When Jane Eyre was published in 1848, it was instantly popular and well received. This is certainly surprising as the romance novel was particularly disregarded in the nineteenth century. However, Charlotte Bronte’s method of infusing realism and romance in the story proved to be an inciting factor in its success. The two distinct novelistic styles are interwoven in many aspects of the book. The combination is evident in the narration and plot development, characterisation and the frequent descriptions and symbolisms of nature and scenery. It is likely Bronte used this style to make fantasy believable, or even to inspire an element of hope for the millions of socially oppressed Victorian women.
In terms of narrative structure and plotline progression it is feasible to claim that the novel progresses from largely realist fiction (in the first ten chapters) to a rather typical romantic ending. At Lowood, Jane’s harsh treatment at the strict Catholic school would have seemed familiar to the Victorian reader.
However, despite the fact there are various instances in the book when it seems a social comment is being exclaimed, or a comparison with reality can be construed; a large part of the novel actually fits a romantic structure.
This is evident in the typical ‘Cinderella’ story, which is played out through most of Jane Eyre. Admittedly there are some notable differences from a totally romantic structure, but one aspect that is definitely romantic is the sheer number of extreme coincidences. These largely occur towards the end of the story as it leads towards its romantic denouement.
It is probable Bronte chose this style of writing to give an indication of what life could be like. It provides women of the age with aspiration, as does typical romance, however, the addition of realism gives women inspiration that does not seem so entirely fantastical. As a result of this, Jane Eyre could certainly be regarded as an early feminist piece.
Overall the unique mixture of romance and realism that Bronte created has ensured the novel has remained popular since publication to the present time.