Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë - LELE - Terminale L

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë - LELE - Terminale L

Digischool Bac L met à votre disposition un cours de littérature étrangère en langue étrangère sur le roman "Jane Eyre" de Charlotte Brontë rédigé par notre professeur pour le niveau terminale L.

Dans ce chapitre vous étudierez, après une rapide introduction, la biographie de l'auteur Chalotte Brontë. Puis vous trouverez un résumé de Jane Eyre (en français). S'en suivra la présentation des personnages principaux de ce roman et enfin le choix de la narration et des effets de la part de l'auteur ainsi que les sujet de société que traite celui-ci.

Téléchargez gratuitement ci-dessous ce cours de lele sur "Jane Eyre" pour le niveau Terminale L.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë - LELE - Terminale L

Le contenu du document

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

Introduction

Charlotte Brontë is one of the prominent writers of the Victorian Era. At the time, not many women writer were recognised for their works, and strong, leading female characters were not as common as they are today. In her novel Jane Eyre, Brontë develops a story based on the life and experiences of Jane, who narrates the novel.

The story can fit into several genres and tackles several themes. It is a romance, but also a social novel; it has Gothic features but also realistic elements. Indeed, Victorian novels were sometimes inspired by all the genres that developed throughout the 19th century. Jane's story shows her evolution, from childhood to adulthood, in the Victorian society where women faced many changes in their situation and status. To some extend, Jane Eyre possesses strong feminist features, even though talking about feminism as we know it today would be an anachronism.

We are going to study the main aspects of the novel, first focusing on the life of the author (which somehow impact on the story), then we will see a summary of the novel, and in another part we will zoom on some of the main characters. Later on we will study the main themes and aspects of Jane Eyre, such as the vision of women and the social aspects developed by Brontë.

I. A short biography of Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë was born in 1816, in Yorshire, England. The Brontë family is famous for having not just one, but three writers: Charlotte, Emily and Anne all wrote to some extent (even though Anne, for example, is not as well-known as Charlotte is) and the three sisters are part of the Victorian literary canon today.

Charlotte's work was, on certain points, slightly autobiographic; some events that happened in her life appear in her novels, even though these are fictions. For example, when she was a child, Charlotte had to face the death of two of her other sisters, Elizabeth and Maria. They died after catching an illness at the school they all studied at. Charlotte must have been affected by these terrible events, and she uses them in Jane Eyre, with the death of Jane's friend Helen.

As a young woman, Charlotte became a governess for some time, at a school and for private families. She did not enjoy her position as governess, and this experience and her thoughts about it also appear in Jane Eyre. In 1842, she went to Brussels, in Belgium, with her sister Emily to complete their studies. There, Charlotte felt a strong attachement to the man who run the boarding school she was in and where she taught English. However she had to go back to England some time after. Her impressions of this period of her life may have inspired parts of the plot of her novel Villette, in which an English young woman starts working in a French-speaking school in the continent.

Her first published work was a collection of poems from her and her sisters Emily and Anne, which they published under pen names. Charlotte published under the name Currer Bell. However, her first manuscript for the very first novel she wrote, The Professor, was later on refused publication. It is only with Jane Eyre that Charlotte wound find success. The novel was published in 1847, and was immediately very popular. In many ways, the novel was very innovative. There were few female characters with a voice as powerful as the character of Jane appears in the novel, and the plot, with its dramatic accents and twists and turns, attracted readers.

 

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë - cours lele - bac L
The first edition of Jane Eyre (1847) with pen name Currer Bell

 

Thanks to the success of her novel, Charlotte got the opportunity to travel to London, where her publisher was. There, she evolves in literary circles and met writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell and William Makepeace Thackeray. Brontë completed manuscripts for her other novels following the success of Jane Eyre, with Shirley and Villette. Her novel The Professor was only published after her death.

In 1854, Brontë married Arthur Bell Nicholls, after he asked for her hand. She refused at first, but changed her mind and soon after marrying him, she was pregnant with her first child. However, she died shortly after, in March 1855, probably due to dehydration and severe sickness due to her pregnancy. There are other theories, as her death certificate states that she died from tuberculosis. She was only 39, and left behind her The Professor, published in 1857, and fragments of an unfinished novel. Even though she had a short life, Charlotte Brontë's literary achievements are considerable, and marked a big step in the literature of the Victorian era.

 

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë - cours lele - bac L
Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)

II. A summary of the novel (in French)

(For practical reasons, some elements of the plot have been omitted. You should refer to the complete novel for the full story.)

