Charlotte Bronte wrote the gothic novel Jane Eyre in 1847 and is probably the most famous of all 4 of her novels. The story is about a girl who was brutally abused as a child and who grows up to try and lead a normal life and find love which was not a common thing for a girl of her stature in that era. Jane Eyre is a very intelligent girl for 10 years of age and after her mum and dad die she is sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle Reed in Gateshead. However her Uncle dies and so becomes much neglected. She enjoys reading and for her age she reads very complicated books.
She does not have any friends in her life at Gateshead and does not get on with any of her cousins who live there especially “Master” John Reed. Neither he nor his mother respects Jane at all. No one seems to understand Jane at Gateshead and she doesn’t often get to speak her own opinion and Mrs Reed does a lot of her talking for her. Mrs Reed has an ideal picture of Jane in her mind and it is someone Jane does not want to be. “A Kestrel for a Knave” (KES) is written by Barry Hines in the mid 1960s and it is all about a young boy called Billy Casper. It is written in much more modern times than Jane Eyre.
At the beginning of the novel Billy’s situation seems totally different to Jane’s but later on the novel we realise that their situations are not so different. Billy is 15 years old and comes from a poor family background; his dad left them when Billy was young, his elder brother beats him and his mum is never in at home to look after him properly. He has no really close friends and is not the most intellectual teenager. So he turns to a kestrel for friendship. He is very unlike Jane, he does not speak his mind and is quite happy to sit low in his chair and let life drive on by.
Billy is in the lowest class for all of his subjects and all the teachers have more or less given up on him ever making anything of his life apart from one, his English teacher, Mr Farthing. When it comes to teaching Billy’s class the teachers do not give 100% and do not teach to their full ability. They see him put no effort into his school work and so they can’t really be bothered making the effort. He is also often getting in trouble and more often than not he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. At one point in the book he is referred to as someone who “just crawled out from under a stone.
More like an insect than a human being. He lives in a 3 person family him, his mum and his brother. Both his brother and his mother are in the middle of enjoying a total new era of the “Swinging” sixties and are enjoying it to the full. He is not given the care or attention that he deserves and so he is not really to keen on giving any back to anyone. He does not look up to anyone especially not his brother who is more of a bully to him than a role model. They are not at all close and they are certainly not bothered about each other.
He has no friends apart from his kestrel and he never shows any emotions or feelings until his kestrel is brutally murdered by his evil brother, Jud. He breaks down and is totally heart broken; to him it is like losing his first love. He is devastated. People do not really understand him or his situation. People don’t go out of their way to talk to him and so he has to pretty much fend for himself. Kes is the only thing that truly makes him happy. Although there is 5 years in difference between Billy and Jane they are in many ways the same or very similar.
They are both reasonably independent. Jane is easily as advanced as Billy is although neither of them relies on other people. At the start of Jane Eyre she is reading a book and finds comfort in doing so. Where as Billy looks to his kestrel for comfort. They are both limited to what they can do or where they can go. They both go to school but Jane has to stay their all day and the rules and punishments she has to be given are much worse than Billy. Billy has to cook for himself and is often left with a bit of money to buy fish and chips.
Jane is given very little to eat and mostly they are given cold porridge. The opening page in KES begins with ” There was no curtains up, the window hardened block the colour of the night sky,” We haven’t even got a paragraph into the book and we can already assume that it is going to be a very sad book and this paragraph already indicates to doom and gloom. No love, compassion or warmth can be got out of this place and it this is the story of Billy’s life. On the first page we also learn that Billy has to share a bed with his elder brother and already we can attach the link of poverty.
Jane Eyre on the other hand is considered quite rich and although she will not know this at her age she comes from a very wealthy background and lives in a beautiful and house and has pretty much everything she can ask for, except for love. Again the first paragraph in the book is very strong and meaningful and sets the scene very well “The cold winter had brought with it clouds so sombre and rain so penetrating” This quote in its own way describes Jane’s early life. Her unhappiness is so penetrating. In both of the novels the families are introduced very early on.
There are two bullies in the two books; one in each novel. Jud is extremely unkind to Billy and could possibly be linked with John Reed. Throughout the whole of KES Jud does not say a nice word ot Billy and couldn’t really care what the outcome of Billy’s life is to be and does not say one word of encouragement to help Billy and certainly gives him no advice. He is also spiteful to =wards Billy this is show when he pulls back the blankets on Billy on the opening page this is a very selfish and act and there is not even any point of doing this because Billy was not even doing anything to provoke him.
