Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" Essay

3679 words - 15 pages

"Jane Eyre" was published in 1847 under the androgynous pseudonym of "Currer Bell." The publication was followed by widespread success. Utilizing two literary traditions, the Bildungsroman and the Gothic novel, "Jane Eyre" is a powerful narrative with profound themes concerning genders, family, passion, and identity. It is unambiguously one of the most celebrated novels in British literature.Born in 1816, Charlotte Bronte was the third daughter of Patrick Bronte, an ambitious and intelligent clergyman. According to Newsman, all the Bronte children were unusually precocious and almost ferociously intelligent, and their informal and unorthodox educations under their father's tutelage nurtured these traits. Patrick Bronte shared his interests in literature with his children, toward whom he behaved as though they were his intellectual equals. The Bronte children read voraciously. Charlotte's imagination was especially fired by the poetry of Byron, whose brooding heroes served as the prototypes for characters in the Bronte's juvenile writings as well as for such figures as Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre (2). Bronte's formal education was limited and sporadic - ten months at the age of 8 at Cowan Bridge Clergy Daughters' School (the model for Lowood Institution in Jane Eyre), eighteen months from the age of 14 at Roe Head School of Miss Margaret Wooler (the model for Ms. Temple) (Nestor 3-4). According to Newman, Bronte then worked as a teacher at Roe Head for three years before going to work as a governess. Seeking an alternative way of earning money, Charlotte Bronte went to Brussels in 1842 to study French and German at the Pensionnat Heger, preparing herself to open a school at the parsonage. She seems to have fallen in love with her charismatic teacher, Constantin Heger. The experience seems on a probable source for a recurrent feature in Bronte's fiction: "relationships in which the inflammatory spark of intellectual energy ignites an erotic attraction between a woman and a more socially powerful man" (Newman 6). The Brontes' efforts to establish a school at the parsonage never got off the ground. Still seeking ways to make money, Charlotte published, with her sisters, the unsuccessful Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Her first effort to publish a novel, The Professor, was also unsuccessful. Jane Eyre, published in October 1847, however, was met with great enthusiasm and became one of the best sellers. As "Currer Bell" Bronte completed two more novels, Shirley and Villette. She married Reverend William Bell Nicholls in 1854 and died nine months later, at the age of thirty-nine in 1855 (Nestor 4-5).The story of Jane Eyre takes place in northern England in the early to mid-19th Century. ("Jane Eyre" 151) It starts as the ten-year-old Jane, a plain but unyielding child, is excluded by her Aunt Reed from the domestic circle around the hearth and bullied by her handsome but unpleasant cousins. Under the suggestion of Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary that...

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