Newark adopts one of the most common narrative strategies for a novel like this: Janet frequently winds up reliving her mother's autobiography, spiced up with occasional references to other novels in the Bronte canon. As a child, Janet discovers her mother's "manuscript in an antique desk, seldom used, in my father's library," and finds in it something of a key to her mother's somewhat forbidding character (xvi). Soon, Janet's life fills with echoes of her mother's: being sent off to Miss Temple's school; encountering the second generation Ingrams; dealing with a disapproving, unbending (albeit male) guardian; living in a house where certain rooms are kept ominously secret; alluding to harems; and even enjoying a moment of telepathic communication. Even Janet's first encounter with Roderick Landless replicates her mother's first encounter with Rochester, albeit in reverse--it's Janet who nearly tramples Roderick with her horse. Meanwhile, we occasionally stumble across names drawn from Wuthering Heights ("Nellie") and Villette ("Paulina Fanshawe," combining two characters), while Roderick himself--"a gypsy, with my black hair and my skin brown from the sun" (177)--resembles Heathcliff. The novel's very title announces how Janet's identity as a character depends on her mother's pre-existing narrative: like Jane Eyre's Daughter itself, which authorizes its own existence by returning to the familiar original, Janet works her way through these skewed replications of her mother's "autobiography" in order to find her authentic identity. Or so it would seem.
Although the novel does its best to eviscerate Jane Eyre's Gothic mode, the Gothic creeps in through Janet's budding, and buddingly incestuous, sexuality. The adolescent Janet, fascinated by her father's and mother's still-sexually passionate relationship, cannot help fantasizing about Rochester: "What was it like, I wondered, to share my father's bed, to be held by those strong, muscular arms close to him throughout the night, so safe, so cherished?" (xxiii) For young Janet, suffering from a shortage of available men, Rochester becomes the logical love object of choice. In terms of narrative structure, then, when the novel separates Janet from her parents for several years, it does so in order to shift Janet's desires from Rochester to his spitting image, Roderick. And yet, incest creeps in once again, for Janet finds out that Roderick may well be Rochester's illegitimate child, and thus her half-brother. ("How Byronic," the reader comments.) The dark double of Janet's sternly thwarted incestuous desires is the consummated relationship between Hugo and his sister, Alicia, which also echoes the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights. Near the end, an anguished Alicia warns Hugo "my own, beloved brother, my twin soul, my demon lover, you cannot treat me thus" (247). Janet's choice, in effect, lies between the wild, self-absorbed, destructive passions of Wuthering Heights, or the erotic, yet idealized domesticity of Jane Eyre. For all that the novel has been retitled Jane Eyre's Daughter, in fact, the true problem is that she is Rochester's daughter--Rochester, her romantic ideal, reincarnated in a man who appears to be his carbon copy. (One is tempted to suggest that this type of literary knockoff might count as a form of textual incest...) When Jane and Rochester ultimately re-enter the novel, however, Janet realizes that her father is "growing old" (284), and that although she had "thought him [Roderick] a true copy of Edward Fairfax Rochester in shape and size, that was not the case. My father, a Colossus to his worshipful daughter, was not in truth a giant" (285). Daddy is safely domesticated, to be replaced by his virile and much younger...nephew. Janet cannot marry her father, but she can marry a younger, handsomer, and taller first cousin--and thus have her mother's relationship to Rochester all over again (summed up in a paragraph repeated from the prologue, no less). Success in life, apparently, means duplicating your mother's fairy-tale romance. Without the inconvenient blinding and maiming, of course.
In fact, one of the oddest things about this novel is just how much trouble it has with Jane Eyre. Let's trot out the Rules for Writing Neo-Victorian Novels. Unlike Jane, Janet is a static character who rapidly sheds any self-doubt she might possess. Early on, Janet rebels against the unfair treatment meted out by a harsh teacher, Miss Nasmyth, and is never punished for it; instead, we are expected to admire her behavior, just as we are supposed to share Roderick Landless' enthusiasm when Janet haughtily tells off the elderly Colonel Dent (which she does more than once!). There's Rule #3: this novel is gung-ho for "Socially Unacceptable" behavior when it comes to the heroine. Gone are Jane Eyre's careful negotiations between permanent moral law and mere "convention." Gone with them is religion, for, in a bit of convenient retconning, we discover that Rochester didn't actually convert at the end of Jane Eyre, and Janet--her father's daughter--has no religious belief whatsoever. But the very first thing we hear in the novel is a clergyman denouncing women from the pulpit...which, I believe, takes us to Rule #2. Presumably, Janet's total lack of religiosity correlates with her appropriately unacceptable (and therefore independent) behavior, even though Jane Eyre's independence derives from her faith. In addition, Janet and Laura are immediately taken with Parvati, Colonel Dent's secret Indian grandchild, and vice-versa, which announces the entry of Rule #4. (Janet's supposed non-racism is about as plausible in this setting as her willingness to snipe at her elders...which is to say, not at all.) And, of course, the bad guy, while not Jack the Ripper, has a Dark Secret, so Rule #5 also comes into play. In fact, the nasty Miss Nasmyth is the subject of "odd rumours" (29) herself (there appear to be limits to Janet's progressivism). Once Janet reaches the age of sixteen, she has nothing important to learn about moral action and deliberation; unlike Jane, she achieves no new self-consciousness, and her romantic reward effectively depends on her refusal to change.