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Immediately recognized as a masterpiece when it was first published in 1847, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is an extraordinary coming-of-age story featuring one of the most independent and strong-willed female protagonists in all of literature. Poor and plain, Jane Eyre begins life as a lonely orphan in the household of her hateful aunt. Despite the oppression she endures at home, and the later torture of boarding school, Jane manages to emerge with her spirit and integrity unbroken. She becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she finds herself falling in love with her employer—the dark, impassioned Mr. Rochester. But an explosive secret tears apart their relationship, forcing Jane to face poverty and isolation once again.
One of the world’s most beloved novels, Jane Eyre is a startlingly modern blend of passion, romance, mystery, and suspense.
Susan Ostrov Weisser is a Professor of English at Adelphi University, where she specializes in nineteenth-century literature and women’s studies. Her research centers on women and romantic love in nineteenth-century literature, as well as on contemporary popular culture. Weisser also wrote the introduction to the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Persuasion.
Matthew Arnold famously characterized Charlotte Brontë’s writing as full of “rebellion and rage,” yet that description does not easily square with the most famous line of her best-known novel, Jane Eyre: “Reader, I married him.” Coming as it does at the conclusion of a tempestuous series of ordeals in the romance of the governess Jane Eyre and her wealthy employer, Rochester, it implies a conventional happy ending for a heroine, her domestic reward for virtue. Between these two differing accounts of Jane Eyre as subversive and conservative lies a complex and challenging novel full of paradoxes, not least of which is that it appears regularly on lists of classics, yet has had enduring mass appeal as a romance as well.
In Jane Eyre we have that unusual monument in the history of literature, a novel considered from the first a work of high literary merit that is also an immediate and enormous popular success. Indeed, it continues to be widely read both in and out of the academic setting. While it is often “required” reading in secondary schools and universities, it has also been adapted into numerous films, television productions, theatrical plays, and at least one Broadway musical. The first of these productions took place in London less than four months after the novel’s publication, much to the dismay of its author, who feared, like most authors, that the play would misrepresent her work. In fact, it is not surprising that most adaptations of Jane Eyre have selectively emphasized the melodramatic Gothic and romantic elements of the novel at the expense of less easily dramatized aspects, such as its passages about religion or the condition of women. Yet these are just as integral to its meaning as the melodrama for which it is remembered, if not more so.
In some ways it is difficult to account for the continued stature and popular appeal of a work that has been read as both feminist and antifeminist, radical and conservative, highly original and highly derivative, Romantic and Victorian. Certainly many readers, beginning with George Eliot in the nineteenth century, have been disturbed by the way the plot hinges on a moral dilemma involving antiquated divorce laws and nineteenth-century notions of women’s sexual purity. Some critics, such as Virginia Woolf, have seen the novel as too angry for its own literary good; others, notably some modern feminist critics, as not explicitly angry enough. Why does this novel about the moral trials of an impoverished and orphaned governess continue to hold such fascination for a modern audience? Is it the passionate romance, the Cinderella ending, the incipient feminism of its views about the suppression of women?
Most readers who respond to the novel agree that the appeal of Jane Eyre lies in its intensity of feeling, richness of language, and forceful representation of passion in a decidedly dramatic plot. Even at its publication in 1847, critics and the public recognized that, for better or worse, Jane Eyre was something different: a novel about a woman written with a man’s freedom, the freedom to portray the indecorum of a heroine who has outbursts of anger as a child and uncontrollable passion as an adult, who confesses her desire openly when she thinks it is hopeless and refuses the passive and dependent role in romance. All these violated deeply entrenched social codes of femininity and respectability, and shocked some of Brontë’s early critics. Miss Eyre is “rather a brazen Miss,” cried one contemporary reader (letter from John Gibson Lockhart, 1847); another called the novel “dangerous,” filled with “outrages on decorum.” “[The author] cannot appreciate the hold which a daily round of simple duties and pure pleasures has on those who are content to practice and enjoy them,” sniffed another reviewer (Anne Mozley, The Christian Remembrancer, April 1853).