Le narrateur du roman est Jane, et celle-ci raconte son histoire en partant de son enfance. Jane est une jeune fille orpheline, placée sous la tutelle de Mr Reed, son oncle, et de sa femme. A la mort de son oncle, Jane n'est plus que sous la protection de sa tante, Mrs Reed, qui se montre très froide et cruelle avec elle. Jane vit donc une enfance dans un cadre très froid, malmenée par son cousin John Reed et sa tante.

Jane est une enfant très curieuse, qui passe beaucoup de temps à lire et s'occupe souvent seule, tout en évitant les provocations de son cousin. Un jour, après une altercation avec son cousin et une terrible punition, Mrs Reed, décidée à punir Jane une fois pour toutes, choisit de l'envoyer en pensionnat. C'est ainsi qu'un matin, Jane quitte la maison de sa tante pour Lowood, une école de charité. Elle a alors dix ans.

A Lowood, la vie de Jane ne s'améliore pas. Le quotidien est très difficile, car l'établissement est mené d'une main de maître par Mr Brocklehurst. Les élèves de l'école, toutes des filles, se lèvent très tôt, travaillent toute la journée, et n'ont que de maigres repas. Jane est vite prise à parti par Brocklehurst, qui la punit et interdit les autres enfants de parler à Jane. Cependant, Jane devient rapidement amie avec Helen Burns, une élève de l'école. Les deux jeunes filles s'entraident et échangent beaucoup. Malheureusement, une épidémie de typhus frappe l'école et Helen meurt. Après l'épidémie, une professeure de l'école devient en charge de la vie dans le pensionnat. Il s'agit de Miss Temple, que Jane apprécie beaucoup et qui aura une influence indirecte sur sa vie et son éducation. Les conditions de vie s'améliorent, et Jane passera huit ans à Lowood, d'abord en tant qu'élève, puis après six ans d'études brillantes, en tant que professeur.

Après toutes ses années à Lowood, Jane sent qu'il est temps pour elle de partir. Elle passe une annonce dans un journal pour devenir préceptrice, chargée de l'éducation de jeunes enfants. Une certaine Mme Fairfax lui répond et l'invite à se rendre à Thornfield Hall, où Jane serait chargée de l'éducation d'Adèle, la pupille du propriétaire, Mr Rochester. Jane quitte Lowood et voyage jusqu'à Thornfield, où elle est accueillie par l'aimable Mrs Fairfax. Celle-ci est l'intendante et s'occupe de la maison, Mr Rochester étant souvent absent pour de longues semaines. Jane accepte l'offre et commence à travailler avec Adèle, sans rencontrer Mr Rochester, qui est absent à son arrivée.

Un jour, Jane se promène aux alentours de Thornfield après avoir déposé une lettre à la poste. Soudainement, elle rencontre un homme à cheval, qui déstabilisé par l'apparition soudaine de Jane, tombe de sa monture. Jane se précipite pour l'aider à remonter à cheval. Jane ne le sait pas encore, mais elle vient de rencontrer Rochester, son maître, comme elle l'appelle plusieurs fois au fil du roman.

Rochester étant de retour à Thornfield, Jane apprend à le connaître et évoque son attitude et sa personnalité singulières. Elle se pose beaucoup de questions sur Rochester, qui a souvent une attitude sévère et très directe. A d'autres moments, il se montre plus ouvert à la discussion avec elle.  Une nuit, Jane sauve Rochester d'un incendie, alors que sa chambre commence à prendre feu. Rochester, endormi alors que le feu commençait à se propager, remercie Jane mais lui demande de ne parler à personne de l'incident.

Peu à peu, en passant du temps avec Rochester et en méditant sur ses sentiments et son ressenti, Jane se rend compte qu'elle éprouve des sentiments pour lui. Le lecteur est témoin, pas à pas, de l'évolution de sa relation avec Rochester et la façon dont elle parle de ses sentiments. Jane espère gagner l'affection de son maitre, mais est consciente qu'elle n'a ni la beauté, ni la richesse, ni la stature pour être sa compagne. De plus, Rochester est beaucoup plus âgé qu'elle, et son caractère est très difficile à interpréter. Un jour, Rochester part pendant trois semaines chez des connaissances, et il en revient avec un groupe qu'il invite à rester à Thornfield. Dans le groupe se trouve la belle Blanche Ingram, que l'on dit être la jeune femme que Rochester pourrait demander en mariage. Cela bouleverse Jane, qui cherche à se détacher le plus possible de Rochester et de réprimer ses sentiments pour lui. Un soir, un certain Mason se rend à Thornfield. Il semble très mécontent envers Rochester, pour une raison inconnue, et reste au château pour la nuit. Pendant la nuit, Rochester vient réveiller Jane pour lui demander de l'aide : Mason est blessé, il a été apparemment mordu. Jane soupçonne Grace Poole, qui a souvent un comportement étrange. Rochester demande à Jane de prendre soin de Mason sans lui poser aucune question, jusqu'à ce qu'un médecin arrive pour prendre le relai et que Mason s'en aille du château. Jane et Rochester passent du temps ensemble à cause de ces événements, et Rochester semble donner des indices concernant son possible mariage avec Blanche Ingram, ce qui affecte beaucoup Jane.

