Since retiring, Paul has taken to reading classical English literature. British romantic classics from the 19th century are his favorites.
Pioneering Themes in Patriarchal Victorian England
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of the best books I have ever read. With a rural 19th century England setting, Bronte has created a fictional account of the early life of Jane Eyre, which every reader can not help but enjoy.
In this novel, we get to recognize the conflicts between love and independence, conscience and passion, and the struggle of a young girl and woman to maintain her self-esteem. These were all pioneering themes in the patriarchal society of Victorian England in the 1800s.
n this article, I will first give a brief biography of Charlotte Bronte, and then give a sketch of the setting, characters, and plot of Jane Eyre, before concluding by commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of the novel.
Charlotte Bronte: A Short Biography
Charlotte Bronte was an English novelist and poet, and the eldest of three Bronte sisters who were all writers. Born in Thornton, Yorkshire, in 1816, Charlotte's father was an Irish Anglican clergyman. After Charlotte's mother died of cancer in 1821, the clergyman and also father had no time to care for his daughters. Therefore, in August of 1824, he sent Charlotte with her two sisters to the Clergy Daughter's School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire. This school became the basis for Lowood School in the novel Jane Eyre.
Bronte then continued her education at Roe Head in Mirfield 1831–1832 and subsequently became a teacher there 1835-1838. In 1839 Bronte accepted a position as a governess to families in Yorkshire. Her experiences of teaching and work as a governess are reflected a great deal in Jane Eyre. During the period 1843–1844, Charlotte attended a language school in Brussels, Belgium. While in Belgium, she fell in love with a married professor at the school. This life experience is strongly shown in Jane Eyre in the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester at Thornfield Hall.
In May of 1846, Charlotte and her younger sisters, Emily and Anne, self-financed a joint collection of poetry under the pen names of Currer Bell, Ellis Bell, and Acton Bell. These assumed pen names were all masculine because the Bronte sisters didn't want to declare their feminine nature since their mode of writing and thinking at the time wasn't politically correct for women.
Bronte's first novel, The Professor, was rejected by publishers in 1846, but in 1847, Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, was published in London by Smith, Elder, and Company. The first American edition was released in 1848 by Harper and Brothers in New York. Bronte published two other later novels, but they were not successful like Jane Eyre.
In 1854 Bronte married Arthur Nicholls, at one time assistant to her father. Unfortunately, in 1855 within one year of the marriage, Bronte died while still pregnant.
Throughout her life, Charlotte Bronte preached and practiced tolerance rather than revolution. She had high moral principles. Although she was shy in public, she was always prepared to argue her beliefs. All of these traits come through in Jane Eyre.
All of the facts in this biography are taken from Wikipedia.
A Look at the Main Components of "Jane Eyre"
The setting for the novel Jane Eyre is in the northern England countryside and the fictitious villages of Gateshead Hall, Lowood, Millcote, and Moor House during the 19th century.
The main character in the novel is Jane Eyre, a nine-year-old orphan, who is being raised by her maternal aunt (wife of her uncle), Mrs. Reed.
Important characters at the Lowood Boarding School are Mr. Brocklehurst, the head of the school, Miss Temple, the chief instructor, and an older classmate, Helen Burns, who becomes a role model for Jane.
After Jane goes to Thornfield Hall at Millcote, the main characters are Mr. Rochester, master of Thornfield Hall, and Adele Varens. a young French girl Jane is teaching.
Finally, towards the end of the novel, Saint John Rivers becomes an important character in the novel.
The plot of the novel follows essentially five stages: one, Jane's childhood at Gateshead; two, the girl's education at Lowood School; three, Jane's work as the governess at Thornfield Hall; four, time spent with the Rivers' family at Moor House; and five, an unexpected conclusion.
As the story begins, Jane is in her ninth year of life at Gateshead. Telling her life story in the first person, Jane relates how as an orphan since being a baby, she has been raised by her maternal uncle's wife, Mrs. Reed. Recently she has been treated very cruelly both physically and emotionally by her aunt and cousins. After one run-in with her bullying older cousin, Master John, her aunt locks her overnight in the room where her uncle died. After Jane stands up to her aunt to keep her self-esteem, she can not successfully convince Mrs. Reed not to be deceitful. As a result, her aunt decides to send Jane to a boarding school for orphans at Lowood School run by a clergyman, Mr. Brocklehurst.
