Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre by Glynnis Fawkes

Charlotte Bronte Before Jane Eyre


Goodreads: Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre
Series: None
Source: Library
Publication Date: Sept. 2019


Glynnis Fawkes depicts Charlotte Brontë’s life leading up to the publication of Jane Eyre. Growing up in an impoverished family, Charlotte was expected to earn her living as a teacher. But she longed to spend time in her imaginary worlds instead. Her experiences at boarding school and as a teacher would eventually inspire her writings, as would her childhood play with her siblings.

Star Divider


Glynnis Fawkes ambitiously seeks to cover Charlotte Brontë’s life leading up to the publication of her most famous work all in a short graphic novel. The result will likely to appeal to avid Brontë fans happy to see an accessible biography, as well as to newcomers who will find the book a serviceable, if not particularly inspired, introduction to a beloved author. Ultimately, the book proves nothing special, but it will likely be fervently embraced by individuals hoping that a comic book will get young people interested in the classics.

Being somewhat familiar already with Brontë’s biography perhaps made me more critical of the book than others might be. I felt that Fawkes tries to cover too much in too little space. Connections between events and emotions seem lacking, so readers have to imagine for themselves how parts of Brontë’s life affected her or her writing. Her brother’s deterioration, for example, is largely glossed over, as is the pressure to make a living. More time is spent with Charlotte’s juvenilia and how it lead up to her adult works, but other books such as Catherynne Valente’s Glass Town Game and Lena Coakley’s Worlds of Ink and Shadow delve more deeply into Brontë’s emotional ties to her writing–though these books are fiction. Altogether, the book feels emotionally lacking; Charlotte and all her hopes and fears never truly came alive for me.

One could argue that this book is a biography, not a story, but Fawkes blends fact and artistic license to create a book that reads rather more like fiction than not. In light of this, it would be helpful for readers to be able to distinguish the true parts from the dramatized. Fawkes mentions choosing to focus on Charlotte because of the wealth of letters and other printed materials she left behind. Unfortunately, however, Fawkes makes no distinction between her dialogue and Charlotte’s actual or paraphrased words. Quotations or other indications of what is pulled from real life would be helpful (as is the case of John Hendrix’s The Faithful Spy). But instead readers are left in the dark, which is regrettable since many readers will likely want to know which words were truly Charlotte’s.

Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre does do the job of introducing readers to Charlotte’s early life. It may not be the most detailed, factual, or deep biography, but it is perhaps the most accessible with its short length and graphic novel format. I imagine this being loved particularly by Brontë fans intimidated by nonfiction and by adults hoping to hook young readers on their favorite author.

3 Stars

What Charlotte Brontë Heroine Are You? (Personality Quiz)

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Instructions: To take the quiz, choose the best answer to each question. Write down the letter of the answer you pick for each question, or simply keep a running tally of how many of each letter you pick. After the last question, count the letters and see which you chose most often. Check the answers to see which one of Charlotte Brontë’s heroines you are most like.  Be sure to share your result with us in the comments!

Disclaimer: This quiz is just for fun, and Pages Unbound makes no claim to know much about your personality at all.

When you’re finished, you can check out our other personality quizzes here.

The Quiz

1. How would you describe your ideal lover?
a.) brooding
b.) generous
c.) caring
d.) intelligent

2. Where would you most like to travel on vacation?
a.) India
b.) Paris
c.) Ireland
d.) Italy

3. What Hogwarts House would you be in?
a.) Gryffindor
b.) Ravenclaw
c.) Hufflepuff
d.) Slytherin

4. How would people describe you?
a.) principled
b.) introverted
c.) thoughtful
d.) independent

5. What element do you like best?
a.) earth
b.) air
c.) water
d.) fire

6. What color best describes you?
a.) purple
b.) blue
c.) yellow
d.) orange

7. What type of pie do you like best?
a.) apple
b.) blueberry
c.) peach
d.) lemon meringue

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The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Guest Post)

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We are continuing this week’s Charlotte Brontë feature with a guest post by our friend Denise.  Denise is a librarian and an avid reader.  She has contributed a number of guests posts to Pages Unbound, including reflections on Robin Hood and Tolkien and reviews of The Doomsday Code and The World Above, among others.  See all her contributions here.

