Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jane, Fairfax, and other names

I started reading Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

It sort of just happened. I didn't say "Oh I want to read this" and then picked it up from my library. I was looking at Goodreads on my iPhone and it turns out that I can read the book on Goodreads. So, I just sort of started it.

I've noticed some interesting connections between it and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Emma.


SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL THREE BOOKS

In Emma you have the character Jane Fairfax. She has been orphaned and was brought up by a well to do friend of her father. Although her father's friend is better off in life than she is Jane is brought up as one of his own -- that is, even though she will not be able to aspire to be anything more than a governess she is brought along to fancy occasions and other fun events as an equal, rather than as the servant that she will one day be.

Fortunately for Jane Fairfax, she manages to catch the eye of a young man who is the equal to her father's friend and so she is able to marry into the sphere of life that she has been raised in. This means that she does not have to live life as a servant, but as a lady who is waited on by servants.

Early on in Jane Eyre I noticed some connections between the two Janes. 1) Jane Eyre was orphaned at a young age and a friend of her father took her on as his own. (Although he dies and his wife neglects Jane.) 2) Jane Eyre will become a governess, and in fact she does become a governess.

I also know that Jane Eyre will marry someone above her status, which brings to mind Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. To tell the truth I'm expecting to meet another Mr. Darcy, though I know that probably won't be the case. (I haven't met the guy yet, in case you haven't guessed!)

I'm not adding the marrying above her status to the list of similarities between the two Janes, though, because so far as I know Jane Eyre is not actually a gentleman's daughter (although there have been some interesting hints that she might be) and we know that Jane Fairfax definitely was the daughter of a gentleman.

And then as I was reading the book I discovered a Mrs. Fairfax! Imagine my surprise.

We have a Jane, and a Mrs. Fairfax, in Jane Eyre.

Is Jane Eyre an example of what Jane Fairfax might have become if XXX had happened? (I'm not filling in what the XXX is yet since I'm only 23.6% though the book, according to Goodreads.) And is Mrs. Fairfax an example of what Jane Fairfax might have become if she hadn't married a gentleman?

Mrs. Fairfax is a housekeeper. So she's a higher ranking servant, but still a servant.

Interesting interesting. We shall see how this plays out. :)

And FYI, Brontë was born one year before Austen died. So Jane Eyre definitely came after Jane Austen's books, and it's my guess that Brontë was influenced by Austen.

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