❮PDF / Epub❯ ☄ Jane Eyre ✑ Author Charlotte Brontë – Oaklandjobs.co.uk Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rocheste Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit She falls in love Hard But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall Is Rochester hiding from Jane?
Jane Eyre Kindle - Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?.
Yes, I suppose you can view this book mostly as a love story. That's what I did at age 13 - but that's why I was left disappointed back then¹.
Or you can view this as an story of formation of a strong and independent female protagonist, a nineteenth-century feminist, light-years ahead of its time. And that's what left my now-closer-to-thirty-than-twenty self very satisfied and, quite frankly, rather impressed.²
¹(view spoiler)[The guy kept his wife in the attic. Seriously - no. Just no. You don't get all the way to your SECOND wedding forgetting to mention that your FIRST wife is hidden in the attic. Seriosly, Rochester, what the hell is wrong with you? How can you even attempt to build a marriage on such a lie??? (hide spoiler)] Reader, I gave it five stars. Please let me tell you why.
Jane Eyre is the quintessential Victorian novel. It literally has everything that was typical of the period, but, unlike other novels, it has all the elements in one story. At the centre is the romance between Jane and Rochester, which is enhanced by gothic elements such as the uncanniness of the doppleganger and the spectre like qualities of Bertha. In addition, it is also a governess novel; these were an incredibly popular type of storytelling in the age and for it to be combined with gothic elements, which are interposed with a dualistic relationship between realism and romance, is really quite unique. The correct term for this is a hybrid, in which no genre voice is dominant; they exist alongside each other creating one rather special book.
And this is so, so, special; it’s an excellent piece of literature. Jane’s journey is gut wrenching and emotional. Through her life she experiences real sorrow, the kind that would make a lesser person give up. She also experiences real friendship, the type that comes across perhaps once in a lifetime. But, most significantly, she experiences true love and the development of independence to form he own ending. I really do love this book. Bronte utilises the first person narrative, which creates a high degree of intimacy with her character; it makes me feel like I know Jane as well as she comes to know her own self.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Jane’s a strong willed individual. From a very young age she had the clarity of intelligence to recognise the injustice that was her life; yes, she is narrating her story retrospectively, though she still had the perceptiveness to realise how mistreated she was. I love the pathetic fallacy Bronte uses at the beginning. The child Jane looks out the window, shielded by the curtain, and witnesses the horrible weather. It is cold and bleak; it is windy and morose; thus, we can immediately see the internal workings of Jane’s mind. The weather reflects her feelings throughout the novel, and at the very beginning the situation was at its worse. This can also be seen with the fire imagery that represents her rage when she is shoved in the red room; it later mirrors that of Bertha’s fury.
Everybody needs love, children especially so. These early experiences help to define her later character, and, ultimately influence how she sees the world; she still hides behind a curtain in Rochester’s house when he flirts with Miss Ingrum. These experiences set her on an almost perpetual quest for love, for belonging and for the independence to make her own decisions. She finds friendship in the form of Helen Burns; she gives her some sound advice, but Jane cannot fully accept such religious fatalism. However, it does inspire her, a little, to continue with life; she realises, no matter what happens, she will always have the love of her greatest friend. Jane clings to this idea, but, ultimately, has to seek a more permanent solution to her loneliness. She needs a vocation, one that will fulfil her and give her life meaning; thus, she becomes a governess and crosses paths with the downtrodden, miserable wretch that is Mr Rochester.
Sometimes I feel like Rochester didn’t know quite what he wanted. When he sees Jane he sees a woman with strength, blunt honesty and integrity: he sees an emotional equal. This attracts her to him, which develops into love. However, when he tries to express his love he does it through trying to claim her as his own. Through doing so, not only does he show the nature of Victorian marriage, he shows his own deep vulnerability. He loves her mind, her intelligence, and he too wants to be loved. He longs for it with a frightening passion. So, instead of doing things the way Jane would have wanted him to do, he overwhelms her with expensive affection. By doing so he almost loses her. All Jane wanted was his heart, nothing more nothing less.
By showering her with such flattery and expensive items, he insults her independence. He risks destroying the thing that attracted him to her in the first place, their equality; their mutual respect and love. He takes away her dignity. I really don’t think the original marriage would have worked. Ignore the existence of the mad woman in the attic; I just think Rochester would have spoilt it. It would have become too awkward. They needed to be on the same societal level as well as one of intellect and character. The ending is touching and a little sad, but it is the only one that could ever have worked for these two characters. Without the tragedy there could never have be rejuvenation and the chance for them to be together on equal terms, no matter what it cost to get there.
