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Preface

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of the Preface of Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre | Preface | Summary

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Summary

Charlotte Brontë, using her pen name Currer Bell, added a preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre. First she thanks those who have "aided and approved" her: her public, the press, and her publishers and their reviewers. Then she has a few choice words to say about her critics. She refutes those who claim that the questioning of conventions and self-righteousness in Jane Eyre is an attack on morality and religion. It is important, she says, to expose the bigotry and hypocrisy that often underlie human interpretations of Christianity. Finally she launches into praise for William Thackeray and his new work, Vanity Fair. She regards Thackeray as a brilliant satirist who, by revealing the "warped system of things," will help to restore true morality. She ends by dedicating the second edition of Jane Eyre to Thackeray.

Brontë, still using the name Currer Bell, appended a new note to the third edition. In this note she disavows authorship of any works but Jane Eyre.

Analysis

In responding to criticism of Jane Eyre, the preface reveals Brontë's concerns about bigotry and religious hypocrisy. Author and protagonist, it seems, see the world the same way. Questioning beliefs, as Jane Eyre often does, is a healthy way to keep from falling under the influence of rigid, harsh doctrines. Her comments on Thackeray also suggest her view of the role of the author: to entertain and to instruct. Thackeray was a British novelist and satirist who had recently achieved great popularity with the publication of Vanity Fair, which probes the themes of society, ambition, love, and happiness. While praising Thackeray's wit and humor, she heaps even greater praise on him for his "intellect profounder and more unique" than he is given credit for and calls him "the first social regenerator of the day."

Charlotte's sisters' novels Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, as well as Anne's second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), had all been mistakenly attributed by some critics to Currer Bell. Clearly, Charlotte wanted to end that confusion and ensure that her sisters could enjoy their own success—albeit pseudonymously. It was not until her 1850 preface to a new edition of Wuthering Heights that Charlotte revealed the identities of the three sisters.

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