cubes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2015

    Amazing Book!!!!!!!!!

    We need more People like Jane Eyres in this world, This book is great !

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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