The novel was published in 1847 and became a commercial success. Some critics condemned it for its over depiction of passion, rebellion which subverted the Victorian ideals of self-restraint and order; others thought it was un-Christian for its attacks on religion and the Church.
In the Victorian world where the woman was seen as the angel in the home, she was expected to devote herself to her family. Bronte presents a new kind of heroine: an independent and unconventional woman, a courageous girl who struggles alone to overcome his problems and improve her situation. Eventually she will reach self-realisation and happiness. The autobiographical elements suggest that through Jane Eyre she is expressing her own desire to be loved, lo live more fully and go beyond the accepted roles attributed to women at that time. She is criticizing a society which offered few opportunities to women who were educated but poor. As a bildungsroman, Jane Eyre evolves through the course of the story and learns how to control her passions in favour of reason. Neither rich nor beautiful, she is intelligent, strong and passionate, straightforward and honest and she will unveil the hypocrisy of people and institutions. The other outstanding character is Mr Rochester: a sullen, hard, rough, a fascinating Byronic hero, full of uncommon sensitivity, who exerts a certain power over people, including Jane. Bertha Rochester is presented as a mad, aggressive and dangerous woman to herself and other people.
More recently Bertha’s character has been reviewed and presented in a new light by Jean Rhys in her novel “Wide Sargasso Sea” (1966) where she narrates the story of Bertha as a Creole in the context of the Caribbean, an example of the new literary trend of intertextuality.