Fearing (with justification) that female authors would not be taken seriously, the three Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, published their first novels in 1847 under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. A great deal of speculation followed in the press about the identities of the pseudonymous authors, including controversy as to their gender. The exciting revelation that eventually followed—that the writers were not only females, but the humble, reserved, unfashionable, and religious daughters of a clergyman living in a remote village on the moors of Yorkshire—only stimulated more curiosity, this time about the nature of the women who could produce such disturbing works about passion while leading reclusive and virginal lives.
Many modern readers are aware that Charlotte Brontë was one of four remarkable children, three of whom, including Emily Brontë and Anne Brontë, became famous authors themselves, and the other of whom, Branwell, the only brother, died at age thirty-one in miserable and ignoble circumstances. One important aspect of Jane Eyre’s remarkable success has surely been the literary mystery that has grown to the proportions of myth about the entire Brontë family: How could the modest, unworldly authors of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall have understood and depicted fervent, obsessive, sometimes violent love?
Posted April 16, 2008
This book was amazing, truly fantastic! All my classmates gave me weird looks because it looked strange 'im in 8th grade' but I ignored them and read it anyway and it was just, just, I can't say, you know! the ending made me so happy that i cryed, crazy huh? I handed it to my teacher and gushed, 'it was beautiful, so beautiful!' 'it was her copy' so if your some random person looking to see if this book is good, IT IS. If a kid as younge as me can appreciate it fully, you have to understand how utterly perfect it is! Read read! ^ ^
52 out of 61 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 28, 2009
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I read this book for my AP English class; we all kind of dreaded it whe we first heard. I was once told by a friend that it was horrible and that I should never, ever read it. I did, anyway, and I was thoroughly surprised and I enjoyed every bit of it!
Knowing very little about the plot (I'd only been told there's a crazy person in an attic --- which I forgot about), or even Bronte's writing style, I read the first ten chapters with shock and awe that the story was about a ten-year-old. Although the entire book is not about a ten-year-old, I was quickly taken with the plot and characters and just descriptions of England at that time.
This book read quickly with alternately likeable and despicable characters, unusual language, and beautiful plot.
My only complaint is that one character, Adele, speaks chiefly in French. I was lucky enough to be taking French classes while reading this, so I could piece together what she was essentially saying. What she says is not of a whole lot of importance, but it does bring the book to a halt at times.
All in all, Jane Eyre exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds and I enjoyed reading it immensely.
43 out of 45 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 17, 2010
Not worth it as a free book. Tons of errors due to scanning without proof-reading. This was the second book from Google Books I've had problems with. Pay to read the B&N version.
24 out of 55 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 12, 2006
It is very disconcerting for me to see such negative reviews about a book which has elevated literature throughout the world. This book is a challenging read, however it has the potential to expand one's mind by making a person think in an entirely new way. It is a book full of suspense, mystery, and romance. Charlotte Bronte uses words in the most discriptive manner and gives us a heroine who is complex on the inside, yet plain on the outside. It is singlehandedly one of the best classical books of all time and it should be required reading for everyone.
19 out of 22 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 10, 2009
Jane Eyre is quite possibly one of my favorite books, one that I have read many times. I bought this edition because I thought the cover was pretty and the fantastic price. Bronte's original text is flawless (although Hindustani is spelled differently in my other copy)I give Bronte 5 stars, however, the introduction by Joyce Carol Oates is terrible. I found it choppy and not that relevant to the story. I don't believe for two seconds that Bertha Mason's insanity was caused by syphilis. I just don't. I also don't buy that Jane thinks human love is more important than God. If she did why did she spend so much time on her knees in prayer? Not one summary, review or movie version I have seen of this story acknowledges any sort of higher power in a non nutcase way. What a shame, I think Bronte should get more credit and less speculation. Let's just take it in the context she wished. I feel better after venting my opinions, bottom line if you want a good copy of Jane Eyre this will work, just ignore the introduction.
