Please explain briefly how the intrinsic elements of "Jane Eyre" make it a popular Victorian novel? What makes the novel have such a big impression on the reader? 

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coachingcorner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I found Jane Eyre to be an interesting Victorian novel when I was a teen. I remember being shocked when I got to the bit where Jane was offered a hand in marriage to (what seemed to me at the time!) a perfectly respectable and kind? minister! After all her trials and tribulations, it seemed to me that all her troubles were over and I couldn't understand why she turned him down. Now teaching the novel as an adult, I always try and remember my own teen attitudes and try to help my students understand Jane's strong feminist principles as many Victorian readers may have had similar opinions to mine and seen ungratefulness in Jane's refusal. I expect they thought a plain pauper girl should have thought herself lucky not to end up a street girl.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Despite the fact that Jane is a poor orphan with little to recommend her, she becomes a young woman who generally lives life on her own terms.  While she is stuck at a certain social level (governess), she has options for breaking through those barriers.  Though she could have lowered her standards and morals to be with someone (once as a wife, once as a mistress), she chose to be alone and independent.  Jane is someone whom the reader can admire, for the things listed above as well as her perseverance and self-possession in the face of adversity.  Those are the things which set her apart and make her an interesting character.

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morrol eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"Jane Eyre" is a popular Victorian Novel for a number of reasons.

One reason is that the main characters Jane and Mister Rochester are so vibrant and identifiable with. Audiences like that Jane is not a beauty, but a plain girl.

Another reason Jane Eyre is popular is because it deals with the timeless tension between reason and passion.

A third reason it is popular is for its narrative value. The plot has many twists and turns and surprises.

Audience also might enjoy that it is a great example of gothic literature as it combines romance with horror.

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neneta | Student

When Charlotte Bronte wrote her books, the streets of London were full of prostitutes.

At that time, women from the middle class might live with her family, she might become a governess, or she might marry. At worst, she might become a prostitute.

Jane Eyre is an orphan who is sent to a school for destitute girls. Later on, she becomes a governess, since she decides to gain her life in another milieu. Jane Eyre may be a feminist since she decides to change milieu and face the diversities she might encounter.

She has always a prompt answer to Rochester sarcastic questions. This may suggest that she is a well breed woman.

After having discovered that Rochester is already married, she decides to flee. She struggles for her life, by facing several hindrances. Nevertheless, she survives by having a job as a teacher and consequently by gaining her independence.

Finally, being wealthy, she does not need to be supported by Rochester. By having her own economic resources, she becomes an independent woman. She marries Rochester as an equal. Here one might trace a feminist attitude being wealthy she finally may have the same status as her husband

The melodramatic motives depend on the fact that in the Victoria´s times, a woman’s place should be by the stove; the industrial revolution has marginalizing women, especially independent woman. At that time woman should be like Blanche Ingram coquette and frivolous. Furthermore, women should be submissive and they should not be cultivated. As you see, Jane is an efficient governess, which suggests that she is well schooled.

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eils300 | Student

I would like to include the importance of feminism as one of the elements which makes this novel a revolutionary read. Jane Eyre is the tale of a woman who has to forge her own path with her own means as she never had anyone to aid her economically until she reaches Moor House. It is seen as a feminist manifesto but the use of the melodrama also limits its power to be used as a doctrine. Charlotte Brontë wrote in a period where women's independence was an issue of concern due to this the Chartist movement arose.

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gplatt | Student

I would like to add that the novel is interesting because, in Victorian terms, it is so subversive.  Consider that Jane is the antithesis of all that is considered desirable in Victorian women:  She is plain, she is poor, she is unconnected with a family that might promote her socially, and she is outspoken and incurably forthright (sin!), but she is nevertheless the heroine. Jane's perception becomes our moral compass.  She shows us the hypocrisy in some who call themselves Christian but who are truly seflish and mean-spirited (Brocklehurst).  It is also Jane who challenges the reader to examine within themselves the  accepted standards of social class distinction.  We soon learn that, poor or not, Jane is an admirable, sympathetic character who is of much higher caliber than the wealthy people with whom she is raised.  What's more, although the ostensible lesson in the novel is the mastery of passion and the nurturing of patience and humility, it becomes clear to the reader that Jane rises to personal power in the novel at least partially because she is unwilling to simply accept injustice done to her.  She won't sit still for it.  Instead, she endeavors to change her circumstances.

For all of the above reasons, Jane Eyre was an influential work in the Victorian age.  I think, though, that she has much to inspire the modern reader as well

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