Discussing Jane Eyre

The January edition of Between The Lines yielded Mrs. Mohini Khot presenting Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

After a  brief introduction to the life of Charlotte Bronte, her struggles of being motherless from a young age, and the treatment of women (especially intellectual and curious women) in that age; Mrs. Khot moved onto offering a summary of the book.

A detailed character analysis of Jane Eyre herself yielded a headstrong, independent woman unaffected by her dependency on those around her. Jane never shied from expressing her opinions, a trait greatly appreciated by her subsequent love interest, Mr. Rochester.
Charlotte Bronte challenges all by not feeding into the protagonist’s trope of being beautiful; Jane is plain, and makes no illusions of it. This of course, was not an aspect that society being the way it is accepted, all the covers of later editions of the work feature a highly idealized image of Jane.

Many have commented on Jane Eyre being a work highly inspired by the life of its writer, and these parallels are reflected in the early years of Jane’s life; the death of her sisters and her treatment at an apathetic boarding school.

Governesses- educated individuals treated like slaves

The great uproar that arose when the book was published was the debate over the sex of the author. It could not be fathomed that a woman might write work of substance, and many writers condemned Jane as uncouth and brittle when they learned of her having written it.

The reception of the work when it was originally released though, was like a wildfire in savanna: it caught on in all circles of discussion. Queen Victoria herself called it ‘intensely interesting’, and G. H. Lewes admired the psychological intuition that formed the basis of her narrative.

As Mrs. Khot said, the Bronte sisters and George Eliot were the precursors of the ‘psychological novel’, and wrote from a perspective of great reflection.

Another aspect of the book that Mrs. Khot touched upon was that of the madwoman in the attic, the trope that Sandra Gilbert and Susana Gubar expanded on in their book titled the selfsame, talking about the binaries that women must assume. The angel in the house, or the madwoman in the attic were the two aspects of a woman that could be recognised by the male psyche, as stated in the book.

The book focuses on Jane Eyre’s non-physical, experiential growth, and making her heroine plain allowed Bronte to do just that.

The book also heavily expands on Jane’s love interest, Edward Rochester; the classic Byronic hero that subverts every trope of masculinity that forms the foundation of a leading man.

The swapped roles of the two allow for a comfortable acceptance of their love to form, and they lie in perfect concord despite the age difference.

As Jane says,

‘I desired for liberty, for liberty I gasped.’

The novel is highly feminist and has become a narrative often touched upon in the years past its release.

The audience was highly interactive, and with Jane Eyre being one of the classics, asked the questions that had been brewing in their minds from when they’d read it. A dynamic discussion, and many cups of tea later, the speaker and the audience left Gyaan Adab with an acute feeling of scholastic satisfaction.

Nityaasha Foundation