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Full text of "The Brontèˆ sisters"

24                          THE  BRONTE  SISTERS
she finds Rochester, blind and alone; they marry and find
happiness together.
The reason for Jane Eyres popularity with the ordinary-
reader is not far to seek. It embodies two age-old human
stories, two basic folk-themes: the Cinderella story (poor
oppressed girl marries powerful prince) and the success story
(new arrival suffers, perseveres, and triumphs). These
stories persist in human history because they express per-
manent human aspirations; for while most men wish to be
powerfully protective to their women, most women wish
to marry powerfully protective men, and everyone wishes
to succeed in new ventures. But why did this novel, why
does it still, receive the approbation of critics ?
To begin with, the story is told with terrific intensity.
The agonies of Jane, the death of Helen, the exquisite love
scenes, are presented so powerfully and poignantly, in such
simple but telling language, that they cannot be read without
emotion. Then, Jane Eyre is not a mere 'escape' romance;
it has a determined truth and honesty of its own. Even
when the action is most exciting, its details (as in real life)
are firmly prosaic, and Jane does not enjoy a complete,
unreal triumph; she does not end as a rich beauty, all diffi-
culties past, but as the plain (though happy) wife of an
exacting, half-blind, disgraced husband with a highly
inconvenient daughter. In a word, as a human being she
shares the true human fate, and 'drains but a mixed and
moderate cup of enjoyment'.
Last—and most important—-Jane Eyre is the first English
novel, and perhaps even yet the most powerful and popular
novel, which presents the new, the modern, and surely the
permanently true view of woman's position in the social
fabric. In a series of superb scenes with the powerful and
wealthy Rochester, the poor but independent Jane presses
passionately upon him her conviction that she is his equal,
that she has as much mind and soul as he and more heart,
that she will follow the dictates of her conscience without
fear, that she can earn her own living and 'need not sell