If that wasn’t enough reason for me to love this book, there are also elements of fantasy and desire. This is a realism novel, it pertains to credible events, but the suggestions of fantasy only add to the strong romantic notions. Rochester is enamoured by Jane; he cannot believe that a woman like her actually exists. All his misguided notions are brushed away in an instant. Whilst he views Jane as special, it is clear that he realises that other women may also have a similar rebellious voice, only hidden. He considers her an elf, a witch, an improbable woman that has captured his desire, his heart, his soul, his life. He knows he will never be the same again. From Jane’s point of view, her first encounter with him is otherworldly. She had grown bored with her governess role, and when she sees the approach of Rochester and his dog Pilot, she sees the gytrash myth; she wants to see something fantastical instead she finds her heart, which is something much rarer.
Then there are also the feminist elements. Jane transgresses the boundary associated with her gender in the Victorian age. For a woman to be recognised as having equal intellect to that of a man was sadly a rare thing. Women could actually attend university, but the downside was they could never get the full degree. They could spend months studying, though never be recognised as actually having gained the qualification. It was just another attempt to keep women under the thumb, so for Bronte to portray the truth of Jane’s equal intellect is a great step for the recognition of women, and women writers. This book received a whole host of negative reviews at the time of its publication for this element alone. Stupid really, but that’s misogyny for you.
Reader, I love this book. I really could go on, but this is getting kind of long. I hope I’ve made it clear why I love this story so much. I shall be reading this again later this year to correspond with my exams, which I’m already looking forward to- the reading that is, not the exams. I don’t think will ever have read this story enough though.
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The Written ReviewThough you have a man's vigorous brain, you have a woman's heart and--it would not do.Oh Jane, you wondrously bold and beautiful gal.
It would do, I affirmed with some disdain, perfectly well.
After she was orphaned, Jane Eyre was sent to live with her maternal uncle and his wife (Mrs. Reed). When her uncle dies, he forces his wife to swear to love, nurture and care for Jane as if she was their own child.
Unsurprisingly, Mrs. Reed is not pleased in the least with this arrangement and does the absolute bare minimum towards Jane. She spoils her three biological children but sees Jane as a wicked, conniving and devilish child (despite ample evidence against).I know that had I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping child—though equally dependent and friendless—Mrs. Reed would have endured my presence more complacently; her children would have entertained for me more of the cordiality of fellow-feelingJane is sent off to boarding school where life is harsher than before (threadbare clothes, small rations) but she prefers it for she has finally found what she's been missing.There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.At the end of her time there, she sets off to be a governess. She takes a job for a Mr. Rochester and tutors his young ward, Adel.
Only, when she arrives at the house, she starts to notice certain things. The servants know something is up and won't tell her. Mr. Rochester is hiding a huge mystery and despite the danger, and the difference in social standing, Jane Eyre is falling ever faster in love.
An absolutely stunning book.
This is my third time through, and each time I am blown away by Jane's strength of character. With every twist life hurled at her, Jane merely straightened her shoulders, adjusted her pack and trudged on.
Each time I read this novel, I notice something different. This time, it was how much Charlotte Bronte slipped her own beliefs into the novel:Precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockingsIt made for a truly eye-opening reread
It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
The ABC Reading Challenge - J
Read by Nadia May. I may be the only one with this - but whenever I read a really old novel, I find it much easier to listen to (opposed to reading a copy). I spend less time puzzling out the language and unfamiliar terms and more time enjoying the story. I highly recommend listening to this book if you've tried reading it and just couldn't get into it.
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Happy Reading! FIVE REASONS WHY JANE EYRE WOULD NEVER BE A BESTSELLER IN OUR TIMES:
5. Four hundred-odd pages of purely descriptive writing
4. Overt religious themes and moral preaching
3. A plain-Jane heroine who stays plain. No makeovers to reveal a hitherto hidden prettiness that only needed an application of hydrogen peroxide and some eyebrow plucking to emerge full-blown.
2. The world is not well-lost for love. In the war between self-respect and grand passion, principles win hands down. Rousing, yet tender speeches do not make our heroine forsake her creed to fall swooning and submissive into her alpha's arms.
1. NO SEX!!!
When I was a little girl, I had a doll named Saloni. Now Saloni wasn't a particularly attractive specimen as dolls go, especially since, over the years, I had drilled a hole in her little rosebud mouth in order to 'feed' her, I had 'brushed' her hair till all the poor synthetic threads had fallen out and I had dragged her around with me so much, one of her big blue eyes had fallen off. But in my eyes, Saloni was the best doll ever created. She was my comfort, my mainstay in a world filled with confusing new things like school and daycare and other little people. Jane Eyre is my grown-up version of Saloni. Comfort food for my brain.
