Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

In 2007, I wrote the following review of ‘Jane Eyre’. I am sharing it today because ‘Jane Eyre’ was published on 19 October 1847, 174 years ago.

In many ways, ‘Jane Eyre’ can be seen as an autobiographical novel. Certainly, Charlotte Bronte drew on her experiences as both pupil and teacher in shaping the character of Jane Eyre. The story of Jane Eyre is a triumph of character and spirit over circumstance. Jane herself is depicted as small and plain and with an independent spirit. She believes, fundamentally, in equality and, absolutely, in the healing power of love.

The story can be read on a number of different levels: as a triumph of ‘good’ over ‘evil’; as a claim of a woman’s independence; and as a love story. I have read it three different times over the past 40 years and have formed different impressions each time. Perhaps on a fourth read I may form another impression altogether different.

‘Jane Eyre’ is a wonderful mixture of the conventional and the unconventional. Jane is a survivor who uses her strength of character to survive the adversities which form part of her life. Many of the views expressed through the characters had critics arguing about the relative morality of the work. Some of those debates would be viewed with astonishment through our late 20th and early 21st century eyes but in the context of the 19th century it was not accepted that women could be the equal of men.

Charlotte Bronte wrote ‘Jane Eyre’ in 1846, and it was accepted for publication in 1847. Charlotte outlived her younger sisters Emily and Anne and had a number of other novels published: each of her novels is worth reading.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith