The revolutionary and game-changing nature of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre in the history of literature is easily forgotten. The novel seems to modern readers, after all, a conventionally Victorian exercise in listening to the inner struggles of a person navigating a highly ordered and repressive society. But I consider that perspective to be akin to the ‘Seinfeld is Unfunny’ trope, insofar as anyone leveling that accusation must necessarily have limited knowledge of the medium.
Brontë’s sustained, sensitive, and extremely personal examination of the thoughts and feelings of her character Jane Eyre was daring and unconventional. It is no coincidence that many late Victorian realists as well as many early twentieth century Modernists cite Jane Eyre as a big influence. I could talk about this book from any of six or seven angles, but to give this article some focus (and prevent my endless rambling) I would like to make the case for Brontë’s achievement through a quick look at just one of Jane Eyre‘s motifs: vision.