“Jane Eyre“, the first published work of Charllotte Bronte received such an enthusiastic response from the public that it was required to print the third edition of the book within a year. This work with its display of passion and emotions of a woman, unusual for a 19th century England, was quite a stand alone for that time and brought fame to its creator, though to a pseudoname of “Currer Bell” assumed by her.
|Harper Collins Publishers (2010); and others
The story is told by Jane herself starting from her childhood as an orphan, a dependent living in her aunt Mrs. Reed’s house, with no claims to beauty even as a child and being a constant object of tyranny and ill treatment by her cousins. Hers is a passionate nature with strong feelings and when tormented, she can’t refrain from retaliating to her oppressors. Her aunt sends her away to a charity institution called Lowood School, run by a hard-hearted clergyman, who is bent upon depriving the girls living there of even smallest comforts of life. Jane survives through the unfreindly climate and bouts of illnesses. She performs well in her studies and becomes a teacher in the same place. But when at the age of 18, her best teacher and friend Ms. Tample leaves the school, she also decides to leave it and by advertising gets hrself a post of governess at Thornfield Hall.
She arrives to Thornfield to find an old, kind housekeeper called Mrs. Fairfax and a young girl Adele. After a few months, the master of the house, Mr. Rochester arrives, and slowly in spite of his moody and piculiar nature, Jane and he developes a co-ordial realationship. He then brings a party of guests to his house, including beautiful Ms. Ingram, who is considered to be his future bride. Slowly, watching them together, Jane realises her love for him, but she doesn’t forget that she is a plain governess with no claims to beauty or wealth in the world.
Since her coming to Thornfield, Jane has observed that the place holds something mysterious on the third floor. This is confirmed when Mr. Mason, one of the guests is injured seriously on the same floor and Jane helps Mr. Rochester by attending him through the night. But the very next day, she is called away to visit her dying aunt before she can learn anything more about the mystery. Jane goes and learns that while she was at Lowood, one of her uncles had called and asked about her. This paternal uncle had earned good fortune and wanted to take care of her. But her aunt Reed, not able to help hating and disliking Jane, informed him that she was dead.
Jane comes back to Thornfield after death of her aunt Reed and tries to live in peace, but her love wouldn’t let her. When faced by the prospect of being divided by Mr. Rochester for ever, she does confess her love and finds that he also loves her. Together they are happy and are to be married in a month. But Jane’s fate is not to be so happy in life. On the day of their marriage, she discovers that Mr. Rochester is already married to Bertha Mason, a crazy, mad woman and it is she that is kept on the third floor of Thornfield Hall. She learns the entire story from Mr. Rochester himself of his being drawn into the marriage by his and her family without knowing the truth, his despair, his attempts to cure and care for her, his own grief followed by his reckless search for comfort and finally the solace that he had found in Jane.
Jane, torn between love and righteousness, leaves him on that night. Friendless, penniless, she travels to an unknown district and is driven to death by hunger and dissipation. What happens next? Does she survive? Does she find friendship and comfort again? What happened to Mr. Rochester? Will he again slip into the life of wildness and worldly pleasures? Doesn’t he have a right to love and domestic felicity? Don’t they love each other enough to redeem him and unite?
“Jane Eyre” was a subject of criticism and debates almost as soon as it was released, because of its being almost one of its kind. It doesn’t deal with the civil world of gentlemen and women who had nothing to worry about in the world except courtships and connexions of fortune. Before Jane, women in literature didn’t speak of their passion and feelings; they waited for men to approach them. Jane told the world that even plain and poor women fall in love, with as much emotions as men, and she had the strength and daring to declare her love for someone who was indifferent to her, was about to marry another woman, and that to in his face. She had the understanding and faith to proclaim that in front of God, everyone was equal, as in spirits they were. But even with her passionate and feeling disposition, Jane had equally strong sense of right and wrong and followed what her conscience deemed right, no matter what it would cost her.
Charllotte Bronte had a gift for creating atmosphere and it is visible every here and there in “Jane Eyre”. Besides, one of the most interesting part of the narrative is Jane’s discourse with Mr. Rochester, which almost always has a feeling of underlying banter amongst all the romance and solemnity of feelings. Like other Brontes, she also believed in superstitions and these are present here, too. Observant as she was, many of her characters, incidents and events are traced and linked to various stories she heard and people she met; but finally she was able to create the world of Jane Eyre, where these pieces fit.
Though, filled with real people and their everyday realities, Jane Eyre is after all a fairy tale love story that makes you believe in true love. That if you loved with purity, “God will temper judgement with mercy“, and that the heart you yearn for, will be yours, in this world and beyond, in flesh as well as in spirit.