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Many authors all over the world write fictional stories using wide ranges of imagination, from science fiction all the way to mysteries. These stories are clear examples of the writers themselves, as they include their own personal life experiences into their novels. Charlotte Bronte incorporates much of her life into her novel Jane Eyre, although at the time the highly noted Victorian writer published her novel by the name of Curer Bell. Bronte retells her life through a new perspective, challenging the ideas of religion and the Victorian society. The new tale is told through the narration of an English girl, Jane Eyre, who travels through obstacles as a child all the way to adulthood. Similarities of Bronte and Jane include attending a boarding school in their childhood, losing a loved one due to sickness at school, and finally becoming teachers and governesses in the later years of their lives.
Comparisons in the childhoods of Bronte and Jane are evident in the in the harsh conditions of the strict charity boarding schools they attended. Lowood, the institute from the novel Jane Eyre, resembles Clergy Daughter’s School, where Charlotte Bronte enrolled at the age of eight with her three sisters. Many recollections of the Clergy Daughter’s School describe the setting: “Conditions at the school were appalling” (Simkin, par. 2). The school was enforced by stern teachers who disciplined the students with public beatings and the wearing of untidy badges (Biswanger, par.2). In Bronte’s novel, she recreates those scenes through the accounts of Helen Burns in a school beating: “The ominous tool she presented to Miss Scatcherd with a respectful courtesy; then she quietly, and without being told, unloosened her pinafore, and the teacher instantly and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of twigs (Bronte 56). Along with the tight discipline at both boarding schools, the food was equally terrible. After just the first few days of attending Lowood, Jane describes one meal through a state of famine: “Ravenous and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my portion without thinking of its taste….burnt porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes”(Bronte 48). At both Lowood and Clergy Daughter’s School the food was not only burnt and disgusting, but also contaminated and rancid (Biswanger, par. 2). Even though the harsh conditions and terrible food supply was hard for both Charlotte and Jane, the most difficult part of attending the boarding schools was the cruel walk to church. Every Sunday the girls that attended Clergy Daughter’s School participated in a four-mile walk to Tunstall Church. A very similar journey is also portrayed in the novel Jane Eyre when the girls walked their way to Brocklebridge Church every Sunday for a morning service. Through Jane Eyre Charlotte describes, “We had to walk two miles to Brocklebridge Church, where our patron officiated. We set out cold, we arrived at church colder: during the morning service we became almost paralyzed” (Bronte 62). All of these terrible conditions contributed to the harsh and cruel recollections of the two girls in the earlier years of their lives.
Along with the parallels seen in Bronte’s and Eyre’s childhood schools, both girls also faced grief and loss in their life as an adolescent. With the rough conditions at the schools both Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte lost people very near to them as a result of a typhus outbreak. Charlotte Bronte’s two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth Bronte, died of typhus just two years after enrolling at Clergy Daughter’s School. Maria Bronte, Charlotte Bronte’s older sister, was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1825. Later that spring there was an outbreak of typhus at the school that may have been thought to cover up the tuberculosis symptoms. Over a period of six months multiple girls began to pass away, and Elizabeth and Maria were sent home sick (The Bronte Parsonage, par. 4). Soon conditions at Clergy Daughter’s School become worse and worse: “Over the following six months, one girl was to die at school and twenty more, one third of the roll, were withdrawn ill, and six of them died soon afterwards” (The Bronte Parsonage, par. 4). On the other hand, Charlotte and her younger sister Emily were sent home in good health and never returned to the same school again. Similarly, Jane Eyre lost her best friend, Helen Burns, due to typhus. But even before the outbreak of typhus at Lowood, Helen Burns had always shown signs of sickness. Miss Temple would always question, “How are you tonight Helen? Have you coughed much today?” Such was the reply: “Not quite so much I think ma’am.” Miss Temple again asks: “And the pain in your chest?” Helen’s response: “It is a little better” (Bronte 74). The spring outbreak of typhus has brought sorrow and tradgedy to these poor souls, whether in reality or in Bronte’s imagination.
After passing their youth in a similar boarding school, Bronte and Eyre continued their journey in life. Eventually, both Charlotte and Jane grew up to find a career in teaching, as well as becoming a governess. Jane Eyre began teaching at Lowood, a career that lasted about two years, after finishing her studies before she finds a new career as a governess. As a teacher Jane was very well respected and fit in with the other teachers wonderfully. She taught the children fittingly and enjoyed her job as it was. She continued this career until Miss Temple, her favorite childhood teacher, left her position. This sudden change soon permitted Miss Eyre to advertise for a new job as a governess. One offer arrives very soon in the mail: “A situation can be offered her where there is but one pupil, a little girl, under ten years of age; and, where the salary is thirty pounds per anum” (Bronte 91). Jane accepted the offer for a position at Thornfield Hall to be the new educator for a French girl named Adele, but she later abandons her job as a governess as well. Jane becomes the teacher of a newly opened school in a new town, with the help of St. John and Rosamond Oliver. Here she taught basic skills to the girls of a small town called Whitcross. Charlotte Bronte, comparably, also found a job as a teacher at the age of 19 at Roe Head before pursuing her career as a governess. Just like Jane in the novel, Charlotte finished her studies at Roe Head before becoming a teacher at the same school. Here Bronte also makes an ever-lasting friendship: “Charlotte continued her education at Roe Head school in Mirfield from 1831 to 1832, where she met her lifelong friends and correspondents, Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor” (Goodreads, par. 3). Mirroring Jane, Charlotte furthermore moved on from Roe Head and became a governess for the Sidgewick family, but left after three months. In 1841 she became a governess in the White family, but once again left after nine months (Cody, par.5). After leaving her job as a governess, Bronte attempted to open her own school, which she soon abandoned due to lack of success, and started her new career as a successful writer.
From the rough life of Charlotte Bronte emerges a wonderful novel created to represent her own life through a young Victorian girl named Jane Eyre. Many similarities can be connected between the lives of the two ladies, one real and one fictional. Resemblances between the two include attending a boarding school, losing a loved one, and pursuing a career as a teacher and governess. Charlotte’s final career choice as a writer was well picked, as her novel Jane Eyre not only acted as a personal recapitulation of her life but also creates an opportunity for her to challenge the Victorian society’s religion, views on mental illness, and perspective on money or wealth. Observing the connections between Charlotte Bronte’s character Jane Eyre and her own life, it becomes obvious that Jane’s and Charlotte’s lives are definitely a parallel dimension.
Biswanger, Raymond. Raymond Biswanger Slide Collection. Penn Libraries. University of
Pennsylvania. January 9, 2008. Web. February 4, 2010.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Signet Classic, 1960. Print.
The Bronte Parsonage. Bronte Parsonage Museum. Web. February 4, 2010.
Cody, David. Charlotte Bronte: A Brief Biography. The Victorian Web. 1997. Web. February 4,
Goodreads. Goodreads Inc. 2010. Web. February 3, 2010.
Simkin, John. Spartacus Educational. The Association of Teachers’ Websites. September 1997.
Web. February 3, 2010. <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/author.htm>