Cover of The Eyre AffairInformation

Goodreads: The Eyre Affair
Series: Thursday Next #1
Published: January 1, 2001


Set in an alternative Great Britain, where time travel is a completely normal occurrence and forging great literary works is a punishable crime, this book features Thursday Next, a literary detective whose job is to protect literature from theft, fraud, and sabotage. And the works of sabotage can get pretty ugly, as Thursday finds herself in a battle to save Jane Eyre (both the character and the story) from being destroyed by an adversary with fantastic abilities and a penchant for committing crimes for the sake of committing crimes.


Adaptations can be a tricky thing. Usually, they are loved for being clever and on-point with the spirit of the original, or they are vehemently despised for totally missing that point or being little more than imitation. I’m not sure Fforde’s Eyre Affair fits totally with any of these opinions. I found the story as a whole enjoyably clever, though I can understand arguments that Fforde’s treatment of Jane Eyre misses some key points. Regardless, I became hooked on this series the first time I read The Eyre Affair. But then, it was difficult not to, with the world Fforde has created – where serious discussions of literature are both commonplace and heated; where the lines between fiction and reality are constantly being blurred to the point where fiction as a whole begins to have a life of its own, not to mention the puns! And Fforde’s world just gets better and better as the series goes on.

But we’re celebrating Brontë this week, so on with an examination of Jane Eyre’s place in The Eyre Affair

Despite the fact that the title of the work is The Eyre Affair, Jane Eyre is not dragged into the story (literally) until about halfway through. Fforde’s is a world that loves Jane Eyre, but is unhappy with its ending – a much different one than we are familiar with, where Jane does not go back to Rochester but elects to go with St. John Rivers, though she still refuses to marry him. In a way, The Eyre Affair is also the story of how Jane Eyre got its mostly happily-ever-after ending, with the implication being that some of the things that happen in the novel happen, not because Brontë wrote them that way but because other things entered the manuscript and affected its outcome behind the scenes. “What was Brontë thinking?” is a common sentiment expressed among the characters in the novel. At the same time that some might see something taken from Brontë’s genius with this set-up, I think Fforde is highlighting it. We know the “original ending” is what is really fake, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that no one likes it in the book. I’m sure there are many who wouldn’t like it in our real world either. Ultimately, it’s an interesting thought experiment, like so much else in Fforde’s world. And the changes are still “pure Brontë” as far as this world is concerned; she may as well have originally wrote it herself by the time all is said and done. I do struggle to suspend my disbelief with that claim though, since it is a bit unclear how the structure/understanding of Fforde’s world supports it. It wasn’t the ending in Brontë’s “original manuscript,” after all, and she isn’t shown rewriting her own story. (Though that is, perhaps, a possibility, with all else that is possible in Fforde’s world – the time travel, jumping in and out of book worlds, etc.)

What’s also important to understand about this book is that it is clearly meant to be funny; it is very rare that this world of Fforde’s actually takes itself seriously. I mean – the main character’s name is “Thursday Next”… and the pets everyone just has to have are cloned dodo birds. Even the charming premise that destroying great works of literature is a punishable offense can seem as ridiculous as it is charming within the realms of this text. Just about the only things that are treated with any amount of levity are themes, specifically death – death in the war going on in Thursday’s world, the possibility of losing literary characters, of losing whole stories – and fiction, specifically the ability of story to truly live: an interesting juxtaposition of topics that is brought to the forefront amid the humorous situations and the puns, and all the more so because everything else is funny. Some elements of Jane Eyre’s story are inserted into Thursday’s own story in a comical way, especially pertaining to her love life, but overall Fforde seems to be less interested in the story that Brontë tells for itself. What’s important to The Eyre Affair is Brontë’s impact, which, in turn, provokes several interesting questions. What would happen if we lost Jane Eyre, or any of the great works? If one of our favorite characters ceased to exist, or never existed? And why isn’t literature taken as seriously as it is in this book by the public at large today? Does it deserve to be? Fforde’s world, humor, and passion for literature may have been why I fell in love with these books – but it’s the exploration of these questions, and questions like these in subsequent books, that keep me coming back to the series for more. I highly recommend it to all grammarians, librarians, bibliophiles, science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts, amateur detectives, creative writers, Bronte fans (of course) and everyone else in between.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: A Life Lesson We All Wish Were True (Guest Post On Jane Eyre)

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Guest Post by M.J. Moores, OCT. Author. Editor.

What allows the works of Charlotte Bronte to stand the test of time is not a hard-wrought literary perfection but the stark reality and relatability of her characters and how the truth of her words echo not only within the construct of her books but through life and time too.