15 out of 18 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I just read a WONDERFUL book entitled "The Thirteeth Tale" and the author referenced Jane Eyre numerous times in the book, so I needed to know why this book was referenced so much and I picked up the book as soon as I finished "The Thirteenth Tale." I had no expectation when I began the book. In my opinion Jane Eyre truly lives up to it's "classic" classification. It is has romance, drama, thrills and in the end I could not read it fast enough to see what happened to Jane. It is very, very well written and was way ahead of it's time when originally published in 1847. I highly recommend this book.
13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 15, 2010
Jane Eyre is one of those books you can start anywhere anytime and get so incredibly caught up in the story that you never want to stop reading. I've read this book more than fifteen times and have written multiple research papers on it. The characters are well developed, even smaller ones. Jane is a very strong female character, as is Mr. Rochester. The love story between the two does not dominate Jane's character; she remains true to herself regardless of the situation. This truly is a novel written for all women and should be read by all.
8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 20, 2009
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Jane Eyre is one of the best classic romance novels I have ever read. As we follow Jane through her harshly brought up childhood to the challenges of her adulthood, we see not only the development of her identity but also the merging of minds between herself and her strange but intelligent employer. Ah, but there is a secret that destroys everything expected! Read this book if you enjoy romance with literary value.
7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 9, 2009
It can't get any better than Jane Eyre. All of Charlotte Bronte's novels are great, but this one is uncomparable to anything else I have ever read. The writing style, authentic female author, and exciting plot make this novel fascinating every time I read it.
7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 12, 2008
This book was a bit slow through the first half, but once it gets past Jane's childhood it becomes fascinating and was actually hard to put down. I was amazed by Brontë's vocabulary, writing style, and ability to create such an intriguing and original plot. This is the kind of book that makes you really feel for the characters and get lost in the adventures of their lives. Right when you think you know what's going to happen, Jane Eyre surprises you and another twist to the plot comes in. By the end of the book, I really respected Jane's character and was glad that everything turned out in a way that she liked and had not expected. This is a great classic -- read it!
7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 30, 2010
This book was the longest and most boring book I have read. It is basically two stories that are thrown together into one. It could have been better if the author, Charlotte Bronte, would have made two separate books instead of one. One of the few things that I found interesting about the book was that it relates to the story of Cinderella. At the beginning Jane lives with her aunt and three cousins who could be the evil stepmother and stepsisters. Eventually she meets Mr. Rochester who, if he were more handsome, could be Prince Charming. Bessie Lee, Maria Temple, or Alice Fairfax could be the fairy godmother.
The plot is interesting and full of surprises. If Charlotte Bronte stopped talking about random things and built up to the major events it would have been better. I would read fifty pages before the next important thing happened. My time was wasted when I read those fifty pages simply because they were spent talking about worthless event and things that did not build up to the important parts of the plot. There were a few strange and disturbing parts. In one of them a mad woman told a man that she was sucking the blood from his heart. While she said this she bit him and tried to suck the blood from his heart. People thought he was stabbed until the doctor found the bite marks. One of the things that made this seem even more disturbing was the descriptive writing that Charlotte Bronte used. She had many long sentences with lots of descriptive words in them. The long sentences seemed to make time go by very slowly. The characters did not have much of a personality. Most of them were stubborn, negative people who spent their time hurting themselves and others. They do not know how to solve their problems. As a result only one problem is solved in the end while there are another ten problem that never got fixed. The characters were boring and annoying.
One of the few things that I enjoyed in this book was the description of the setting. I was able to imagine all the places that Mr. Rochester visited. She described England as being a very green and lush place full of beautiful birds, flowers, and amazing scenery.
This is definitely not a fast read. I would only recommend this book to people who often look forward to a very long and challenging read that has large descriptive words in every sentence.
