After exploring the mind of Jane Eyre, readers can discover the country that inspired the world that shaped her.
Creating a classic takes a forward-thinking mind to produce literature that can stand the test of time. These stories must reflect the world they originate from while simultaneously speaking to qualities and experiences that are innately human in order to remain relevant through generations. Not only is Charlotte’s Brontë’s Jane Eyre rich in socioeconomic and religious commentary timelessly ripe for analysis, but she is able to create a deeply pensive character whom the audience can root for and respect.
Despite being her debut, Jane Eyre became immensely popular, gaining criticism and praise. A handful of reviewers even questioned whether the novel was an autobiography of Brontë’s life instead of a fictional character due to the accuracy with which she depicted Victorian life. All of these musings, positive and negative, are a reflection of an effective piece of literature that earned Brontë a spot among the ranks of other notable English writers.
After exploring the mind of Jane Eyre, readers can discover the parts of England that inspired the world that shaped her.
The reader is introduced to young Jane in the Gateshead Estate, where she has been living with her aunt and cousins after her parents’ deaths. The beginning of her journey plants the seeds for the conflict she will struggle within herself and with others. Being an orphan forces her to be aware of the consequences of poverty, and the mistreatment from the other members of home likely drive her need for independence displayed later in the book.
Since this is a fictional autobiography, this estate doesn’t exist. Brontë’s early life, however, was similar to that of Eyre and could have inspired a few of the early chapters’ details.
The author was born in a village in Yorkshire. After her mother’s death, her father had to assume sole responsibility of their children. Today, the historic county has been divided into several cities, including York, Leeds, and Doncaster. One must-see location is the Yorkshire Coast. There are plenty of attractions and activities to enjoy on the sprawling coastline and inland, including the Hornsea Bugtopia, TPT Hornsea Rail Cycle Path, and various cafés and teashops.
Jane is eventually enrolled in a religious girls’ academy by her aunt in Lowood about 50 miles away from home. The conditions are awful, the instructors are quite strict, and disease eventually spreads across the campus. This location was likely heavily inspired by, if not a direct reflection of, the Clergy Daughters Academy that the Brontë sisters attended in their youth, which was located in Lancashire.
Though this is another historic county, travelers can still visit the land where it would have been during Brontë’s life. History enthusiasts are sure to enjoy guided tours of structures such as the Lancaster Castle or Hoghton Tower, which are both rooted in the long past of this territory.
Searching for purpose, Jane becomes a governess to a well-off family living in the Thornfield estate. Here, the reader is brought into expanse of Jane’s imagination, particularly as she entertains the possibility of a romantic connection with Rochester. These reveries soon turn sour as she realizes that her sense of self may be eclipsed by her future husband’s image of her. These reservations are further exacerbated when a perception-altering secret about her fiancé is uncovered, which causes her to flee the estate.
Charlotte Brontë became a governess after the book is published, so it is unlikely that the home she worked in is featured in the novel. The author did, however, visit North Lees Hall in 1845 before her book was published and is thought to have been inspired by the appearance of this estate. The village remains rather secluded today, but it is still open to interested visitors.
The last section of the book opens to display Eyre at her lowest point. Left on her own, she rejects self-reflection and emotional vulnerability and embraces reason instead at Marsh End. As she moves further into adulthood, she sheds these rigid ideas of how to conduct herself and finds a balance between her sense of morality and desire. The novel closes with a “whole” Jane Eyre reconciling with Rochester at the Ferndean estate.
Though these particular properties are not connected to a specific place, they are likely reflected in the Victorian-era architecture popular at the time. Some of these buildings have survived into the modern era and can be found across England. A popular one is the Sudley House in Liverpool. The former home of merchant George Holt is a time capsule of art and culture that has been maintained by the city. Visitors can enjoy a thorough tour of the different rooms, Holt’s collection, and what life was like for a family in the 1800s.