If a writer today tried to emulate Charlotte’s writing style, no matter how good the book, it would always receive criticism for attempting to copy or put on airs, or simply be condemned to “over writing.” What many aspiring writers need to take away from her works is not sentence structure, grammar or linguistic nuances – no. What we all need to remember is that Charlotte spoke to readers, and readers, from any century, love knowing they matter.

I firmly believe that this is precisely why the novel Jane Eyre continues to be read and loved the world over. Charlotte exposes humanity: loss, abuse, illness, hardship, poverty – these things don’t change or evolve from one decade to the next. Charlotte does not preach, as many authors did (and still do); she peels back and reveals life in all its raw glory.

Why does this matter?

Because the means is the message and the message is the means – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Jane is not just a tortured orphan… she’s surrounded by love given to others, fear of difference and abuses of the body and mind. We watch as this little girl desperately tries to survive in a beautiful home where family is the enemy.

Even when hope shines in the face of those who do not know her, like the doctor sent to treat her after her breakdown who suggests sending Jane away to school, her ability to start anew disappears. When her Aunt “sews aversion and unkindness along [her] future path,” speaking ill of Jane to the head of the school she’s dispatched to, life seems futile.

At school Jane faces abysmally poor conditions which force her to witness the death of her best friend. Yet, amidst loss and a strict regimen she finds the ability to stand up for herself. When her favourite teacher, Miss Temple, leaves the school to be married, Jane no longer takes pity on herself – she makes a conscious decision to live the best life she can – as Miss Temple had.

These and other moments of adversity mold and shape Jane into the very woman who cannot only learn to love again, but willingly forsake that love to do what’s right. Bronte purposefully guides the reader through Jane’s early days to bring bearing to the woman she has become. We would be less likely to fall in love alongside her, revel in her trepidations and support her final decisions – feel her pain but know there is no other choice she could have made without that early understanding.

Ultimately, Brontë allows us to hope when Jane looses everything and she cannot see beyond her fall. But even hope is imperfect – and that slap in the face means more to a reader for its basis in truth than some Cinderella fairy-tale ever will.

As writers we need to tap into our humanity and the grim reality of life before hope will ever amount to any sense of truth in our stories.

As readers we thrive on having survived a life of cyclical decimation and rebirth – on having been Jane Eyre.

About the Author

Author M J Moores PortraitM. J. Moores began her career as an English teacher in Ontario, Canada. Her love of storytelling and passion for writing has stayed with her since the age of nine. M. J. relishes tales of adventure and journeys of self-realization. She enjoys writing in a variety of genres but speculative fiction remains her all time favourite. M.J. is a regular contributor to Authors Publish Magazine and she runs an Emerging Authors website called Infinite Pathways. Her debut novel Time’s Tempest is currently available in print and on Kindle through Amazon.

Connect With M.J. Online :

Jane Eyre: To Love Is to Be Vulnerable (Guest Post)

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We are continuing this week’s Charlotte Brontë feature with a guest post by our friend Kathy.  Kathy is an elementary school teacher and an avid fan of Jane Eyre.  She has previously reviewed Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson for Pages Unbound.

C.S. Lewis instructs nervous lovers that “to love is to be vulnerable.” In the marital relationship, the husband and wife share with each other not only their wholeness, but also their brokenness, their strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures.  The beauty of the marital relationship lies in the spouse’s total embrace of other, which gives the husband and wife the confidence and drive to grow in virtue for the sake of love.  For this beauty to become reality, however, spouses must be totally honest and, consequently, vulnerable to each other.  In Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, the beloved title character’s knowledge of her self-worth enables her to choose a marriage covenant in which she can become vulnerable because her entire person, rather than just her purity or capability, will be truly loved and cherished.

