AUTHOR: CHARLOTTE BRONTE
REVIEWED BY MAHFUZ UL HASIB CHOWDURY
JANE Eyre is one of the finest novels by the English fictionist Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855). This novel tells us the story of an orphan girl who grew up in her aunt's house. The novel is named after its focal character, the protagonist who is found in the story leading a very painful life. She never received any love or care from her aunt Mrs. Reed's family. Nobody in that house ever talked to her in an affectionate way. Even she had to face physical assaults by her cousin John Reed several times. Confronting humiliation was a part of her daily experience from the words of the Reed family.
After some days Mrs. Reed sent Jane away to a school called Lowood School. When Jane shifted to that boarding school leaving her torturous aunt and cousins, a new episode of her life opened up. She felt relieved to have got rid of the repressive manner of the Reed family. One pleasant thing happened to her in that school that she found a student named Helen Burns who was a very polite, soft-hearted girl. At last Jane Eyre came across someone who would talk to her in a loving way. They made friends very quickly. But this happiness in Jane Eyre's life proved very ephemeral because Helen Burns died of a bronchial disease after the outbreak of typhoid in that area. Helen's death came as a bolt from the blue to Jane as she lost her only friend.
We find Jane Eyre to be a self-motivated girl. After passing six years in Lowood School as a student and another two years as a teacher, she became rather restless. She was tired of living inside the confinement of the school where the outer world was totally unseen to her. So, she decided to leave that school and go out to stand on her own feet. With this thought in mind, Jane resolved to find a job. She sent an advertisement in a local newspaper seeking a job. That advertisement was spotted by a lady called Mrs. Fairfax who called in Jane for an interview at a place called Thornfield. She offered Jane the job of taking care of a girl child called Adele who was adopted by the owner of that household Mr. Rochester. Jane soon reached very friendly terms with that child and made adjustment to that place. But she didn't yet meet Mr. Rochester. Later on she came to know from others in that house that Mr. Rochester used to stay away from Thornfield most of the time because he was not happy in his marital life. His wife Bertha was mentally imbalanced. However, one day Mr. Rochester came back to Thornfield and got introduced to his adopted child's governess Jane Eyre. Gradually Mr. Rochester started to develop a soft corner for Jane Eyre. One day he proposed to marry Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre was rather surprised at this proposal because while she was about twenty years old, Mr. Rochester was around forty. However, as Jane had been lonely all her life, she accepted the proposal. But their marriage was hindered by Mr. Mason who was Bertha's brother. He informed the priest that since Mr. Rochester was already married and had a wife, he would not be allowed to remarry. That incident was another blow to Jane's life. She left Thornfield soon after this happened.
Jane once again went through a lot of sufferings when she moved away from Thornfield. She passed her days with almost no food and shelter. One day she was found by a gentleman called St. John and his sisters Mary and Diana. They took her into their house. St. John was a clergyman by profession and he was planning to leave for India to preach Christianity there. He soon fell in love with Jane and proposed to marry her. But Jane Eyre declined the offer as she still had some love in her heart for Mr. Rochester. However, St. John placed Jane in a job at a charity school in Morton. One day St. John told an exclusive secret to Jane. It was that Jane's uncle John Eyre had left for her an amount of 20,000 pounds through a will before he died. This news astounded Jane Eyre as a highly pleasant surprise and she proved herself to be a noble-hearted woman by sharing the money equally between her and St. John and his two sisters. Jane Eyre recalled her affair with Mr. Rochester and it forced her to go back to Thornfield. But she was shocked to find that Mr. Rochester's mansion was all burnt down to ashes by Bertha. Bertha also died in the fire. Mr. Rochester managed to escape with his servants but lost his eyesight in that mishap. He had shifted to another place called Ferndean. So, Jane Eyre hurried to that place and found Mr. Rochester. Soon they got married. The novel ends with a note that Mr. Rochester gradually recovered his eyesight. Jane further informed the readers she had been married with Mr. Rochester for ten years then and had a son.
Charlotte Bronte was a Victorian author. Through her novel Jane Eyre, we get to know about the status of women in Victorian England. This novel further recalls the importance of the humanitarian urge that people should have an affectionate attitude towards orphan children. All small boys and girls irrespective of social classes deserve to be loved by everyone.
The reviewer is a columnist for different English newspapers and magazines.