Jane Eyre: An Autobiography
Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre: An Autobiography' is a first person narrative of the title character and how her own life relates to the life of her created character Jane Eyre.
Charlotte Brontė first published the novel Jane Eyre as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. Although the title has since been changed, many readers still perceive it as a story about Brontės own life. Reading Jane Eyre as an autobiographical novel is just one of various options. This point of view allows the reader to understand the character of Jane through the life of Charlotte. Although it is obvious that Jane and Charlotte did not live the same lives, they share many characteristics. The most efficient and effective way to read Jane Eyre is with an autobiographical mindset because the reader can find many similarities between Jane and Charlotte such as their personalities, families, childhoods, societies, journeys, and romantic relationships.
One major similarity between Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontė is their personalities. Both can be characterized as plain and outsiders. Jane struggles to find where she belongs and Brontė tries to find herself. When Brontė was a child, her life could be described as chaotic, just as Janes could be. Brontės frenzied child-life was a cause from experiences such as the many deaths of people close to her. Jane has many preternatural experiences that frighten her, but at the same time, make her stronger. A major preternatural experience was her being locked in the red room as a child. While she was in the red room, she saw a ghost of her dead uncle. In the beginning of the novel, Jane makes various references to books that she is reading or has read. She seems to enjoy reading because she can escape from the real world. Brontė and her sisters all loved to read as well. The region were Brontė lived also relates to the setting of Jane Eyre and Jane herself. The Brontės lived in the countryside which is known as a mysterious, stormy area. This stormy weather is used in the novel to describe Janes mood. For example, in the first few lines of the book, the weather is described; but since dinner . . . the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so somber, and a rain so penetrating (1). These few lines relate to Janes mood when she lives with the Reeds. They are not welcoming or caring towards Jane and the weather reflects it. These characteristics of having chaotic lives and similar interests show that Janes personality is parallel to Brontės throughout the story.
Jane and Charlotte also have very similar families and went through like childhoods. Charlottes mother died when she was only 5 years old. Jane Eyres parents both died from typhus shortly after Janes birth. In the novel, Jane is then raised by her aunt, Mrs. Reed. Charlotte expresses her pain of growing up with one parent through the character of Jane. In the society where Charlotte grew up, children who lost their parents had to life with relatives or were sent to orphanages. The adults in charge of these orphanages had complete control, just as Mr. Brocklehurst does at Lowood. Children of Charlottes time had very few rights, just as Jane does. She is humiliated by lots of people she interacts with in the story. In chapter seven of Jane Eyre, Mr. Brocklehurst embarrasses Jane in front of the whole school. He tells everyone that she is a liar and he allowed no one to talk to her for the day. Beating and public harassment was acceptable in Charlottes time, and that is reflected in Mr. Brocklehursts treatment of Jane. Brontė writes about her humiliation through Janes experiences. The disrespect Jane endures is a reflection of Brontės. This shows the disrespect that both Jane and Charlotte endured. They have similar experiences in their families and in growing up.
The societies that Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontė live in are also similar. In Brontės time, teachers have no authority in schools. In the story, Miss Temple wants to help the students, but she, as both a teacher and a woman, has no power. As men had the dominant role when the author was young, women were taught to be lady-like and proper. They were taught to cook, clean, and raise children, and it was rare for a woman to earn a living. Brontė was rebellious because she became a writer; Jane expresses her rebelliousness when she stands up for herself throughout the novel, such as the time when she fights back to her cousin John. At Lowood, Jane meets Helen Burns. Helen is lady-like and accepts her role in society. Jane learns from Helen how girls are expected to act, but she still disagrees. During Brontės time, it was most common for people to accept their family religion, and have a simple faith. Jane is daring by going against this when she makes religious references or when she talks about her supernatural experiences. Jane tells Mr. Brocklehurst that she finds the Psalms interesting. This isnt acceptable for the time, so it seems to be a big deal. These characteristics are shared between Jane and her creator.
As the story progresses, Brontė reveals more about herself through the heroines actions. Throughout the book, Jane grows mentally and spiritually. During her childhood at Gateshead, Jane allows her emotions to control her actions; these times are some of her most painful memories. She learns to rule her heat with her mind though the rest of the plot. When Jane decides to leave Rochester, in fear of being hurt, she uses her mind over her heart. In this part of the story, Jane travels far to a distant land. Charlotte Brontė, like Jane, traveled to wondrous lands, but only within the limits of her own mind. Brontė may have used Jane to share her imagined journeys. In 1826, Brontės father gave Branwell, Brontės brother, a box of wooden soldiers for him to play with. The Brontė siblings, while playing with the soldiers, created and wrote in great detail about an imaginary world, which they called Angria. Some of their writings may have been transferred into Jane Eyre. In 1821, Brontė became a teacher at the Roe Head school. While she was there, she grew nervous about her siblings back at home, so she spent much of her time thinking about wild landscapes and travels to distract her. Brontė was once quoted saying, What I imagined grew morbidly vivid. Her visions of Angria were reflected in her story of Jane Eyre. Along with this similarity of travel, one can also say that Brontės diversion of imagination is similar to Janes of reading. The author uses her personal stories and memories in the conception of the character Jane Eyre.
A final, very similar quality shared between Brontė and Jane is their relationships. Both Brontė and Jane fall in love with a married man. The author falls in love with the head schoolmaster, who is married. Jane, similar to Brontė, falls in love with her master, Mr. Rochester, who is also married. Another connection between the two womens love lives is that they both reject marriage to a reverend. In the story, Janes cousin, St. John, asks Jane to be his wife and travel to India with him. She rejects him just as Brontė had rejected a man in her life. A final similarity is that both Brontė and Jane did not find love until later in their lives.
Charlotte Brontė may have produced Janes character in order to voice her opinion and personal memories from her life. Brontė and Jane both struggle to discover stability in their lives and to find others who can identify with them. Brontė uses Jane to express her feelings on society, gender, religion, and other various topics.
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