Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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Jane Eyre is an influential novel written by English novelist Charlotte Brontë, eldest of the Brontë sisters. First published in 1837, Jane Eyre had a powerful impact on prose fiction. It focuses on the moral & spiritual development of its main character, Jane Eyre, through first-person narrative. Its importance and influence was highlighted in 2003, when the novel was ranked #10 in the BBC’s The Big Read survey.

The novel has five distinct parts: the beginning, where Jane is emotionally and physically abused by her aunt and cousins; her schooling, where she makes friends but is still oppressed; as a governess, where she falls in love with her employer; her time at Moor House, where she is proposed to; and her reunion with her employer as a governess.

Throughout each of the parts, Brontë brings up the eminent issues & ideas of the time and provides her perspective (often critical) on them. The full title of the novel is Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. While a work of fiction, it’s obvious that Brontë’s own experiences helped shape the book. While at school, Jane befriends Helen Burns. Helen eventually dies of tuberculosis in Jane’s arms. The character of Helen is based on Charlotte Brontës own sister, Maria Brontë, who died at 11 of the same disease.

The influence of Jane Eyre can be felt broadly; it has been adapted a number of times into multiple mediums. If you want to do a deep dive into the text, the Norton Critical Edition is an excellent starting point. If you want to read the other novels the Brontë sisters, you can. You can also download Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë on Librecron.