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Who wrote this book and when?
Charlotte Brontë accomplished the publishing of this novel – a fictional autobiography – in 1847.

Has there been a movie made out of it?
Many of them. Check them out some time, but read the book first. There are many screen, stage, and even silent film versions – but I have no idea which to recommend to you.

Who are the main characters?
Jane Eyre – an orphaned girl raised by her aunt and trained to be a teacher
Mr. Rochester – the wealthy owner of Thornfield and benefactor of
Adéle – an orphaned French girl who is being raised by Mr. Rochester and taught by Jane
Mrs. Fairfax – the housekeeper at Thornfield
Mr. Brocklehurst – the director of Lowood, a charity girls’ school
Miss Temple – a kind, young teacher at Lowood
Mrs. Reed – Jane’s aunt
Helen Burns – a girl who befriends Jane at Lowood, she has tuberculosis
Grace Poole – a strange woman who lives on the third floor and seems to be the center of many strange nocturnal disturbances
St. John – a vicar and Jane’s cousin, he is determined to be a missionary to India

What’s it about?
Jane Eyre is a plain-looking, quiet and intelligent orphan who has been put into the care of her widowed aunt – Mrs. Reed. Jane’s uncle forced his wife to swear to raise Jane as her own while he was on his deathbed. Mrs. Reed has taken care of Jane, but she and her three spoiled children take every opportunity to bully the girl and remind her of her low social status. Jane doesn’t help the situation by lying at inopportune times and sometimes having visions, particularly of the ghost of her uncle. Jane’s only comfort is Bessie, a household maid, who sometimes comforts her and treats her well.

One afternoon, after a particularly gruesome incident involving one of Jane’s visions, a strange man comes to call at the house. He is Mr. Brocklehurst, the headmaster of a girls’ school named Lowood – which Mrs. Reed sends Jane to. Mr. Brocklehurst is infinitely strict and insists on enforcing humility on all the girls there. They receive poor food, are not allowed to have curls in their hair, and are subject to random inspections by Mr. Brocklehurst himself. Jane befriends an older girl named Helen Burns as well as one of the teachers, Miss Temple. Helen and Jane’s responses to hardships are completely opposite – Helen of the patient and forebearing nature, and Jane more prone to anger and bitterness.

As Jane grows up, we see how her personality changes. We are witness to her powerful love for Mr. Rochester, her desperation in the struggle to do what’s moral versus what her heart tells her to do, and above all her strong will and loyalty to herself.

Why is this book a classic?
This novel, although there are a lot of words unrecognizable to the average reader, will allow nearly everyone to relate to it because of the universal feelings and themes it traverses. Jane feels persecuted, lonely, shamed, afraid, excluded, endangered, tempted, and – the emotion which everyone will feel sometime during their lives – the fear of being in love alone.

Why should I read this book?
It’ll teach ya a lesson about independence and how important it is to do the right thing – even if no one will know or care if you did the wrong thing. It’s a powerful love story, a thriller, a horror tale, a bildungsroman, and an “autobiography” all rolled into one little book.

Has it won any awards?
It predates the modern literature award era.

Favorite quotes:
“A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required suggestion on my pillow; for as I lay down it came quietly and naturally to my mind…” p 88

Anything else?
There are actually three Brontë sisters who authored books – Charlotte, Emily and Anne. They all three published their first novels in the same year, 1847. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte, ‘Wuthering Heights” by Emily, and “Agnes Grey” by Anne.

Personal thoughts:

This book has definitely made it into my “best books ever read in the history of my life ever” list. I was nervous to read it because I was so disappointed by “Wuthering Heights” – sorry all you WH fans – and this is also a Brontë book. On top of this, I once went into an “I’m going to be the smartest middle schooler EVER” kick in said middle school years and tried to read this book. And failed miserably – as in couldn’t get past the first chapter failed. But now, apparently, I’m much more mature and a better reader. I still had to read it with my laptop open and loaded to for the majority of Mr. Rochester’s speeches, but I know for a fact I know more words now than I did as a 12-year-old. Anyway, I digress.

I loved this book to the point where I found myself staying up until 3 in the morning to try and finish it and then realizing I didn’t want to finish it so I put it away just so there’d be more Jane Eyre goodness for the next day. I have related more to the character of Jane than any character in the past five or six books I’ve read…and I only say the past five or six because I can’t remember all the characters from the last 20. Jane is so practical, yet so romantic in her love for Mr. Rochester that it is impossible to dislike her.

It’s time to read “Pride and Prejudice” again and let these two duke it out for the number two spot on my top 10 list.