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Compare a pre 20th Century novel with a 20th Century novel.

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Introduction

Compare a pre 20th Century novel with a 20th Century novel. I am going to compare two books: 'Jane Eyre' written by Charlotte Bronte (1847), and 'Kestrel for a Knave' written by Barry Hines (1960). Although these two books are about different periods, they have many similarities. When Jane Eyre was a young child her parents died and she was placed under the guardianship of her Aunt. The Aunt had no interest in Jane, and she sent her to a charity boarding school that trained orphans to be housewives and governesses. The school was called Lowood, it was funded by benefactors and rich relatives of the orphans. The school was effectively a dumping ground for orphans from a slightly well off background. Once they went to the school the relatives, if there were any, never had to bother about the child again. There weren't even any holidays. The conditions at Lowood are extremely poor. There is a lot of bullying. Not only amongst the pupils, but also amongst the staff and from the staff to the pupils. It is very cold and damp. There is little food, and the little there is, is poor quality. Whilst Jane is there her closest friend dies of consumption. Jane does reasonably well at her studies, but is not exceptional. After she has finished her time as a pupil, she becomes a governess at the school for several years. She then goes to be a governess for the daughter of a rich gentleman. Barry Hines's book 'Kestrel for a Knave' about a boy called Billy Casper. He lives with his mother and brother in a poor, industrial town in Yorkshire. ...read more.

Middle

In 'Kes' the people Hines are writing about are lower class. The differences between the books do, therefore, show quite a significant difference in the attitude of society as a whole. For example, in Jane's day Billy, as the son of a lower class, broken up family, wouldn't be in school at all. Even if he had been to school, he would have started work at the age of 12, or younger, and would have been paid very little. The society around him would also have been very much poorer than it was in his time. Billy would also have had much worse living conditions if he had been alive in Jane's day. In 'Kes' Billy is described as being 'malnourished', but someone in his social situation a century ago would probably be starving. They would have had very little money. This improvement in society is shown by two of the main events from each book. In 'Jane Eyre' Jane's best friend, Helen Burns, dies. In 'Kes' Billy Casper's kestrel dies. However much Billy loved the kestrel it doesn't cancel out the fact that it was bird that died, not a human. It is a significant point that in Jane Eyre's time it was not uncommon for people to die, but in Billy Casper's time it was unusual for someone to die the in the way that Helen Burns did. In my opinion this shows a big improvement in the function of society. In many ways the schooling that Billy and Jane had were extremely different. The curriculum offered in each school was very different. ...read more.

Conclusion

Something else that can be taken from 'Kes' is that people can learn things very easily if they are interested and want to learn. Billy shows this in his, solely personal, effort to learn about the kestrels. This issue is also quite relevant in 'Jane Eyre', although it is not as important because it doesn't really correspond with the story line. At Lowood, (where Jane received very little support as a person) Jane was turned from a bright, opinionated young girl, to a solemn young woman, who expressed opinions very rarely and almost never smiled. 'Do you never laugh Miss Eyre?' (Mr Rochester, 'Jane Eyre'.) In conclusion, comparing the two novels shows that the school environment has remained oppressive over a period of more than 100 years. Despite this children are strongly influenced by good teachers. Comparing the situation of the two individuals, the physical situation for the child is probably better in 'Kes', but the moral situation is little better or worse. When I read 'Kestrel for a Knave' and 'Jane Eyre' I found them both very thought provoking. They both triggered thoughts about the issue of how money is related to social class, and what type of people go with which class. Both books represent the conditions of life for a huge number of people in each period, which I thought was both interesting and sad. Both books seemed to give the message that people can be very unkind, and can destroy another person very easily. Kindness can go long way. Pippa Andrew 10L Wider Reading Coursework English 10A/E1 Mrs Tarbutton ...read more.

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