I reread this book after a long interval, and I had not imagined that this is such a wonderful masterpiece until I reread this time. But in calling this book a wonderful masterpiece, I hasten to attach some reservations. Firstly, if one regards this book as a love story between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester, this is a mediocre book with several defects such as too many incredible coincidences and a grave prejudice against a schizophrenic. To do it justice, one has to look upon it as a psychological novel, namely the first and the last novel dealing with the psychology of a plain woman.
As for the appearance of Jane Eye, that she is not beautiful is repeated through her own dialogue and other people’s dialogues too often. This indicates that Jane Eye is Charlotte Bronte herself, who is said to have been plain, and that Charlotte is very conscious of her plainness. Because she was not beautiful, I think, Charlotte must have often suffered bitter mortification in the company of her fellow-creatures. As it is the case today, perhaps some rude men in those days also, persistently treated her as a cipher. I think that though Jane, Charlotte wanted to unburden herself of the grudge and frustration she had accumulated. The dialogues Jane utters must have been those that Charlotte had long wished she could utter. If Charlotte had been beautiful, this book would very likely never have been written, and certainly would not have been the book it is.
On the other hand, Edward Rochester is an imaginary man whom Charlotte created out of her feminine fantasy as the type of man she would very much like to marry, and as a matter of course, he has no reality.
In addition to Jane, another masterpiece of characterization in this novel is a clergyman named St. John. He is willing to sacrifice the pleasures of the world to the love of God. He is very severe about himself, but at the same time he is severe about others, and quite unhappy about others enjoying themselves. This is a kind of caricature of a stoic clergyman but he is presented with so much verisimilitude and with so much conviction that one cannot but believe in him. He is very much alive like Jane.
I think that the model on which Charlotte created this convincing man was her father, who was a clergyman, or at least one or two of the clergymen she had made acquainted with through her father. All in all, one may be pretty sure that to create a real and lively character, authors need to know such a person to some extent through themselves or through their acquaintances, namely they need to have a substratum of experience, no matter how powerful their imagination is.