Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

Synopsis

-- Presents the most important 20th-century criticism on major works from The Odyssey through modern literature

-- The critical essays reflect a variety of schools of criticism

-- Contains critical biographies, notes on the contributing critics, a chronology of the author's life, and an index

Excerpt

The three Brontë sisters—Charlotte, Emily Jane, and Anne—are unique literary artists whose works resemble one another's far more than they do the works of writers before or since. Charlotte's compelling novel Jane Eyre and her three lesser yet strong narratives— The Professor, Shirley, Villette—form the most extensive achievement of the sisters, but critics and common readers alike set even higher the one novel of Emily Jane's, Wuthering Heights, and a handful of her lyrical poems. Anne's two novels—Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall—remain highly readable, although dwarfed by Jane Eyre and the authentically sublime Wuthering Heights.

Between them, the Brontës can be said to have invented a relatively new genre, a kind of northern romance, deeply influenced both by Byron's poetry and by his myth and personality, but going back also, more remotely yet as definitely, to the Gothic novel and to the Elizabethan drama. In a definite, if difficult to establish sense, the heirs of the Brontës include Thomas Hardy and D. H. Lawrence. There is a harsh vitalism in the Brontës that finds its match in the Lawrence of The Rainbow and Women in Love, though the comparison is rendered problematic by Lawrence's moral zeal, enchantingly absent from the Brontës' literary cosmos.

The aesthetic puzzle of the Brontës has less to do with the mature transformations of their vision of Byron into Rochester and Heathcliff, than with their earlier fantasy-life and its literature, and the relation of that life and literature to its hero and precursor, George Gordon, Lord Byron.At his rare worst and silliest, Byron has nothing like this scene from Charlotte Brontë's "Caroline Vernon," where Caroline confronts the Byronic Duke of Zamorna:

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