However John Reed is just as selfish and in the first chapter of the book when Jane is reading quite peacefully and content on her own he insists she come out and show him what she is reading and that he be called “Master Reed. ” When she refuses he beats her and says it is his house and he can do what he likes. Jane does not let this get her down and does fight back. He physically abuses Jane as does Jud abuse Billy. Both of the bullies are physically stronger and are at an advantage over the two victims.
Mrs Casper constantly has men over and sees both of her sons as inconveniences that just get In the way of her life. They were both probably not planned and now they are both at an age where they can look after their selves and each other she wants to make up for the time lost when she was bringing them up. Jane on the other hand never knew her mother or her father and so we cannot comment on her life before her life at Gateshead. The only thing we can assume is that her parents died when she was very young. It is thought that her parents probably died of an illness which was not uncommon in that era.
During her life at Gateshead she has no friends and cannot turn to her cousins when she needs someone to talk to so she often notices and refers to the weather probably for something to do. Her aunt is very strict with her and never sits down to talk to her about issues that may be bothering her. Janes early years have been very traumatic for her in losing her parents and then been sent to love with an aunt that obviously does not love her and sees her as a very big burden. In both novels the writers make you feel very sorry for the two protagonists.
Both Jane and Billy are lonely people and although Jane does try and get noticed Billy takes a back seat. I think that maybe in the subtext we can learn that inside Billy is longing for companionship and is quite sensitive. We see this at the end of the book when his kestrel is killed and he breaks down into tears. Jane can defend for herself but she feels much more at ease when she has a friend to look out for her and be on her side when the whole world is against her. Education obviously plays a big part in both of the novels.
Billy goes to an all boys school where he has no friends. The school has lessons in separate rooms, an assembly hall, gym and changing rooms. He has a different teacher at the start of each lesson. Although we get the impression that Billy does not want to go to school it was a law for every boy up to the age of 16 had to attend school. However it was a very different story for Jane. In her day and age she did not have to attend school and infact it was quite rare for girls to attend school and they usually stayed at home while the men did the work.
Even so her aunt sent her to an all girl’s boarding school at Lowood. She does this mainly because she wants her out of her house because she is a nuisance and an inconvenience to her. Lowood is a very poor school and considering that Aunt Reed is reasonably wealthy this is very cruel when she could have sent her to a good school. This tells us how much Aunt Reed does not care for Jane’s well being. The conditions at Lowood are very poor with appauling hygiene. At one point Jane gets shouted at for not having clean hands.
The fact been that Jane wanted to wash her hands but couldn’t because of the freezing cold water. The hygiene problem itself eventually leads to a terrible disease that spreads throughout the whole of the school killing off many of the students. The room dividing is also very different to Billy’s school. There is one main hall which is divided up into 4 sections and this is where all of the schoolwork and tutoring takes place. The girls had to speak in a whisper or in silence so that no other lessons were interrupted. Whilst being at Lowood Jane makes one real friend, her name is Helen.
Helen is very similar Jane apart she is much older and so is much wiser. Jane sees Helen as faultless and is perfect in her eyes. Jane respects Helen and she looks up to her. Helen realises this and so repays this by showing kindness and support towards Jane. The teachers on the other hand don’t share the glowing reputation that Jane gives her and Helen is quite often getting into trouble for just speaking her mind. Not long after her arrival at Lowood Jane gets into trouble with Mr Brocklehurst the head teacher at Lowood.
This is the man that came to collect Jane from Gateshead and is a very strict man and id described as a “pillar” and is very stern. He makes Jane stand on a stool and allows her to be laughed at for her dropping a slate by accident. She is feeling very depressed and down at this point until Helen walks past and winks at her. This lights up Jane and she convinces herself that Helen is behind her all the way. She knows Helen will help her get through Lowood in one piece. She is not alone Billy does not at all like school and our first view of Billy at school is him getting into trouble.
Everyone at school seems to want Billy get into trouble. He is the boy that everyone wants to get into trouble. He cannot stand up for himself and he has no friends to do it for him. He is very much alone. You can see from the quotations what the boys think of him. “Billy stood up, red. The boys looked at him, grinning, lolling back on their chairs in anticipation” “The rest of the class laughed out loud, some screwing their forefingers into their temples and twitching their heads at Billy.
The boys like nothing more than someone to make fun of and they see Billy as just an object to play with. They love watching him get into trouble. Billy is not the brightest boy in the class and he does not want to learn and so most of the teachers just let him get on with just not trying. He cannot pay attention for great lengths of time. He often goes into long daydreams about his kestrel and that is what he thinks about for a lot of the time. He does not like school for many reasons.