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Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre which was first published in 1847 was a real shocker for the genteel novella-reading ladies who were wealthy enough to buy it to read. It's heroine Jane was not the typical little-girl-lost waiting for a knight in shining armour to whisk her away to a life of ease. Jane was ,like her author, hard-working ,plain, honest and of modest means - and her candour and unwillingness to please and cow-tow to hypocritical social pretence was unique and rather shocking. Even so, the novel brought notice and notoriety to its shy and retiring author, one of the many daughters of a man of the cloth -a girl from a country town in Yorkshire. Some of the features of the Gothic novel genre such as melodrama, mystery, horror, and the classic medieval great house/castle backdrop and more appear in this girl's first novel.Some of the of the events appear outlandish and scarcely credible,not unusual for novels of the time. Jane's story is also in many ways a traditional tale —the rags to riches progress of an orphan girl against all the odds - whose sheer strength of character and love and determination can rescue a challenged hero from himself.
The love between the orphaned and poverty stricken Jane and the wealthy but miserable Mr Rochester is central to the novel. The hurdles blocking the rewards of this love give the main dramatic tension and conflict in the novel. As C.S, Lewis tells, there are four loves and others are presented to the reader of Jane Eyre.Helen Burns, shows the reader the selfless love of friendship. Readers also see some of the consequences of a lack of love, as in the cold sterile relationship between Jane and Mrs. Reed, in the self-centredness of the Reed children, and in the hollow wedding of Mr Rochester and Bertha. Later Jane can see with her unique clear vision that the absence of real love between herself and St. John Rivers would make their marriage hollow too.
Of all the cases of lack of love. it is perhaps a lack of maternal love that is most serious and life-changing. Mrs Reed, who has been unwillingly saddled with this maternal role, is then culpable for Jane's suffering. She is in reality, Jane Eyre's aunt, the widow of Jane's uncle. He was the brother of Jane's mother and he died nine years before the novel begins. The icy Mrs Reed is also the mother of John (Jack), Eliza, and Georgiana. Readers first 'see' Mrs Reed at the beginning of the novel, when Jane is living at Gateshead Hall as her ward. When Mr. Reed was dying, Mrs. Reed promised him that she would take in the orphan Jane. However, Mrs. Reed always resented her promise about Jane so mistreats her as an unwanted nuisance rather than as a needy child. She continually humiliates Jane and punishes her for imagined misdemeanours or for her brave and independent nature, while turning a blind eye to the shortcomings of her own children. She plans for Jane to be sent away to a boarding school or orphanahe at Lowood. In chapter 4, Jane stands up to Mrs. Reed and tells her what she feels. Morally victorious Jane goes back to Gateshead just before Mrs. Reed dies, but they never make up their differences
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