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                     Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (originally published under the male pseudonym Currer Bell) is a complex novel which embodies the characteristics of many types of novels. This novel is a hybrid of three genres: the Gothic novel, the romance novel and the Bildungsroman. My goal in this essay is to explain how this novel is a mixture of this genres and why is it that Jane Eyre is still so relevant to our day and age and especially feminism.                     Jane Eyre tells her story ten years after the last event in the novel, her arrival at Ferndean in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The novel is structured around five separate locations, all supposedly in northern England: the Reed family’s home at Gateshead, the wretched Lowood School, Rochester’s manor house Thornfield, the Rivers family’s home at Moor House, and Rochester’s rural retreat at Ferndean. All of the events are told from Jane’s point of view. Sometimes she narrates the events as she experienced them at the time, while at other times she focuses on her retrospective understanding of the events.                     While it is not an actual autobiography, it is certainly autobiographical. The protagonist, Jane Eyre, spends most of her life as an orphan at Lowood, a very strict girls’ boarding school. While there, she develops a friendship with a gentle friend, Helen Burns, who soon dies of tuberculosis. Jane becomes a teacher at Lowood and then becomes a governess. These elements of the story are remarkably similar to Charlotte’s own upbringing. Her mother died when she was young, and Charlotte and her three sisters were sent away to a boarding school where she was miserable. Two of her sisters died of tuberculosis while there, and Charlotte becomes both a teacher and a governess.                     The plot of Jane Eyre follows the form of a Bildungsroman, which is a novel that tells the story of a child’s maturation and focuses on the emotions and experiences that accompany and incite her growth to adulthood. Of course, this is exactly what happens to Jane in this story, and she experiences a moral growth, among other things. From her experiences, Jane becomes the mature woman who narrates the novel retrospectively. When she tells Mr. Rochester she cannot live with him while he is still married, for example, she says: “I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad – as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?” (Brontë 2008)                   But the Bildungsroman plot of Jane Eyre and the book’s element of social criticism are filtered through a third literary tradition, that of the Gothic horror story. It generally describes supernatural experiences, remote landscapes, and mysterious occurrences, all of which are intended to create an atmosphere of suspense and fear. Jane’s encounters with ghosts, dark secrets, and sinister plots add a potent and lingering sense of fantasy and mystery to the novel. There are plenty of them that are considered Gothic, from the red room in the beginning to Rochester’s grand secret to the burnt shell of a mansion at the end. Both Rochester and Jane possess complicated family histories, Rochester’s hidden wife, Bertha, is the dark secret at the novel’s core. The exposure of Bertha is one of the most important moments in the novel, and the mystery surrounding her is the main source of the novel’s suspense. Other Gothic occurrences include: Jane’s encounter with the ghost of her late Uncle Reed in the red-room, the moment of supernatural communication between Jane and Rochester when she hears his voice calling her across the misty heat from miles and miles away, and Jane’s mistaking Rochester’s dog, Pilot, for a “Gytrash,” a spirit of North England that manifests itself as a horse or dog.Despite these Gothic elements, Jane’s personality is friendly and the tone is also affectionate and confessional. Her unflagging spirit and opinionated nature further infuse the book with high energy and add a philosophical and political flavor. Although Brontë’s use of Gothic elements heightens her reader’s interest and adds to the emotional and philosophical tensions of the book, most of the seemingly supernatural occurrences are actually explained as the story progresses. It seems that many of the Gothic elements serve to anticipate and elevate the importance of the plot’s turning points.                    Jane Eyre is also a romance novel, as the primary undercurrent in the story is the passionate love Jane and Edward Rochester have for one another. It is true that, for much of the novel, they are not together in any romantic way; however, their strong love relationship is the basis for nearly everything that happens once Jane leaves Lowood and begins her adult life. From the beginning, Rochester is there. The novel’s climax comes after Jane receives her second marriage proposal of the novel, this time from St. John Rivers, who asks Jane to accompany him to India as his wife and fellow missionary. Jane considers the proposal, even though she knows that marrying St. John would mean the death of her emotional life. She is on the verge of accepting when she hears Rochester’s voice supernaturally calling her name from across the heath and knows that she must return to him. She can retain her dignity in doing so because she has proven to herself that she is not a slave to passion. Jane Eyre is very much the story of a quest to be loved. Jane searches, not just for romantic love, but also for a sense of being valued, of belonging. Jane says to Helen Burns: “…to gain some real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest”. (Brontë 2008) Yet, over the course of the book, Jane must learn how to gain love without sacrificing and harming herself in the process. Her fear of losing her autonomy motivates her refusal of Rochester’s marriage proposal. Jane believes that “marrying” Rochester while he remains legally tied to Bertha would mean rendering herself a mistress and sacrificing her own integrity for the sake of emotional gratification. On the other hand, her life at Moor House tests her in the opposite manner. There, she enjoys economic independence and engages in worthwhile and useful work, teaching the poor; yet she lacks emotional sustenance. Although St. John proposes marriage, offering her a partnership built around a common purpose, Jane knows their marriage would remain loveless.Nonetheless, the events of Jane’s stay at Moor House are necessary tests of Jane’s autonomy. Only after proving her self-sufficiency to herself can she marry Rochester and not be asymmetrically dependent upon him as her “master.” The marriage can be one between equals. As Jane says: “I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine…To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company…We are precisely suited in character, perfect concord is the result.”                     This is also a novel of social criticism and it features an anti-Victorian heroine in Jane. A Victorian woman would simply have accepted Rochester’s offer and lived a docile and domestic life, something Jane refuses to do. This does not make her uncaring or heartless; it simply displays her independence and her ability to love on her own terms instead of being subservient to a man.                 All of these elements contribute to the popularity and success of this novel over time, which is one way to define a classic. In this book Charlotte Brontë rejected the convention of the beautiful heroine and wanted to write a more relatable female protagonist, and the topics developed are still relevant even nowadays. Jane addressed the constraints her gender dealt with, and actively defied them, but unfortunately, women are still dealing with gender inequality. She also understood the importance of friendship and loyalty which is one of the most important things in life, as stood by Helen Burns’ side even though it meant she was punished as well. Jane as the heroine was striving to greater things in life, she wasn’t afraid of love even though she tried to hide it, and she made us think how being sad or depressed is not something to be ashamed of. As Brontë wrote in Jane Eyre: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”, she was very advanced for her time, she comprised countless layers as a woman, and set a new standard for strong literary heroines.

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