There are two authors I will read over and over and over again, until the day I die. One of them is Charlotte Bronte, the other one is Georgette Heyer. I have read Jane Eyre a million times, but I never tire of the story. Every time I reach the scene where she professes her love to Mr. Rochester, I come out in goosebumps. Every single time. Age and experience have taught me to spot the flaws in the story and the characters. The ineffable belief in English superiority. The condescending attitude towards servants and people of the lower class. The ill-treatment of mentally disabled people. The almost Quaker-ish sentiments of Jane Eyre. But all of this detracts not a whit from one of the greatest love stories ever told.
And there are a lot of things to admire in this book as well. Edward Rochester, ugly as sin, but powerful and dominant and unbelievably attractive in spite of his looks. A love that grows and strengthens on the basis of mutual sympathy, respect and a meeting of the minds, that a lot of our authors would do well to learn from. Jane Eyre, who does not think that her great love excuses acts of selfishness and immorality. Despite being drawn as a somewhat submissive personality, Jane manages to hold her own with quiet fortitude, never loudly asserting her intelligence or talent, but nonetheless displaying a strength of character that would put the Bellas and Noras of out time to shame.
Jane Eyre would never, as I have said above, be a bestseller if it had been written in our times. And that is a loss we must take upon ourselves. That we have put such prime value on lust and looks and power that we have forgotten to be real in our writing. There is a reason why millions of people the world over remember and revere a book written a hundred and fifty-odd years ago while the bestsellers of our times slip quickly and quietly from our memories. Jane Eyre is more than just a beautiful book about a love story that transcends all boundaries; it is a testament to the power of pure emotion, that can be felt through the ages and across all barriers of time and culture. I could bang Mr. Rochester like a screen door 'till next Tuesday. That's not all I got from this book, honestly
I feel like an ass saying this but
who actually thinks this is a cute romance!? What the actual f!!
Now that this is out of the way.
I did like Jane as a character and I also liked the portion of the book about her childhood but the two RoMaNcEs were train wrecks and if I hear anyone say they love M. Rochester I will forever judge you.
Pride and Prejudice > Jane Eyre
There I said it. “‘Jane, be still; don't struggle so like a wild, frantic bird, that is rending its own plumage in its desperation.’
‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.’”
I am glad that in 1847 Charlotte Bronte made the decision to publish her novel under a male pseudonym. Currer Bell had a much better chance of being published than Charlotte Bronte and, with reviewers and readers assuming that she was in fact a male writer, allowed the novel a chance to be weighed properly without prejudice. Jane Eyre became a bestseller. The question is, of course, would the novel have been so successful or even published at all if CHARLOTTE BRONTE had been emblazoned on the cover? I like to think that some editor would have realized the bloody brilliance of the story and would have published it anyway, even if they didn’t spend any money on promoting it. Would readers have bought it? Hopefully, word would have trickled out about how compelling the plot was, and people would have overcome their natural prejudice for reading a novel by a woman.
So isn’t it fun that Charlotte tricked everyone, including her own father? She did not confess her efforts to him until she had become successful. Even writing these words, I have a smile on my face thinking of this successful bamboozlement of publishers, editors, and readers.
The story, of course, is larger than the book. Most people with any kind of inquisitive nature have been exposed to the bare bones of this novel without ever reading the book. Maybe they watched a movie based on the book, or maybe they have heard it referenced. Once read, it is impossible for people not to use aspects of this novel as common reference points for other readers.
Take Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester himself, the master of Thornfield Hall. He is a brooding, complicated, dark, and intelligent creature. He is a force of nature who conforms the world around him with every stride he takes or every word that drops from his lips. He is the embodiment of the Lord Byron character. It doesn’t matter that he is not handsome. He is powerful. Women swoon in his presence and, after a carefully administered smelling salt, might start calculating what he is worth a year.
Rochester is completely taken by Jane Eyre, practically from the moment they meet. The drama of their meeting is one of those great cinematic scenes in the history of literature. Bronte incorporates many scenes into the novel that are, frankly, gifts to future movie renditions. Rochester has never met anyone quite like her. He is not alone. Everyone who comes into contact with Jane Eyre knows they have met a unique person. She is a kind and pleasant person, but she will not brook any discriminations against her character.
