Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Jane Steele: A Novel

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Jane Steele: A Novel

Article excerpt

Lyndsay Faye. Jane Steele: A Novel. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, April 2016. 6X9". 432pp. ISBN: 978-0-399-16949-6. $26.95.

The concept behind this novel is one that I admire, as I also enjoy writing satires of popular genres or individual works of fiction. Lyndsay Faye has set out to satirize Charlotte Bronte's classic novel, Jane Eyre. The original book is a bildungsroman of the life of Jane Eyre, as she struggles through being orphaned at ten, and being taken into a wealthy household of her uncle, Mr. Reed, without the standing to really join this world. From there, she is sent to the Lowood Institute for orphaned girls to be educated and then to teach there for a couple of years. She only leaves this place when she finds a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall for Edward Rochester, who is keeping Bertha, now a mad woman, in the attic. Jane finds out about this just before she is about to marry Edward, and she leaves because this information distresses. She attempts some other employments and considers marrying other men, but in the end, she returns to Edward, and finding him blinded and finally single (due to the death of the mad woman in the attic in the fire that blinded him), she marries him and they have a child together. This book always reminds me of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's feminist study, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. The novel itself has also frequently frustrated me, as it is a story about a woman that is brutally harassed by all around her, and in the end she has no other way to survive other than marrying a man who kept his first wife hostage until she finally killed herself in a fire. This was a bitterly honest novel at the time when Bronte wrote it, and it was an example of how introspective fiction that looked at the details of a simple life of a female character can attract readers. But, for modern women, this is a brutal account that would enrage any woman that believes women should stand up for themselves and should not allow themselves to suffer abuse without reporting it or fighting back. And this was clearly Faye's reaction to the book.

She proposes an alternate story where Jane Steele, the steal-natured double of the meek Eyre, turns into a serial killer after suffering the abuses of her wealthy, "spiteful aunt and predatory cousin" and then in a "grim school," where she "fights for her very life" and ends up "leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. …

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