After arriving at Lowood School, Jane is cruelly humiliated and called deceitful by Mr. Brocklehurst in front of the study body. With the help of the chief instructor, Miss Temple, Jane proves she is not deceitful and restores her self-esteem. After being a model student and surviving a typhoid epidemic at the school during her first year, Jane graduates from Lowood six years later and stays two more years as a teacher. When Miss Temple decides to get married and leave school, Jane decides to find work as a governess.
After finding work as a governess at Thornfield Hall near Millcote, Jane starts to find some real happiness in life. She is entrusted with educating the ward of the master of Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester, a man of about 40 who is often outside of England.
Shortly after starting work at Thornfield Hall, Jane unexpectedly and unknowingly, while walking from Thornfield Hall to Millcote, encounters Mr. Rochester after he is thrown from his horse. It is love at first sight when Jane helps Mr. Rochester get back onto his horse. After formally meeting Mr. Rochester and numerous hours spent talking together, Jane truly falls in love with her brooding and stormy master. It is not long, however, that a series of bizarre and spooky events occur at Thornfield Hall which forces Jane to leave and seek her fortune elsewhere.
After Jane leaves Thornfield Hall, she endures hardship until finding a kind clergyman, Saint John Rivers, and his sisters, who care for Jane and find her new employment. The climax of the book then comes after some unexpected twists and turns.
Main Themes in "Jane Eyre"
The main themes in the book are a conflict between love and independence, and a conflict between conscience and passion. Other themes are Jane's struggle to maintain self-esteem and social criticism.
The conflicts between love and independence and conscience and passion are brilliantly shown in the relationship between Jane and her master, Mr. Rochester, Jane knows it is morally wrong and against her conscience to love and seek marriage with Mr. Rochester, however, it is difficult to control her passion. Immediately after tearing herself away from her master, Jane says in the book:
"Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonized as in that hour left my lips: for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love."
Jane's struggle to maintain self-esteem is seen primarily in Jane's relations with Mr. Rochester, her relation with Mrs. Reed, and Jane's relationship with Mr. Brocklehurst.
The theme of social criticism is reflected in Jane's comments about the haughtiness of the gentry class towards subservient classes.
My Review of the Novel
Jane Eyre has numerous strengths which have made it a classical piece of literature. These strong points include writing in the first person to get close to readers and a vivid portrayal of conscience versus passion. The descriptions of people and especially nature are excellent in this book, You definitely won't want to put this book down, because there are so many unexpected events in the plot. All human emotions such as happiness, sorrow, anger, fear, hate, and pity are also masterfully brought to life in this book.
If there are any weaknesses in this book, I would list the overuse of French in some places and the neglect of giving English translations for the French. At the end of the book, everything is wrapped up very quickly in a short concluding chapter. I think it would have been worthwhile to say more about Saint John Rivers in the concluding chapter.
Jane Eyre is a book that all people should read at some point in their lives. Considering all of the experiences portrayed in this book, Jane Eyre would probably be appreciated more by an older person who has experienced everything Jane has.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on September 30, 2019:
I really appreciate your excellent comment.
Talaat on September 28, 2019:
zyaul on June 24, 2019:
Bimrisha Gohain on June 17, 2019:
fantastic review. really good and helpful
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 14, 2019:
I included a plot summary in my article. Did you read it?
surya suresh on January 11, 2019:
is there a summary?
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 01, 2018:
I am pleased that this article was of assistance to you.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 01, 2018:
Thanks for the comment, Jeon! I am very happy this article was of help to you.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 27, 2018:
Lalita, I am very happy that you liked my review. Thanks for commenting!