Mrs. Reed (her aunt), Mr. Brocklehurst (director of Lowood School attended by Jane), Mr. St John Eyre Rivers (minister who asks to marry her), and even Mr. Rochester, all attempt to conform Jane to the acceptable, deferring Victorian woman of the time. To call this a feminist novel does put it in a box which constrains it too tightly. Jane or Charlotte, either one, would loosen those bindings and let it breath as Charlotte’s intentions with this novel go well beyond the confines of any specific genre. I found her ideas of female equality, embodied so wonderfully in the character of Jane, inspiring. ”Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their effort, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer, and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”
I hear you, Charlotte.
Can you imagine the impact of such words on your typical, Victorian housewife? A woman who has lived her whole life being the daughter of her father, the wife of her husband, the mother of her sons. She has been passed from the care of one man after another. If she were fortunate enough to be born pretty, she has that brief moment of power when suiters contend for her hand, but probably, ultimately, her father would decide who was best for her to marry. How about the impact of reading this novel on the typical, Victorian man? Did he look up from this book and peer over at his wife, she looking rosy in the firelight, knitting away at some frivolous thing, and think
does she want more? Or maybe he sees his pretty daughter enter the room on the verge of womanhood, and does he consider the possibility that she wants or deserves more?
There is no spark of revolution inspired by this book, but I do hope that this book may have chipped away at some of the archaic ideas of inequality. Maybe a few women readers realized that some of those secret desires they have harbored their whole life were not such strange concepts. When Jane stands up to the conformists she encounters, she is willing to take the punishment because she knows in her soul that what she believes about herself is incontestable.
This is no better illustrated than in her interactions with (I’m sorry to say this because it isn’t completely fair) the odious St. John Eyre Rivers. He wants to marry her but only for the sake that he believes she will make a wonderful, useful, missionary wife. He doesn’t love her. She is willing to go, but only as a “sister,” not as a wife. Jane refuses to compromise, but there is this moment where she is teetering in the balance. I’m mentally screaming to her at this point. ”I shuddered as he spoke: I felt his influence in my marrow--his hold on my limbs.” He is a cold man who would have gladly marched OUR Jane off to some godforsaken part of the world to die some horrible death from disease or from simple neglect.
I know the plot; and yet, I’m still completely invested in every scene. There is always the possibility that I’ve fallen into an alternative universe and I am reading some other version of Jane Eyre with a completely different ending. I can assure everyone this did not happen.
When Jane is residing with Mrs. Read, she describes her place to sleep as a “small closet.” I can’t help but think of the closet under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive. Like Harry Potter, she is also an orphan but still with a rebellious streak because she is also sure that she is supposed to be someone other than who she is currently perceived to be. The relief she experiences when she learns she is getting away from the condescending attitude of the Read house and going away to school at Lowood also reminds me of Harry’s relief to discover he, too, is escaping to Hogwarts. Though I must say Harry, despite the trials and tribulations he experiences, draws a better straw than Miss Jane.
I really enjoyed the gothic elements; those were, to a degree, completely unexpected. ”’Oh sir, I never saw a face like it! It was a discoloured face--it was a savage face. I wish I could forget the roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments!’
‘Ghost are usually pale, Jane.’
‘This, sir, was purple: the lips were swelled and dark; the brow furrowed: the black eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes. Shall I tell you of what it reminded me?’
‘Of the foul German spectre--the Vampyre.’”
There are noises in the night at Thornfield Hall. There is an unknown tenant locked away in the rafters of the house. There are secrets. There are unexpected fires. There are scandals waiting to be known. In fact, the twists of the plot were considered so outrageous for the time that the book acquired a reputation for being “improper.” This helped to boost sales further.
The Bronte family was very close. They grew up conceiving their own stories and fantasies and acting them out in impromptu plays. All three girls and the brother, Branwell, were writers. Tragically, they all died young. Charlotte outlived them all, dying in 1855 at the age of 38 with her unborn child. Branwell (31) and Emily (30) both passed away in 1848, and Anne died the following year at the age of 29. Can you imagine having to bury all your siblings? It must have felt like the spectre of death was stalking the Brontes.
What makes Rochester unique is that he does eventually see Jane the way she sees herself. ”Fair as a lily, and not only the pride of his life, but the desire of his eyes.” I will remember that line ”desire of his eyes” for a long time. She is a hidden gem in rooms full of people. Charlotte Bronte makes some good points through Jane’s eyes at how unaware wealthy people are of the true natures of those who serve them.
