I’m about 1/3 through what I consider to be Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, Jane Eyre, and already have a couple of comments to share.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve spent the past year immersed in Austen, but the first thing that struck me about Jane Eyre is the writing. Austen rarely gives us a detailed description of anything — not people, and not places. An awful lot is left to our imagination. But Brontë gives us a lot more information. We have a pretty good idea of what Jane and Rochester look like. We have a pretty good idea of what Thornfield and the surrounding country look like. Maybe that’s why I have had trouble loving Jane Eyre adaptations — Brontë has already given us so much detail that no adapter could possibly capture it all.
While Fanny Price and Anne Elliot are Austen’s most introspective heroines and we know quite a bit about their innermost thoughts, Jane Eyre is presented as an autobiography, so we know Jane much better than we do any of Austen’s characters. Again, less is left to the imagination. We experience everything as she does. We know nothing that she doesn’t know.
Austen wrote books that some consider to be romances, but she was not a Romantic. Brontë was a Romantic. We learn a lot about Jane’s emotions; she is far more open with her emotions than any of Austen’s heroines are. I am not saying that one authoress is better than the other; I am only saying that, after a year of Austen, it’s been quite an adjustment to read Brontë. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read Jane Eyre, and I still love it dearly.