Lalita pandey on June 27, 2018:
Only this morning l read the book first time and when l saw this review , lm very happy to see it.lt is a great review.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 17, 2018:
Do you mean the love which Jane has for Mr. Rochester and cannot control? Haven't you ever loved a person and felt that they were not loving you back? This is called unrequited love and many times it is seen the relationship between a mother and child. A mother will love a child no matter how he or she misbehaves but the child does not appreciate this love.
osiyo saidumarova on April 15, 2018:
Frankly I haven't encountered to that kind of love
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on February 22, 2018:
I really appreciate your comment.
samantha on February 22, 2018:
it was really helpful and interesting to read.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on February 15, 2018:
Thank you very much for your very insightful comment.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 11, 2017:
Thank you very much for your comment. I am happy you found my review useful.
Rithika on December 11, 2017:
Best review that I have ever read and has been very useful for me.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 13, 2017:
Thank you very much for your comment. I am happy that you found my review interesting.
Sanfiya on June 13, 2017:
I loved this book... Nice . interesting...
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 08, 2017:
I really appreciate your nice comment!
Vipin on June 08, 2017:
Very nice reviews
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on October 03, 2016:
@almahbub alam , Thank you very much for your praise of my Jane Eyre book review. This is an excellent novel and I know that you will be touched after reading it.
almahbub alam on October 02, 2016:
best book review ever seen ,i need to read the whole book after seeing such extraordinary book review
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 18, 2015:
I understand now and I will visit your blog to see more.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 13, 2015:
If you add this story into your blog, does that mean you are going to copy my whole article or parts of it? You can not do this because I have a copyright for this hub.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 28, 2014:
&grand old lady Thanks for your great comments and vote. If you have a chance, try to read other books like Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall written by the Bronte sisters.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on April 21, 2014:
I have so many memories of the book Jane Eyre, and this review has brought me so far back, in the most pleasant of ways. It was also very interesting to learn about Charlotte Bronte and her sisters. I was surprised by how closely Charlotte patterned the book to her own life. The video about the tours in England was also very nice. How wonderful that England cherishes their authors so much that they preserve not just the author's home but the community the authors lived in. Voted up.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 30, 2012:
Yes, Jane Eyre is really one of the best novels I have read. I plan on reading Wuthering Heights by one of the other Bronte sisters and comparing the two.
Sondra Rochelle from USA on July 30, 2012:
It is ironic that I just finished reading this novel, and I agree that it is a wonderful book. Personally, I loved the use of French, but then I minored in French in college so could understand what I was reading.
Bronte's wordage is some of the best I've ever seen, and I'm so glad I read it. Can't figure out why I never read it before.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 05, 2012:
Thank you very much for reading and your comments. This was my first book review, so hopefully the next one will be better.
Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on July 05, 2012:
Wow, you do the book justice with your thorough review here!
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 03, 2012:
Thanks for reading and the great comments. I really appreciate them.
Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on July 03, 2012:
I don´t think I´ve ever read such a wonderful synopsis of Jayne Eyre or of the Bronte sisters.
Voted up, useful awesome and intereting.
Beautiful hub. Thank you.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 02, 2012:
Thank you very much for reading and your comments. I intend to read Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey by the other Bronte sisters. Have you read these books?
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 02, 2012:
I appreciate your insightful comments. Yes, Jane does struggle for control of her own destiny as well as control of Rochester. A very good point.
Suzie from Carson City on July 01, 2012:
Love this hub, Paul.....the incredible classics. There are none better....more loved and remembered. I inherited a very early copy of this book from my mother. Been meaning to take it to an antique show to be appraised...........It's quite a tresure. I have a few others........my Mom was an avid reader her entire life. If she were still with us, she'd be close to 90....and she always took excellent care of her posessions. UP +++
Dave Henderson from Missouri, USA on July 01, 2012:
Feminist readings of the novel are relevant as well, as exemplified in Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's "The Madwoman in the Attic." Jane struggles for control of her own destiny as well as control of Rochester, which the catastrophe at the end of the novel makes possible. Beware the flawed entry in Wikipedia!
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 01, 2012:
Thanks for reading and your great ccomments. Have you read Jane Eyre?
Nithya Venkat from Dubai on July 01, 2012:
A great book review. You have detailed every aspect of the book in an interesting way. The characters and themes are very well presented. Voted up.