I would talk about the love story, but what is there to say. It is one for the ages. I would say that Charlotte Bronte never found her Rochester in real life, but some letters have come to light, written to a man named Constantin Héger, that suggests that maybe she did. He was married to someone else, and when Elizabeth Gaskell wrote the biography of her friend, she carefully edited out those very revealing letters of a love that could never be.
Jane Eyre, may you always find the readers you deserve.
If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten I am a very pretentious person.
I try to seem “hip” and “cool” and “relatable” and “down with the teens” - and of course I totally am all of those things - but also I have my tendencies toward pretension. It’s who I am. Just last night I shuddered at the idea of popular music, like some kind of eight-hundred-year-old gremlin.
I am not proud of this side of me, but it’s who I am. And also it is important background information for you, dear Reader, going into this review. (That direct address to you as an audience member was me emulating this book, not an example of my pretension. Or was it???)
Anyway. It’s important that you know my capacity to be pretentious so that I can make this statement:
I don’t get how any reader can say they don’t like classics.
Oof. A doozy, right? Aren’t you glad I warned you? Now you know that that wasn’t just a one-off of self-serious condescension but rather a pattern of my personality and oh sh*t actually my explanation probably made the whole thing a million times worse. Now I’ve painted my insufferability as consistent.
Come back, everyone!!!! Let me explain!
What I need to explain is that this book is excellent, and also a classic. It is very very old but sometimes old stuff is still worth it! (I should know. I have the mannerisms of the type of grumpy old man that gets endearingly profiled in Scandinavian bestsellers.)
This is not the classic I would recommend that someone start with if they’re looking to get into the genre. It is very, very slow, and very wordy, and the language takes some settling in. But also this book is a literal gem.
It was published in 19th century England, which is no one’s idea of Progressive Central. But this book is jarringly feminist when the constraints it (and Jane) were working in are taken into account. Jane is an independent woman, and this book from eighteen freakin’ forty-seven tells her story.
Now, I love Jane Austen books as much as the next girl (if the next girl is pretty damn obsessed with Jane Austen), but that’s something not even all her books can say.
Here’s the thing about this book: I love nineteenth century fiction (or what I’ve read of it), but even if you didn’t you’d probably love this book. So much of this is unique, by the standards of then but also even the standards of today. It’s a romance, yes, which: extremely normal. But it’s a romance between two characters who are not conventionally beautiful, which is unbelievably rare.
It’s also not a romance that acts as basically the sole option for its female character. I love Pride & Prejudice, and I of course think Lizzie Bennet is a feminist (and awesome) character, but there’s no way for that book to end, really, that doesn’t include marriage for her. Three of the five Bennet sisters get married over the course of that book. It’s either that or old maid status, baby.
But not lil Jane Eyre. She does not allow marriage to be the only prospect for her!! She goes away and makes a life for herself and then decides whether she wants to follow that path. We don’t even see that in every 21st century romance.
Plus, Jane is an excellent character, and of a type we RARELY see. She’s serious and upstanding and smart and moral. She has a strong mind and she doesn’t shy away from that. She lacks the requisite features of today’s female subjects of romance: the quirkiness or the humor or the adorkable way she trips and falls/spills coffee/etc. She also lacks the nineteenth-century version of a lot of those traits. And it is so goddamn refreshing I can’t even tell you.
And on top of all that, the language in this book is so gorgeous I want the whole manuscript tattooed on me.
Which would be wild, because this is about a million pages long. And speaking of, yes, it is very slow and hard to get into and basically you have to adjust to a whole new reading experience. So I wouldn’t recommend starting off your nineteenth century fiction binge with this book.
But I would recommend getting into nineteenth century fiction solely for the purpose of reading this book.
Bottom line: IT’S JUST SO DAMN GOOD, YOU GUYS.
i love this book so stupid much???
if you've got a free few hours over the course of the next few months i HIGHLY recommend rereading this book at a snail's pace. worked out for me very well.
i should probably shout about my adoration of this book for several pages so. full review 2 come Child neglect, near death, a dash of magical realism, the power of love, the powerlessness of the poor, sexual rivalry, mystery, madness and more. It is as powerful as ever - but is it really a love story, given Rochester's Svengali-tendencies, or is it a life story? His downfall and her inheritance make them more equal, but is it really love on his part? I'm not sure, which is what makes it such a good book (just not necessarily a love story). I also like the tension between it being very Victorian in some obvious ways, and yet controversially modern in others: an immoral hero, a fiercely independent and assertive heroine, and some very unpleasant Christians (it's not that I think Christians are bad or like seeing them portrayed in a nasty way - it's Bronte's courage in writing such characters I admire).
