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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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SOME MINOR CHARACTERS

MISS MARIA TEMPLE

The superintendent of Mr. Brocklehurst's school. Miss Temple befriends Jane, yet you may ask yourself whether she does all she can to stand up to Mr. Brocklehurst's stern edicts, She is a sympathetic character but perhaps not a strong one.

THE REED FAMILY

John Reed, the bully who attacks Jane in Chapter 1, grows up to lead an immoral life and commits suicide while still in his twenties. As for the unloving Mrs. Reed and her two unattractive daughters, Eliza and Georgiana, some readers have noticed that they resemble the wicked stepmother and stepsisters in Cinderella. If so, then it's interesting to see that by Chapter 21, when Jane returns to visit Gateshead, the Reeds have already lost their power to make her miserable. Why? Has falling in love transformed Jane into a Cinderella after the ball? Or is some other change in Jane's character responsible?


MRS. FAIRFAX

The housekeeper at Thornfield is a reassuring figure-neat, sensible, and cheerful. Some readers have also noted, however, that Mrs. Fairfax is also a weak link in the plot. Although she runs the mansion and supervises the servants, Mrs. Fairfax is supposedly unaware that Mr. Rochester is keeping his insane wife on the third floor of the house. Do you find this believable? The novel is vague about how much Mrs. Fairfax may have suspected, and you will notice that, after the truth about Bertha Mason is revealed, Mrs. Fairfax drops out of sight. It would be interesting to hear how she might explain her ignorance of the secret of the house, but we never get the chance.

BLANCHE INGRAM

No characterization in Jane Eyre has been the target of as much negative criticism as that of Blanche Ingram. Blanche is an elegant young lady from a titled family who flirts outrageously with Mr. Rochester and, for a time, hopes to marry him. You will notice that Blanche is described as being tall, with an excellent figure and a complexion "as dark as a Spaniard." This might sound to you like the description of a beautiful woman, but you will find that Charlotte Bronte, who was as tiny and pale as Jane Eyre herself, rarely has a good word to say about women who are either large or dark-skinned, or both. Blanche sprinkles her conversation with affected French phrases; she makes fun of another houseguest, Mrs. Dent, who knows less than she does about botany; and she pouts openly after Rochester, dressed as a gypsy, leads her to believe that he's not rich after all.

Some readers, including many who read Jane Eyre at the time of its publication, have considered Blanche a fair representative of the spoiled, aristocratic belles of her day. Others can't help suspecting that the portrait of Blanche has been distorted by Jane's-and perhaps even the author's own-feelings of jealousy.

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