In the 16 years since I first cracked open a Harry Potter book, I’ve seen the series compared to Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, The Bible, Star Wars, and numerous other cultural touchstones. As an avid Potter fan (with the tattoo to prove it), I thought I had a pretty good handle on J.K. Rowling’s influences. And yet, I recently read a classic to which Harry Potter has startlingly obvious parallels that I’ve never heard anyone talk about. (Even the Harry Potter Influences and Analogues Wikipedia page neglects to mention it.*) That classic is… Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte!
I’ve been meaning to read Jane Eyre for years, and I finally took the plunge last month. Within a few pages, I had an odd sense of deja vu; some of the details of young orphan Jane’s life seemed awfully familiar. As I turned the pages, more and more parallels to the life of a certain boy wizard kept jumping out at me, and I possibly got way too excited about them.
Let’s take a look at how Jane Eyre is basically a Victorian Harry Potter, minus the magic:
1. After being orphaned as a baby, Jane Eyre is sent to live with her mother’s brother and his wife.
After being orphaned as a baby, Harry Potter is sent to live with his mother’s sister and her husband.
2. When Jane’s uncle dies a year later, he makes her aunt promise to raise Jane like one of her own daughters. But her aunt treats her horribly, withholding affection and locking Jane in the “red room” when she misbehaves.
Dumbledore entreats the Dursleys to raise Harry as a son, but both guardians treat him horribly, withholding affection and locking him in a cupboard under the stairs when he misbehaves.
3. Jane is also bullied by her cousins, one of whom is a rather corpulent boy.
Harry is bullied by his cousin Dudley, who is so rotund that when Hagrid tries to turn him into a pig, Dudley merely grows a tail. (“I suppose he was so much like a pig anyway there wasn’t much left ter do,” says Hagrid.)
4. Everything changes for Jane when a doctor suggests she be sent away to boarding school. Jane flourishes at school, finally making close friends and discovering a love of learning.
Everything changes for Harry when he receives a letter admitting him to Hogwarts, a boarding school for wizards. Harry flourishes at school, finally making close friends and foiling the plans of dark lords.
The similarities basically end there, but Harry and Jane are basically the same person, right? And how fun is it to happen across literary parallels you didn’t know existed? My brain basically did this for the first 50 pages:
Have I missed any glaring (or not-so-glaring) similarities between the two books?
EDIT: I can’t stop trying to make HP connections, and I came up with another one!
5. Near the end of the book, one character loses his eyesight, has one of his limbs amputated, and becomes quite disfigured. He’s definitely Mad Eye Moody, right?
*I’m not the first person to notice the similarities; a quick Google search turns up a fair number of results.