I know that Fifty Shades of Grey began as Twilight fan fiction. Even with the echoes of Twilight, memories of another romance novel returned while I read Fifty Shades of Grey: Jane Eyre
In the unlikely event you haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey or Jane Eyre, stop reading now because there will be spoilers in this post.
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, published in 1847, was a daring romance novel for its time. Jane Eyre feels an erotic pull back to the hero in what could be one of the first paranormal scenes in literature. She left him because at their wedding, in answer to the question, does anyone know any reason why these two should not be wed, someone said, and I’m paraphrasing here, yes, he has a wife he keeps in his attic. I kid you not.
Rochester, considered one of the sexiest heroes of all time, especially when played by Michael Fassbender, had a crazy wife he kept up in his attic. Anastasia leaves Christian because she doesn’t want to feel the physical pain his lifestyle contemplates — some of his expectations seem as crazy as keeping a wife in his attic. Rochester and Christian are both wealthy, dark, brooding, wounded heroes. Jane and Anastasia are both virginal ingenues without money.
Through empowering romance, Jane and Anastasia discover a powerful inner strength. Jane tells Rochester, “I am your equal.” Surprising statement from a woman in 1847. My own theory is that because Charlotte Bronte’s mother died young and she was raised by a single father, she didn’t have a role model for a 1800s subordinate woman and recognized her own equality naturally.
Rochester and Christian are transformed by Jane and Anastasia. The brooding romantic hero changes for the heroine in ways he would not have changed for any other woman. Jane returns to Rochester and Anastasia returns to Christian on their own terms.
I think Charlotte Bronte would have liked E.L. James.