About the Author
Emily Jane Brontë was the most solitary member of a unique, tightly-knit, English provincial family. Born in 1818, she shared the parsonage of the town of Haworth, Yorkshire, with her older sister, Charlotte, her brother, Branwell, her younger sister, Anne, and her father, The Reverend Patrick Brontë. All five were poets and writers; all but Branwell would publish at least one book.
Fantasy was the Brontë children’s one relief from the rigors of religion and the bleakness of life in an impoverished region. They invented a series of imaginary kingdoms and constructed a whole library of journals, stories, poems, and plays around their inhabitants. Emily’s special province was a kingdom she called Gondal, whose romantic heroes and exiles owed much to the poems of Byron.
Brief stays at several boarding schools were the sum of her experiences outside Haworth until 1842, when she entered a school in Brussels with her sister Charlotte. After a year of study and teaching there, they felt qualified to announce the opening of a school in their own home, but could not attract a single pupil.
In 1845 Charlotte Brontë came across a manuscript volume of her sister’s poems. She knew at once, she later wrote, that they were “not at all like poetry women generally write…they had a peculiar music–wild, melancholy, and elevating.” At her sister’s urging, Emily’s poems, along with Anne’s and Charlotte’s, were published pseudonymously in 1846. An almost complete silence greeted this volume, but the three sisters, buoyed by the fact of publication, immediately began to write novels. Emily’s effort was Wuthering Heights; appearing in 1847 it was treated at first as a lesser work by Charlotte, whose Jane Eyre had already been published to great acclaim. Emily Brontë’s name did not emerge from behind her pseudonym of Ellis Bell until the second edition of her novel appeared in 1850.
In the meantime, tragedy had struck the Brontë family. In September of 1848 Branwell had succumbed to a life of dissipation. By December, after a brief illness, Emily too was dead; her sister Anne would die the next year. Wuthering Heights, Emily’s only novel, was just beginning to be understood as the wild and singular work of genius that it is. “Stronger than a man,” wrote Charlotte, “Simpler than a child, her nature stood alone.”
Date of Birth:April 21, 1816
Date of Death:March 31, 1855
Place of Birth:Thornton, Yorkshire, England
Place of Death:Haworth, West Yorkshire, England
Education:Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire; Miss Wooler's School at Roe Head
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Excerpted from "Jane Eyre"
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Table of Contents
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
What People are Saying About This
The novel that cries out for the stage has gotten the stage. The story is beautifully adapted and acted.
The New York Post
So we open Jane Eyre... The writer has us by the hand, forces us along her road, makes us see what she sees, never leaves us for a moment or allows us to forget her. At the end we are steeped through and through with the genius, the vehemence, the indignation of Charlotte Bronte.... It is the red and fitful glow of the heart's fire which illuminates her page.
"Renowned artists are commissioned to design the binding for each of [White's Books]'s beautifully crafted hardcovers." —Fuck Yeah, Book Arts!
Reading Group Guide
1. In Jane Eyre, nothing can better show a man's moral worth than the way in which he treats the women in his life. How is Rochester's character reflected in the way he treats Jane, Adele, Bertha Mason, and Miss Ingram, and in his reported treatment of Celine Varens? How is St. John's character reflected in the way he treats Jane, Miss Oliver, and Diana and Mary? Why does this serve as such a good gauge of a man's morality and worth? What other relationships serve similar functions in the novel?
2. Throughout the novel, questions of identity are raised. From her identity as an orphan and stranger in the hostile environment of Gateshead Hall to that of a ward of the church at Lowood; from her being a possible wife of Rochester, then of St. John, to being the cousin of Diana and Mary, Jane is constantly in transition. Trace these changes in identity and how they affect Jane's view of herself and the world around her. Describe the final discovery of her identity that becomes apparent in the last chapter of the novel and the events that made that discovery possible.
3. Throughout the novel, Charlotte Brontë uses biblical quotes and religious references. From the church-supported school she attended that was run by Mr. Brocklehurst to the offer of marriage she receives from St. John, she is surrounded by aspects of Christianity. How does this influence her throughout her development? How do her views of God and Christianity change from her days as a young girl to the end of the novel? How is religion depicted in the novel, positively or negatively?
4. Many readers of Jane Eyre feel that the story is composed of two distinct parts, different in tone and purpose. Thefirst part (chapters 1-11) concerns her childhood at Gateshead and her life at Lowood; the second part is the remainder of the story. Is creating such a division justified? Is there a genuine difference of tone and purpose between the two sections as they have been described? Some critics and readers have suggested that the first part of Jane Eyre is more arresting because it is more directly autobiographical. Do you find this to be true?
5. Upon publication, great speculation arose concerning the identity of the author of Jane Eyre, known only by the pen name Currer Bell. Questions as to the sex of the author were raised, and many critics said that they believed it to be the work of a man. One critic of her time said, "A book more unfeminine, both in its excellence and defects, it would be hard to find in the annals of female authorship. Throughout there is masculine power, breadth and shrewdness, combined with masculine hardness, coarseness, and freedom of expression." Another critic of the day, Elizabeth Rigby, said that if it was the product of a female pen, then it was the writing of a woman "unsexed." Why was there such importance placed on the sex of the author and why was it questioned so readily? What does it mean that people believed it to be the product of a man rather than of a woman?
6. Scenes of madness and insanity are among the most important plot devices in Jane Eyre. From the vision Jane sees when locked in the bedroom at Gateshead to her hearing the "goblin laughter" she attributes to Grace Poole, to the insanity and wretchedness of Bertha Mason, madness is of central importance to the plot and direction of the story. Give examples of madness in the text, and show how they affect the reader's understanding of the character experiencing the madness and how these examples affect the reader's understanding of the characters witnessing it.
7. There is probably no single line in the whole of Jane Eyre that has, in itself, attracted as much critical attention as the first line of the last chapter: "Reader, I married him." Why is the phrasing of this line so important? How would the sense be different-for the sentence and for the novel as a whole-if the line read, "Reader, we were married"?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jane Eyre is an orphaned governess who develops romantic feelings for her employer, Mr. Rochester, a man ensconced in tragedy. Sent away to an orphanage as a child by her cruel aunt, Jane's attachments in life have been few. At Lowood, she gains a friend whose perspectives enable Jane to reign in her anger and find beauty in the darkest situations. At nineteen, Jane contentedly finds her place at Thornfield Hall, amidst the friendship of the housekeeper and her little charge, Adele. The peace is disturbed, however, when Edward Rochester, the wealthy, woeful owner of the mansion returns. For Rochester, Jane’s kindness and naivety are a catharsis for his troubled mind, and her imagination a refreshment. Jane finally has a “full life,” until a piece of Rochester’s past shatters her dreams. Jane Eyre is one of the most tragically brilliant pieces of Gothic fiction ever written, at times satisfying everything and nothing in a whirlwind of passion and drama that will appeal to readers for all time. For a themed recipe of Orange Almond Cardamom Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Frosting, discussion questions, or similar books, visit http://hub.me/amdHY
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings I am not a reader of classics, so when I found out that it was the 170th anniversary of the publication of Jane Eyre, I knew I wanted to do a week celebrating and I had to start where all these books were inspired from - the source material, so here it goes! My usual pacing for reading books is a page per minute, meaning I can read 120 pages in two hours, that was not the case with this classic. I read much slower and I think for a few reasons. One, I knew that I was going to read books inspired by Jane Eyre after reading this one, so I wanted to really read this one closely so I could see the original in the back of my mind when reading the inspirations. Also, the language used. The language in this book wasn't completely archaic, but it was definitely older which made me read a little slower.