Jane Eyre Time Period & Historical Context

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  • 0:01 Jane Eyre: A Gothic Romance
  • 1:19 The Victorian Era
  • 2:36 Social Change
  • 3:39 Schools & Orphans
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elisa Goldman

Elisa has taught K-6 grades and has two master's degree in Instructional Technology and Education.

'Jane Eyre' reflects the convergence of the Victorian Era and the Industrial Revolution. Learn about the societal and historical changes happening in England during the time period of this novel by Charlotte Bronte.

Introduction to Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is a novel written by Charlotte Bronte, published under the pen name Currer Bell, in 1847. Jane Eyre's genre is both Gothic and Romantic, often conjuring an atmosphere of mystery, secrecy, or even horror.

The story revolves around society and its norms (or this case, ab-norms) rather than an account of what is going on during the period's history. Social and political unrest and the Industrial Revolution created a number of changes in the way people interacted, as well as with the way people earned their living, from farming to factory. Also present were the expectations of Victorian rigidity of manner and behaviors.

In Jane Eyre, Bronte speaks about her personal dissatisfaction with the times. 'It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action. . . Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot.' The novel is a product of her times mixed with the isolation of her life on the moors. She interacted with a great number of fellow artists and writers, including her own sisters. Bronte possessed a furtive imagination, and she expressed much passion in her writing.

The Victorian Era

Although there is no time period stated in the book itself, it is thought that the period from Jane Eyre's childhood to adulthood would have taken place during the Late-Georgian and Victorian periods of British history.

The Victorian era is generally agreed to stretch through the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). It was a tremendously exciting period when many artistic styles and literary schools, as well as social, political and religious movements, flourished. It was a time of prosperity, broad imperial expansion and great political reform. It was also a period which today we associate with prudishness and repression. Without a doubt, it was an extraordinarily complex age that has sometimes been called the Second English Renaissance. Jane Eyre states, 'I longed for a power of vision which might. . . reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen: that I desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach.' This statement shows that she is aware of the changing times and yearns to be a part of them.

Social Change

Jane Eyre is set in the north of England. During this period, British society was undergoing steady and important change. One of the most evident changes was the transition from a rural to an industrial economy. The Industrial Revolution had begun in Britain in the late 18th century, and by the writing of Jane Eyre, it was heading onward with determination. Charlotte Bronte touches on several social issues in Jane Eyre: woman's employment, genteel poverty, education and marriage.

If women did not have the means, due to lack of money or family, to stay at home, they were often forced to obtain employment. If you, like Jane Eyre, were from a genteel home but lacked money, your options were pretty limited: get a job or get married. For the former, many went out to be governesses, nannies or teachers for the upper classes. They used their skills and education that they themselves had received when their situation in life might have been better.

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