One of the world's most beloved novels, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a startlingly modern blend of passion, romance, mystery, and suspense. Immediately recognized as a masterpiece when it was first published in 1847, 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.
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About the Author
The eldest of the three Brontë sisters, Charlotte is best known for her novel Jane Eyre, which was published under the pseudonym Currer Bell. Brontë’s works were revolutionary for their time, reflecting a truthfulness about love and relationships that was not common in Victorian-era England. While Jane Eyre was, and continues to be, her most popular work, Charlotte Brontë published numerous works during her short life, including juvenilia, poetry, and the novels Shirley and Villette. Charlotte Brontë died in 1855, outliving both of her sisters, Anne and Emily. Collectively, the Brontë sisters’ novels are considered literary standards that continue to influence modern writers.
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
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.'
From the eBook edition.
Table of Contents(+ = new to the Third Edition)
The Text of Jane Eyre
CHARLOTTE BRONTË AS STUDENT GOVERNESS, AND TEACHER
School Register: Clergy Daughter's School
Report on the Cowan Bridge School for Clergymen's Daughters
From The Children's Friend
CHARLOTTE BRONTË AT ROE HEAD
"Well, here I am at Roe Head"
+"Now as I have a little bit of time"
"All this day I have been in a dream"
"I'm just going to write because I cannot help it"
+"My compliments to the weather"
+"About a week since I got a letter from Branwell"
From "Henry Hastings"
Farewell to Anglia
+CHARLOTTE AND JANE'S ILLUSTRATED BOOK
+To W. S. Williams, March 11, 1848
+Vignettes from Bewick
+"Charlotte Brontë and Bewick's 'British Birds'"
+CHARLOTTE BRONTË AS GOVERNESS
+To Emily Brontë, June 8, 1839
+To Ellen Nussey, June 30, 1839
+To W. S. Williams, May 12, 1848
+The Governess Grinders
+To Smith, Elder & Co., August 7, 1847
+To Smith, Elder & Co., August 24, 1847
+To Smith, Elder & Co., September 12, 1847
To W. S. Williams, October 28, 1847
To W. S. Williams, January 28, 1848
To G. H. Lewes, November 6, 1847
G. H. Lewes, Fraser's Magazine, December 1847
To W. S. Williams, December 11, 1847
+To W. S. Williams, August 14, 1848
+To W. S. Williams, Early September, 1848
THE CHRISTIAN REMEMBRANCER AND THE QUARTERLY
From The Christian Remembrancer, January 1848
Elizabeth Rigby, The Quarterly Review, December 1848
To W. S. Williams, January 2, 1849
+To W. S. Williams, February 10[?], 1849
To W. S. Williams, August 16, 1849
From "A Word to The Quarterly"
+Charlotte Brontë and the Critics
+Charlotte Brontë: Author and Woman
First Impressions of Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë at Home
Charlotte Brontë's Working Habits
Adrienne Rich * Jane Eyre: The Temptations of a Motherless Woman
Sandra M. Gilbert * A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Plain Jane's Progress
+Jerome Beaty * St. John's Way and the Wayward Reader
+Lisa Sternlieb * Jane Eyre: "Hazarding Confidences"
+Jeffrey Sconce * [The Cinematic Reconstitution of Jane Eyre]
+Donna Marie Nudd * The Pleasure of Intertexutuality: Reading Jane Eyre
+Charlotte Brontë: A Chronology
What People are Saying About This
"Renowned artists are commissioned to design the binding for each of [White's Books]'s beautifully crafted hardcovers." —Fuck Yeah, Book Arts!
"A masterwork. This reverse Cinderella story becomes a vital and energetic tale through McCaddon's lovely rendition." -Library Journal Audio Review
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. The first 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"?