Peu de temps après, Jane reçoit un courrier de Gateshead. Sa tante, Mrs Reed, est mourante et demande à ce que Jane vienne à son chevet. Au départ hésitante, Jane décide finalement d'exaucer cette dernière volonté. Elle annonce donc à Rochester qu'elle doit partir, et celui-ci se montre sensible à son départ, dans une scène d'au revoir très personnelle. En effet, Rochester ne souhaite pas, dans un premier temps, que Jane s'en aille. Elle réussit à le convaincre qu'elle a pour mission d'y aller.

Lorsque Jane revient, après la mort de sa tante, la situation avec Rochester bascule rapidement. Lors d'une conversation, Jane évoque le mariage entre Rochester et Blanche Ingram ; Rochester avoue alors qu'il n'a jamais voulu épouser Blanche, et qu'il ressent des sentiments très forts pour Jane. Il la demande en mariage, et Jane finit par accepter. Le jour du mariage, la cérémonie est interrompue et le secret de Rochester est dévoilé : il est marié à Bertha Mason, qui a sombré dans la folie et vit isolée dans une partie du château. Jane, bouleversée, ne parvient pas à passer outre cette découverte, et quitte Thornfield Hall le cœur brisé.

Elle erre pendant plusieurs jours jusqu'à son arrivée dans un village où elle est sauvée par les Rivers : deux sœurs, Mary et Diana, décident de l'héberger et de prendre soin d'elle jusqu'à ce qu'elle retrouve des forces. Jane décide de se faire appeler Elliot, et le cours de sa vie reprend au village, où le frère Rivers, St John (un pasteur) lui donne un travail en tant qu'institutrice. Jane semble satisfaite de sa nouvelle vie. Un jour, St John vient voir Jane et lui annonce qu'il veut partir en Inde pour être missionnaire religieux. Il lui demande de l'épouser, mais fait comprendre qu'il souhaite que Jane devienne sa femme non par amour, mais par admiration pour son caractère et son courage. Jane hésite beaucoup à accepter. Entre temps, une lettre arrive pour Jane et lui révèle qu'elle vient d'hériter de la fortune de son oncle vivant à Madère, et qui mourut en lui laissant sa fortune. Dans la même lettre, Jane se rend compte que les Rivers et elle sont cousins ; elle décide donc de partager son héritage avec eux.

Une nuit, Jane entend une voix qui l'appelle soudainement, et qui semble être la voix de Rochester lui demandant à l'aide. Mue par une intuition forte, Jane part immédiatement pour Thornfield Hall. Sur place, elle constate que le château est en ruine, et elle apprend qu'un incendie a eu lieu : Bertha, la femme de Rochester, a mis le feu au château dans un accès de folie, puis est décédée en se jetant du toit. Rochester, quant à lui, est toujours vivant, mais il a perdu la vue et l'usage d'une main dans l'incendie. Il s'est retiré, solitaire, dans un manoir. Jane, émue, s'empresse de le rejoindre et, dans une scène émouvante, montre à Rochester qu'elle est de retour. Les sentiments des deux personnages sont toujours aussi forts, et Jane conscent à épouser Rochester malgré sa situation.

Dans le dernier chapitre du roman, Jane évoque sa vie de femme mariée, et la naissance de son premier enfant. Rochester semble avoir retrouvé légèrement la vue, et les deux protagonistes vivent heureux.

III. The protagonists of the novel: Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester

Throughout the novel, the reader develops an understanding of both Jane and Rochester's characters, not only in relationship to each other, but also as individuals.

Jane, right from the recollections of her childhood, shows that she is a strong character. As an orphan, she had to take responsibility for herself from a very young age, to defend herself from enemies (i.e. her aunt Mrs Reed and her cousin John Reed) but also to educate herself, through books, questionings, self-reflection, etc. Jane is a character who forms opinions, and, most importantly, can express her feelings and acknowledge them. She is an independent woman and has an independent spirit, which is quite daring from her as women, during the Victorian era, were in a place where self-expression was not encouraged. Jane is very much a modern woman at her time: she lives without a family and without the goal of finding a husband, she works, and she is not afraid to take decisions that could challenge her, for example leaving Lowood school to work as a governess, and later in the novel leaving Thornfield Hall after her heatbreaking experience with Rochester. It is no wonder that her name was given as the title of the novel: the story is about Jane, written by Jane, and focusses on her evolution through different steps in life.

