Jane Eyre eText - eText

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What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?

A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago, and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.

Charlotte Brontë was born on April 21, 1816, in England. She was the third child of six, five girls and one boy. The Brontës moved to a village near the Yorkshire moors, a wild and desolate area, and also the inspiration for the setting of some of the sisters’ books. Theirs was a difficult and tragic existence, with the specter of disease and death a constant presence. The mother succumbed to cancer when Charlotte was only five, and two sisters died of tuberculosis when Charlotte was eight. Elisabeth Branwell, an aunt, raised the remaining children. Although she was an authoritarian and imposing figure, Elisabeth did not stifle the children s imaginations; they read many books from the large family library and constructed their own worlds of imaginary people and situations.

In 1846, Charlotte and her two sisters, using male names, published a collection of their poems; it was titled The Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, pseudonyms that stood for Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. The book, however, sold only two copies. This disappointment did not discourage them, and they each began writing a novel. Charlotte's Jane Eyre, published in 1847 under her Currer Bell pseudonym, was an immediate success. When the true author was revealed as Charlotte Brontë, controversy erupted about the novel, with some critics stating that no woman could have written such a work and another declaring that he “cannot doubt” that Jane Eyre was the work of a woman.

Charlotte Brontë continued writing throughout the rest of her life, despite the tragedies that continued to haunt her. Her brother died of tuberculosis in 1848, and Emily, who had caught a severe cold at his funeral, passed away only a few months later; Anne died in 1849 after a long illness. Charlotte was left to care for her father, who was going blind, but who actually outlived his children, dying in 1857.

In 1854, Charlotte married her father's religious advisor, but she contracted pneumonia and died a year later, at the age of thirty-nine.