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Happy Birthday, Charlotte Bronte!

(21st April 1816 – 31st March 1855)

Charlotte Bronte was an English Novelist and Poet. She is the eldest sister of the Bronte Sisters, Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights) and Anne Bronte (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall). The Bronte Sister were contemporary female writers and initially published their works under male pseudonyms. Charlotte Bronte’s pen name was: Currer Bell. Her published works have become treasured classics of English Literature (most notably, The Professor and Jane Eyre).

“I can live alone, if self-respect and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure, born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld; or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.” (Jane Eyre, Chapter 19, page 227)

Jane Eyre is one my favourite novels of all time. I first read the novel when I was fourteen, took me a damn few months to finish it, but this book is what sparked my love for reading. I used to read it in school during form class, break and lunch. My persistence to read it caused me to be isolated from my friends for a while…but it was worth it.

The extract from earlier comes from Volume II, Chapter 4. Jane (the heroine) goes into the library to get her fortune read by a gypsy, unaware that it is Mr. Rochester in disguise. This quote from Jane establishes her self-respect and independence, that she will not compromise her character or morals (“sell me soul” and “inward treasure, born with me”) for luxury.

Jane Eyre has frequently been adapted into silent films, feature length films, radio, television and theatre, and has inspired rewritings and interpretations.

Most notable, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys which is written as a response. It tells the background story of Mr. Rochester’s wife, also known as, ‘The Manwoman in the Attic.” The short story focuses on Antoinette Cosway, a Creole woman from Jamaica who ends up in an unhappy marriage to an English gentleman (his name is never officially mentioned). Antoinette moves to England, is kept in hiding and given the name ‘Bertha’ by her husband. The last part of the story describes her frame of mind during the time she sets fire to Thornfield Hall.

It explores the theme of race and oppressive patriarchal societies that consequently contributes to her descent into madness.

Jane Eyre is a genius creation which combines three different genres; Romance (love and passion), Bildungsroman (narrator’s internal progression from experiences and events) and Gothic Melodrama (use of supernatural and mystery elements). It is unarguably beautifully written, innovative and ahead of its time. The reader joins Jane through five distinct milestones;

  1. Childhood
  2. Boarding School
  3. Governess at Thornfield Hall
  4. Soul-Searching/Further Employment
  5. Reunion with Mr. Rochester

Bronte’s novel is full of wisdom that is still just as empowering and relevant today, exploring the themes of; Religion, Gender Equality, Social Hierarchy, Morality, and Love vs. Autonomy.

Thank you, Charlotte Bronte for your writing, and gracing us with a timeless piece of literature.

What is your favourite work from Charlotte Bronte? Or adaptation?

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