Rochester, on the other hand, is a much more difficult character to understand. First of all, the reader only sees him through the narrator. When Jane first arrives at Thornfield Hall, Rochester isn't there, and thus the reader knows very little about him. All we discover about him comes from what Jane, as narrator, tells us. Rochester is older than Jane, suggesting that he has had a richer experience in life. At first, Rochester is bossy, authoritative, and not very pleasant with Jane. His personality is very hard to define. However, as the stories progresses, Jane and him develop a strong bond, they find a way of communicating with each other and enjoy each other's company. As Jane develops feelings from him, she finds it difficult to hide them, while Rochester's love for her stays a secret until he finally tells her. Rochester, just like Jane, wants to have control of his life. He controls his relationships with friends, by inviting them to Thornfield, he controls Jane's work (especially at the beginning of the novel), he controls his deepest secrets as the existence of his wife Bertha is a secret. His marriage, along with his relationship with Adele's mother, suggest that the life he had when he was younger was much different than the quiet, almost solitary life he lives at Thornfield. Thus, it seems at first that Rochester and Jane are far too different to be together, but they somehow (and after a lot of struggles) find a balance. Rochester, regretting his past life and the mistakes of his youth, finds in Jane a pillar on which he can lean, a good-hearted woman who understands and forgives him. At the end of the novel, Rochester's physical disabilities put him in a fragile place, which he is not used to since he was often in a situation of power and control before.

IV. Other important characters

A. Bertha Mason Rochester

Even though she barely appears in the novel, Bertha is an interesting character to focus on. As a woman, Bertha is clearly pointed out negatively: from the information the reader understands, she used to be a beautiful woman, with a seductive aura, she was also of Creole descent, and came from Jamaica. Thus, she is almost the total opposite of Jane, Jane acts as a mirror character. Jane is not beautiful (she is « plain », as she says herself) and who is of English, white, descent. It is interesting to think about whether Bertha's origins are a factor of how she is seen and described in the novel. During the Victorian era, colonisation was at the heart of society, and was both seen as a good and a bad thing. Coming from Jamaica to England, Bertha seems to be a sort of threat from abroad, which makes us wonder about Charlotte Brontë's views on that matter.

Bertha is quickly described as mad by Rochester, and as a woman who has lost all control on her actions and feelings. She thus becomes dangerous, both for herself and for others. Bertha is the main obstacle that stands in front of Jane and Rochester's happiness, and she represents the biggest plot twist of the novel. She is a key element in the story, and acts as an enemy to both Rochester and Jane. Her feelings and possible unhappiness (after all, she is locked in the attic of the castle) are not taken into account, but her presence in the novel and what she stands for, in the plot, is important to understand the dynamics of the story.

B. St John Rivers

St John is a clergyman who, with his two sisters, helps Jane to get better when she leaves Thornfield Hall. He is a very practical man, who exhibits no feelings or emotions. Dedicated to his mission for God, he decides to forget his love for Rosamund Olivier, even though he knows she loves him back. Even though he seems to enjoy Jane's company, St John doesn't share anything with her. Even when he asks for her to marry him, it is only with the intention of having her as a companion in India, and not out of love or any emotional attachement of that kind. Because of his emotional detachment, Jane cannot find in him an equal, even though she still values him as a person.

He is the opposite of Rochester, in many ways: Rochester cannot refrain his passion for Jane, and choses to follow love, by asking Jane to marry him, while St John refuses to marry the woman he loves, Rosamund. While Rochester reveals to be a troubled soul, with a past that darkened his character, St John is almost as white as snow, following moral principles and almost sacrificing human experiences for that. This is why Jane and him, even though they could have a stable relationship, would never be together: St John's state of mind did not fit what Jane deeply wanted in her life, and Rochester's voice, at the end of the novel, brings her to reality as she is almost ready to accept to go to India with St John.

V. A novel about social issues and women

More than a love story, Jane Eyre brings up broader issues, all embodied in Jane's character and evolution. As both a female and a member of the lower class (she is an orphan and she has no money or prospects), Jane is one of the people that was often left behind in Victorian society. In the Victorian era, women in the lower classes started working to support themselves and their families. Thus, Jane works as a teacher at Lowood, and then goes on to become a governess, two jobs that were mostly taken by women at the time. One might think that working could have brought more independence to Jane, and to some extent it has – Jane, as an unmarried young woman, can take her own decisions and decides to take the position at Thornfield Hall without anybody else's opinion – but she is also stuck, because of her work, in a lower social position. She lives and works at Thornfield, and virtually can't escape the place. Moreover, the way Rochester treats her at the beginning of the novel shows how Jane is tied to her job, being sometimes treated as a servant.

