Charlotte Brontë's first novel, published in 1847, was based in part on the author's own days in a brutal boarding school where two of her sisters died of tuberculosis; her characterization of the place in her first published work was an act of revenge. The novel's heroine is a plain, impoverished, but spirited young governess who not only wins the heart of her employer--the jaded, Byronic Mr. Rochester--but manages to defy the social conventions of her time to become a strong and fulfilled adult. Told by Jane herself as she looks back over her life, JANE EYRE became the prototype for the classic Gothic novel set in a wild, windswept location where a naïve heroine must cope with ghosts and the supernatural. It has also inspired countless romance novels and created the bitter, brooding hero who is brought back to life by the goodness and innocence of the woman who loves him. Brontë's tale, however, transcends the genres it inspired. Jane's search for love and for meaning also includes a refusal to accept less than she feels is her due. Brontë sees that quest as a moral one, and a critical exploration of the paradoxes of the English class system and of Victorian gender relations is an integral part of the book. But the main reason for its position as an enduring classic is that JANE EYRE is a stirring and satisfying tale, a page-turner. It was a bestseller in its day and remains popular today--the quintessential coming-of-age story that still has resonance for young women who are struggling to find the balance between romantic love and personal freedom.
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
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