Thursday, January 9, 2014

Charlotte Brontë, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf

Joyce Carol Oates recently blogged about Jane Eyre, the classic book that has remained a favourite novel after its first publication in October of 1847. The story of a plain, poor, female orphan revolutionized the novel: the reminiscences of its narrator as she progressed through childhood to adulthood, chronicling her deep emotions and spiritual dilemmas were considered shocking but engrossing. Here's an excerpt from Ms. Oates' blog.

Even after nearly seventeen decades of its first publication, Jane Eyre remains adored all around the world. The fictional autobiography and love story was published in 1847 and adapted into numerous film, television and theatre versions. It is as enjoyable and engrossing as holiday reading and as layered as a school/college textbook. The novel that secured Charlotte Brontë (or Currer Bell, the name she adopted to author this) a spot in the revered canon of English literature is noted for its memorable titular character and her stirring life story, the passionate love between Jane and the mysterious-and-attractive Mr Rochester, its intellectual and religious debates, and the dark, Gothic undertones.
Jane Eyre is a heartrending, haunting read that seems oddly familiar even though it is set in an unfamiliar era. One of the first to explore the human consciousness to this extent, Brontë is sometimes considered the literary ancestor of Modernists like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, who later perfected this art. Jane’s dilemmas and troubles, and her struggle to strike a balance between religious duty and passion, ring very close to the reader’s heart. Moreover, her determination to find acceptability, equality and unfettered freedom amongst the men who try to restrain or subordinate her in a world that only seems to value rich and/or beautiful women, suggest the beginnings of literary feminism. The other characters too, especially the Byronic Mr Rochester, the quiet and stoic St John, and the angelic Helen Burns, stay with one forever.
The book is an antecedent to many modern individual-centric, coming-of-age and romance novels, and is a must-read classic even today.


  1. Although the form of "Jane Eyre" is individual-centric, the book goes beyond one woman's story. It effectively demonstrates that world views both reflect and influence society, and it proposes that individuals can overcome the world view bred into them and choose what is good.

  2. Google Doodle honoring Charlotte Brontë on her 198th Birthday.

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