It's incredible to think or imagine that, of the two most intense, passionate heroines of 19th century literature, both would be written by sisters of the same family. But this is, indeed, the case. With Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.
You are drawn into a first person narrative that, from the start, is compelling and becomes more disturbing and troubling.
Given the 19th century was a deeply moralistic society, at least on the surface, but one within and beneath which women as such had no identity or power beyond certain limited roles (governess, wife, spinster, etc.). But then you have Jane: Many things have been written about the character and the novel. As character, Jane Eyre compels you to understand very specific and certain imperatives (nowadays described as feminist - then, Bronte was alone in imagining it).
She has an integrity embodied by her own ethics and morals; modes of behaviour and thinking that are radically established and challenging of the male-dominated status quo. Jane is effectively a radical heroine not only in 19th century literature, but all literature preceding it.
To me, she is a proto-feminist, to be as much admired in the 21st century and all the more so when considering the society within which this book was published (under a male pseudonym, of course). She is truly herself, coping impressively with difficult, painful circumstances, not giving in to compromise that will threaten her own character or principles; speaking up for herself in situations involving the most appalling challenges, when they most matter; assert her independence of heart and mind; maintaining her integrity and self-respect against the odds.
Jane Eyre as a novel signposted a revolution in terms of fiction writing and, in particular, challenged and questioned traditional attitudes and thinking about women and gave women an independence of voice and thought, and passionate determinism, not previously displayed. The only other novel that is as passionate, and as determined in thinking of the singular female self as Jane Eyre, is Emily Bronte's novel, Wuthering Heights, and her character, Catherine Earnshaw; yet Jane Eyre remains, through her novel, uncompromised of her own integrity and character, despite her circumstances et al. Catherine, according to Emily's narrative, is never given such a choice, or options of such freedom, i.e. independent female thinking.
Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is an astonishing novel: besides Wuthering Heights, by her sister Emily, it is one of the most passionate, intense, uncompromising, painful, and beautifully and intensely emotionally sustained novels of all literature. An astonishing achievement, irrespective of genre, author or century.show more