Is Jane Eyre best understood as the fictional autobiography of a person on the autistic spectrum?  That is the thesis of this article in the latest issue of Nineteenth Century Gender Studies.

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This is an intriguing theory; but it seems to me that many of Jane’s idiosyncrasies  could also be explained by attachment/bonding theory.  Since she came to the Reeds as an infant, and Mrs. Reed took an immediate dislike to her as an infant, it is possible that Jane could have grown up unable to attach to anyone intimately.  This seems (to me) to be more in line with Brontë’s intentions: the Reeds are portrayed very unsympathetically (albeit through Jane’s eyes).  So is Mr. Brocklehurst. It seems to me that Jane Eyre is the story of a remarkable woman struggling to make a place for herself in an environment hostile to poor orphans, especially female. But maybe that is because I have always understood Jane Eyre to be social critique.  At any rate, it is an intriguing theory: one I’ll have to give more thought to.

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