In the beginning of the novel, Edward Rochester primarily views Jane as a means of salvation from his past sins and embraces only the parts of her identity that he views as personally beneficial.  Indeed, we view Rochester’s appreciation of Jane’s utility in his very first encounter with her.  Rochester falls off his horse and places a “heavy hand” upon Jane’s shoulder, explaining, “Necessity compels me to make you useful” (p. 130).  Later, when Jane saves Rochester’s life during a house fire, he says in a flirtatious manner, “I knew . . . you would do me good in some way, at some time” and calls her his “cherished preserver” (p. 173), further alluding to Rochester’s self-centered perspective in their relationship.  It is interesting to note that although Rochester desires Jane for what she can provide for him, he himself fears revealing his full past and facing rejection.  Rochester readily admits to Jane, “I dare not show you where I am vulnerable, lest, faithful and friendly as you are, you should transfix me at once” (p. 251).  Nevertheless, he wishes for Jane to absolve him from his youthful foolishness that led him to enter carelessly into a marriage with a beautiful but mentally insane woman.  He desires to make Jane his “angel”, his “comforter,” his antidote against the punishment of isolation due to his past mistakes (p. 301).   He proceeds to tell Jane, “I believe I have found the instrument of my cure,” namely, Jane’s purity (p. 253).  Throughout the night of his proposal to Jane, he reiterates rationalizations of his deceptive act, saying, “It will atone” and “God pardon me . . . I have her, and will hold her” (p. 297).  Never, however, does Rochester pledge love and service towards Jane.  Despite the intensity of Jane’s feelings for Rochester, Jane, upon learning of his previous marriage, drops the engagement and leaves, for she realizes that as his mistress, she would only be cherished insofar as she would be beneficial to him.

Jane Eyre further resists a half-hearted marital relationship in her interactions with St. John Rivers.  St. John Rivers is described as “a domineering male character who is firmly convinced of God’s will for them both” (Lamonaca, p. 150).  He loves a beautiful woman of his hometown, Rosamond Oliver, but her more provincial, worldly ways contrast with his dream of serving as a missionary in India, which he believes is his true vocation.  When he meets Jane, he does not fall in love with her, but he sees in her the prospects of a good missionary wife, and consequently proposes.  While Jane entertains and indeed accepts a future of service in India, she cannot accept his hand in matrimony, for she realizes their relationship would not involve a total embrace of the other.  He only admires her for the service she can provide and the appearance of holiness she can display.  Vehemently, she describes her aversion to the concept of a loveless marriage:

He asks me to be his wife, and has no more of a husband’s heart for me than that frowning giant of a rock…he prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon; and that is all…can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love, and know that the spirit was quite absent?  No – such a martyrdom would be monstrous (p. 471).

Jane realizes that because her vocation is to give of herself in love, to marry someone for admirable reasons that do not include love is to forsake that for which she was created.  Nevertheless, St. John continues to press his will upon her, even daring to claim that she must consent, for their marriage is, in His eyes, God’s will.   He asserts, “God and nature intended you to be a missionary’s wife . . . you are formed for labor, not for love” (p. 468).  Though he disguises his intentions with religious language, St. John seeks not the entire person of Jane as a self-gift, but only her skills as a missionary.  Lamonaca describes St. John’s “agenda . . . as a vehicle of masculine self-aggrandizement and domination”, an arrangement that Jane “ultimately rejects” because if she were to reveal herself fully to St. John, she would not be wholly embraced (p. 245).  Thus, she opposes St. John’s claim, saying, “Oh, I will give my heart to God . . . You do not want it” (p. 472).

It is only when Jane returns to Rochester’s side that she is able to become fully vulnerable in a marital relationship.   While Jane was away, Thornfield, Rochester’s estate, experienced a fire that not only hurt and blinded Rochester, but also killed his wife.  This time of quiet suffering allowed Rochester time to turn to God with repentance and beg for healing.  When Jane returns, he initially cannot believe that she is truly present.  “What delusion has come over me?” he cries.  “What sweet madness has seized me?” (p. 504).  However, upon realizing that Jane is no phantom come to tantalize him, Rochester offers a prayer that authentically reveals a newfound selflessness:  “I humbly entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto!” (p. 522).  Rather than use Jane selfishly to fulfill the deepest longings of his heart, Rochester entrusts his desires to God and, in so doing, is able to love Jane with the unconditional love that every wife deserves.  He comes to value Jane’s immense worth as a woman and as an individual so that he no longer only sees her as an instrument for happiness, but also as a gift that he must serve, protect, and cherish.    Thus, Rochester comes to seek Jane’s happiness and put her desires above his own.

If a woman must become vulnerable in order to love and be loved authentically in marriage, then she must choose a man who will cherish her entire self:  strengths and weaknesses, personality and capability, passions and labor.  Jane Eyre serves as an example for women everywhere of the beauty that can result if one has the courage to wait for marriage until one comes who can offer the sacrificial love and service that all women deserve.

Works Cited

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre.  (New York : Barnes and Noble, 2003).
Lamonaca, Maria. “JANE’S CROWN OF THORNS: FEMINISM AND CHRISTIANITY IN” JANE EYRE”.” Studies in the Novel (2002): 245-263.