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Charlotte BRONTĖ (1816-55)

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Charlotte BRONTĖ (1816-55)

Life and works

The famous Bronte sisters, who wrote, are three of five daughters of an Irish reverend educated at Cambridge his name was Patrick. He was rector at Haworth, in Yorkshire, and asked his sister-in-law to look after them, because the mother was died but the girls were often left to themselves. Maria and Elizabeth, the oldest, died for tuberculosis while they were at school, so Charlotte and Emily came back home. Branwell, the brother, become a portrait painter with little success but then his health deteriorating due to alcohol and opium and died at the age of 31. The three sisters continued studying without a method and started writing novels and poems with lots of imagination.

Focus on the text: Jane Eyre

The novel is given an autobiographical feel through use of the first-person narrator that allows the reader to see things from Jane's point of view. Her way of describing the events in her life is very much mediated by her feelings and emotional responses. When the novel first came out it was a shock for some readers. This was because it went against the Puritanical tradition that a good woman should not feel the need to explore the realm of physical passions but women feel just as men feel. Jane Eyre mixes the elements of the Bildungsroman (that is, the progressive development of the heroine from her infancy to adulthood) with several conventions of Gothic fiction. Between Jane and Mr. Rochester it's a passion, so it's a romantic tale. Mr. Rochester is the tipical Byronic hero because is handsome, full of passion but he never shows his fulfilment. Jane's character is deeply conditioned by her childhood experiences which are described in the first part of the novel. Among its Gothic features are the disquieting atmosphere of some of the settings, which are often described in dark and threatening shades, as well as the occurrence of mysterious events. Moreover, some of these features are also embodied in a character, that of Bertha Mason, the 'mad' wife who is depicted as a wild and strange, almost savage woman, and who is surrounded by an aura of fear and mystery.


From what you know about gothic settings, what do you imagine Thornifield Hall to look like?

The gothic fictions have disquieting atmosphere (dark, mysterious elements and palaces, a sense of anxiety and suspense).

What does she say about her journey?

She says that atmosphere is quiet disquieting: the roads are heavy for the misty, is night and the place is dark. This is a gothic atmosphere.

Describe the room where Mrs Fairfax is sitting. In what way does it contrast with Jane's journey?

Description of the room: "A snug (=comfortable) small room"

Description of the journey: "the roads were heavy, the night misty; my conductor let his horse walk all the way, and the hour and half extended, I verily believe, to two hours".

The room seems to be very comfortable, secure, hot and welcoming on the other hand the journey seems to be cold, dangerous, hostile and mysterious.

What does Mrs Fairfax do to welcome Jane?

When Jane entered in the room immediately Mrs Fairfax got up and promptly and kindly came forward to meet Jane.

She conducts Jane to her chair and begins to remove her shawl and hat; then she orders the waitress to bring a glass of wine and some sandwich. She invites Jane to move nearer to the fire says that she will ask someone to carry her luggage into her room. 

What is the impression that Jane has of this first meeting? Underline the words and expression that tell about her feelings.

The impression that Jane has of this first meeting is confusion and embarrass because she receives several attentions that she has never received before. But she is also happy and reassured by the comfortable atmosphere of that home.

"A snug small room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm chair high-backed and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatest imaginable little elderly lady".

"Nothing in short was wanting to complete the beau ideal of domestic comfort. A more reassuring introduction for a new governess could scarcely be conceived; there was no grandeur to overwhelm, no stateliness to embarrass "

- She treats me like a visitor - thought I".

" I felt rather confused at being the object of more attention than I had ever before received, and, that too, shown by my employer and superior; but has she did not herself seem to consider she was doing anything out of her place, I thought it better to take her civilities quietly".

From what she says, what do you think the normal relationship between a governess and her employer was at the time?

It probably was a bad relationship because the governesses were treated as inferior and the employers had usually a pompous and arrogant attitude.  The governess had a submissive role and the rapport with the employer were cold, unfriendly and impersonal.



Jane Eyre is really an alternative role model: she is nothing like a good looking, smiling, nice upper middle class young and sophisticated lady, but still she gets through all the pain life had given her and manages to realise herself not just as a woman, but first of all as a person and a human being.

Jane is not particularly beautiful, but Mr Rochester finds pleasure in her company because she is learned and acculturated so their meetings become frequent.

When the people living in the house know that Mr Rochester wants to marry Jane the obviously reaction is of astonishment because at the time the relationship between master and servants are not very close.

Mr Rochester is a handsome, mysterious man, he feels very often depressed, in a bad mood.

One day Jane hears something like a scream and asks Mr Rochester about it. He doesn't make a real exation and Mrs Fairfax blames Leah, a servant, but this is not possible because the scream seems an animal one.

The scream owns to Bertha, Mr Rochester's wife. Her description reminds the novel of Frankenstein. 

What is the room like? What does it tell us about what is going to happen?

In the room there isn't a window, but it is not completely dark: there are a fire and a lamp suspended from the ceiling by a chain. This disquieting atmosphere produces suspense and anxiety about something bad that will happen.

Let us now look at the physical description of Bertha. Underline all the words that are used to describe her.

Do you think Jane is afraid of Bertha? Why/Why not? Reflect on the language used in her narration.

Maybe Jane is afraid of Bertha because she had frightened her in a previous moment. Jane describes the scene with a language rich in strong, impression and horrible imagines but she doesn't talk about her reaction, she is controlled, certainly she is sorry about her marriage.  

At the end of the passage, Rochester compares his wife Bertha to Jane in what way, according to him, are they different?

" That is my wife - said him - such is the sole conjugal embrace I am ever to know - such are the endearments which are to solace my leisure hours! And this is what I whished to have: this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon. I wanted her just as a change after that fierce ragout. Wood and Briggs, look at the difference! e these clear eyes with the red balls yonder - this face with that mask - this form with that bulk


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