‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will’
Until recently, I have always confused Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. I was vaguely aware that one of them was a real person and one of them was made up but, mostly, I just knew that both names made me think of being sat in an English class at school, staring idly out of the window, while stories about frocks and orphans and other such nonsense washed over me in a wave of inertia and malaise.
I recently had to return to Jane Austen for my degree and while I now know that she is definitely a real person, it was still pretty damn boring. Jane Eyre on the other hand, as with the inimitable Wuthering Heights, comes from the mind of a Bronte. So, obviously it’s a bonkers whirlwind of turbulent love affairs, mad women trapped in attics and flustered servants.
The Bronte’s lived an incredible life within the context of the Yorkshire working classes and this gives both Charlotte and Emily Bronte a unique slant on class. This means their writing style is both revolutionary and compelling.
Jane Eyre is impossible to resist as a character, not because of her grace and beauty (unlike an Austen protagonist for example) but simply because she is so normal and yet extraordinary. Something acknowledged by the fact that every man who spends more than five minutes with her ends up proposing.
Jane Eyre is a classic and classics are classics for a reason. They endure through decades and generations because they still have the ability to move us, and this is literally what art is for. To make us feel something. And based on that measurement, Jane Eyre is an unqualified success.