5 out of 26 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I LOVED this book. Jane Eyre is the respectable, yet fiery lady that I wish I could be. It begins with a stormy and well written childhood, and within a few chapters I couldn't put the book down. I've read classics that I was disappointed in, but this is truly worthy of the title "classic". The love story is so pure, and well worth waiting for. Mr. Rochester seems so unlikable at first, but you just can't help falling inlove with him as the book goes on. I wasn't crazy about St. John. but his purpose was necessary to give you a scare. This book gives great insight to the condition of living for women during this time period. Thank God things have changed. I would've been strung up by my toenails if Reverend Brocklehurst had spoke to me the way he spoke to little Jane. After I read it, I wanted more even though the ending was perfect and filling. Beautifully written characters, and C. Bronte's style of writing is fantastic. I did have to keep a dictionary by my side through most of the book, but I'm not a brilliant kind of gal. The improvement of my vocabulary could only be a plus though. Thank you Miss Charlotte Bronte for this timeless piece of work.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 1, 2010
I read this book for the first time at age 30. I was a little reluctant, expecting to be disappointed since it's supposed to be a great "coming of age" story, leading me to think I should've read it when I was much younger. No regrets here...this book is appropriate for any age, and by the end of the book, had leaped right to the top of my all-time favorites list. Highly recommended.
4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 15, 2009
As a young adult my review may seem slightly ignorant and perhaps bias but as an avid reader,the book Jane Erye was a recommended to me as a must read. In my opinion the book is more like a, must leave on the shelf. Decoding Bronte's seventeenth century lingo would be like decoding rocket science if I were unfamiliar with reading.Jane Eyre's rather plain appearance made the novel a tad bit more realistic.The harsh realities she encountered throughout her life are expressed as she unfolds her story of depression to sucession and were less than worth while reading. Bronte's imagery managed to take me to ecstasy as she took me from Britians harshest winter to it's most endearing spring.<BR/>However her excessive wording and excruciatingly complex language really just.. Turned me off. Bronte's fairytale of being rewarded after enduring the worst of life and keeping faith to her religion are few of the many themes within this classic piece. Although the novel is best to be read in your own time,(or on a rainy/snowy day)the very detailed descriptions are not as bad in some areas and the book took me to a place completely different from home. The ending was the peak of me growing irate over such a common and cheesey ideal ending. Bronte often manages to keep readers interested then wanders off topic and begins to bore them, then right before you fall asleep she grabs you back in. Even though I would never dare buy this book as a gift for anyone in their right mind! This is a book I love to hate.
4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 12, 2010
This is a great classical book for high school and college students. It is one of the few classics that has a satisfying ending. The notes found in the Barnes and Noble edition are very helpful.
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 23, 2001
I love Jane Eyre. If I were rating Jane Eyre I would give it six stars out of five. (No that's not a typo.) However, do not buy this book. Buy Jane Eyre, by all means, just don't buy this version of it. There are about five typos a page and by the time I finished the novel, I was so frustrated with the mis-prints I could have screamed. And the cover does the book no justice. The clothing of the woman on the cover is of a different time period than Eyre. The back summary is also hugely misleading and makes this fantastic classic sound more like a trashy romance novel than the brilliantly beautiful work that it truly is. But, do buy Jane Eyre. I have never been so moved by a work of literature than by this book. I cannot praise this book enough, mere words do it no justice.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 5, 2012
Posted January 4, 2011
The audiobook mentioned was a selling point for me. It isn't a file, but a text internet address on the very last page of the ebook that the nook does not recognize as a hyperlink. Apparently this guy Sam Ngo went and found the free ebook with illustrations and also found a free audiobook file on an archive website somewhere and wrote out the file's internet address on the last page of the book and epub'd it. You would have to look up the file online from your computer, download the audiobook and physically hook up your nook to transfer the file from your computer to your nook. So why pay this guy 1.99? Just go out and find the free files yourself. Probably deleting this. Oh and you have to laugh when the guy says "money back guaranteed... just email us" and then he doesn't give you and email address.
2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 5, 2010
Jane Erye is a romantic piece of literary work that describes the life of a woman. I taught this novel to 12th graders and even the males enjoyed the mystery and intrigue of one of the main characters. A must read!!
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 20, 2007
I am in 8th grade and I have to read this book for my English class. This book is really slow paced and one chapter seems to go on and on about little unimportant things. It is also too old fashioned for me. Not my type of book.
2 out of 13 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.