Jane's freedom only comes when she leaves Thornfield and settles at Moor House, where she leads her own school and finds independence from Rochester. By detaching herself from Rochester after the revelation of his wife's existence, she frees herself both from her position as Adele's governess, and from her « obligations » as a woman – which would be staying with Rochester, because he asked her to. She decides to break free and this is when her freedom starts. Afterwards, as Jane earns her salary and takes care of the school that has been set up for her, she gains confidence. This confidence is a big step in her social awareness, and, along with money, is the step that will lead her to finally be able to marry Rochester.

Indeed, towards the end of the novel, Jane has obtained financial stability. This has a big impact on her life prospects, and gives her a certain power, both as a woman and in her general place in society. When she comes back to Rochester, she is not the poor, working class woman she was when they met, she has grown stronger and more confident, and has obtained wealth. The growth of women characters is generally rare in Victorian literature, thus Charlotte Brontë, in her novel, created a strong female figure, rather unusual for her time, and who displays accents and ideas of feminism – not feminism in the activist sense, but in the general direction the novel takes. Jane is a strong-minded woman, who evolves socially and mentally throughout the novels, by refusing to be set up in the boxes society created for women. She is not just a governess, just a plain woman, just a mistress (when Rochester asks her to stay even if they can't get married). She chooses her identity over all of these options, and thus rejects the norm that society has established for women of her kind.

VI. A story of evolution: Jane and Rochester as equals

Jane and Rochester's relationship is complex on many points. At the start, their differences (in age, circumstances, social status, and life experiences) naturally set them apart, but by the end of the novel they manage to find a balance and they can finally be together. This whole process involves, for both of them, a lot of changes and evolutions, that wa can see happening throughout the story.

Even though she is a woman and has a relatively low status in society, Jane's character is particularly drawn towards independence and freedom. She defies the standards of her time, and doesn't take decisions according to what society dictates her. When Rochester shows his changing temperament and applies authoritative behaviours as he talks to Jane, she doesn't give in and always stays honest and true to herself. For Rochester, who is used giving orders and be listened to, this comes as a challenge – and arguably, this is one of the things that makes Jane stand out from the other women Rochester has been in contact with.

The gap between Jane and Rochester, in experience and wealth, slowly closes as the novel goes on. At the end of the story, Jane has inherited a large sum of money, she is not the poor girl she was when she met Rochester. She has acquired independence, by working in her own school, confidence and strength, she has acquired wealth, thanks to the money she was given, and she has gained experienced, with all the events she went through from her tough days at Lowood to the trauma she experienced at Thornfield Hall, and the strength she gained from walking away, deliberately, from Rochester.

Rochester, as for him, he went from a position of power, wealth, and almost intimidation in some instances, to a more fragile state. The fire at Thornfield Hall dispossessed him from his estate, from the control he had over his life (especially regarding the secret of Bertha's existence), but also from his physical health, as he lost his sight and the use of one of his hands. Thus, when Jane comes to find him, Rochester is not « superior » anymore, instead, he is somehow depend on Jane. The situation between the two characters has evolved into a more equal footing. Jane is in the position to accept Rochester's proposal, now that Bertha is dead and that Jane has acquired a sense of independence, and Rochester lets go of his power to show weakness and accept to be helped and supported. The events in the lives of both characters, instead of setting them apart, brings them together so they can finally live their relationship as equals.

Useful words

  • Boarding school : pensionnat
  • Pen name : pseudonyme
  • Recollections : souvenirs
  • Daring : audacieux, courageux
  • Bossy : autoritaire
  • Pillar : pilier
  • Plain : ordinaire
  • To exhibit : montrer
Fin de l'extrait

Vous devez être connecté pour pouvoir lire la suite

Télécharger ce document gratuitement

Donne ton avis !

Rédige ton avis

Votre commentaire est en attente de validation. Il s'affichera dès qu'un membre de Bac L le validera.
Attention, les commentaires doivent avoir un minimum de 50 caractères !
Vous devez donner une note pour valider votre avis.

Nos infos récentes du Bac L

Communauté au top !

Vous devez être membre de digiSchool bac L

Pas encore inscrit ?

Ou identifiez-vous :

Mot de passe oublié ?