About the first quarter of the book concerns the tremendous hardship and abuse that Jane suffers growing up. It's often heavily cut from film, TV and stage adaptations, but despite the fluff about this being a great love story, I think there is merit in paying attention to her formative years as an essential element of explaining what makes Jane the person she becomes.
The Red Room, where young Jane is banished shortly before being sent to Lowood, is a very short episode in the book, but its significance is probably greater than its brevity implies. The trauma of the Red Room is not just because Mr Reed died there, but because of the associations of red = blood = death, compounded by cold, silence, blinds that are always closed and a bed like a sacrificial altar. Is it also some sort of reference to Bertha's attic?
Jane endures dreadful hardships: she is orphaned; her aunt says she is less than a servant, for you do nothing for your keep and invokes the wrath of God who might strike her dead in the midst of one of her tantrums; she endures injustice as she strives to be good, but is always condemned, while the faults of her cousins are indulged or ignored. So, she is sent to Lowood, where she sees the hypocritical tyranny of Brocklehurst, survives cold and near starvation and witnesses her best friend's death. Nevertheless, I would not have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for Gateshead and its daily luxuries. There is a dreadful irony in the fact that the first time a relative demonstrates any interest in her (John Eyre), it seems to ruin everything.
Villains and Christianity
Who is the worst villain: John Reed, Aunt Reed, Mr Brocklehurst, Blanche Ingram, St John Rivers or even Rochester?
Christianity gets a very mixed press in the book: Mr Brocklehurst is cruel and comically hypocritical (curly hair is evil vanity in poor girls, who must not conform to nature, but fine for his pampered daughters); St John Rivers thinks his devoutness selfless, but is actually cold and selfish (his motive being to gain glory in Heaven for himself); Helen Burns is a redemptive Christ figure who accepts her punishments as deserved, helps Jane tame herself (Helen had calmed me) and, of course, dies.
Jane's own beliefs (or lack) are always somewhat vague (though she's very moral) and controversially feisty. When, as a small girl, the nasty Brocklehurst asks her what she should do to avoid going to Hell, she replies, I must keep in good health, and not die!
Aspects the way Christianity is portrayed may make it more accessible to modern readers from more secular backgrounds, but might have been shocking to devout Victorians. Perhaps they were placated by the fact that despite the cruelty, Jane forgives Aunt Reed for trying to improve her errant niece, even though it was in her nature to wound me cruelly.
Male Power, Feminism, and Relevance Today
Men had most of the power and respect in Bronte's time and often Jane has to go along with that. However, Bronte does subvert that to some extent by making Jane so assertive, determined and independent.
The story of Jane Eyre has parallels with the story of Bluebeard, albeit with a very different ending, in which the woman takes charge of her own destiny. Bluebeard was well-known in Victorian fables as a rich and swarthy man who locked discarded wives in an attic (though he killed them first). He took a new young wife and when she discovered her predecessors, he was about to kill her, but she was rescued by her brothers, rather as Mason wants to rescue Bertha. Jane even likens an attic corridor to one in some Bluebeard's castle, so Bronte clearly knew the story and assumed he readers did too. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluebear
Despite her minimal contact with men, right from the outset Jane instinctively knows how to respond to the man she describes as changeful and abrupt. When they first meet in the house and he is quizzing her, she consciously mirrors his tone (I, speaking as seriously as he had done) and His changes of mood did not offend me because I saw I had nothing to do with their alteration. Like many bullies, he enjoys a bit of a fight, rather than the nervous, prompt and unquestioning obedience his manner normally elicits, and Jane isn't afraid to answer him back and speak her mind. It isn't long before she can say I knew the pleasure of vexing him and soothing him by turns. When Blanche arrives, Jane realises he had not given her his love and that she could not charm him (as she could). At this point, she realises her self-delusions in overlooking his faults and merely considering them as keen condiments.
What should modern women make of this book? Bronte is radical in that neither Jane nor Rochester is conventionally attractive (it is personality that matters) and Jane is fiercely independent and assertive, even when she gives the impression of being submissive. She even says, Women are supposed to feel very calm, generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint
precisely as men would suffer. On the other hand, Rochester's treatment of Jane, Bertha, Blanche and Céline is hard to justify (other than the fact he keeps Bertha alive - why not kill her?). Does disappointment and disability truly changed him, and does that, coupled with her independent wealth make them equals? Will they live happily ever after?
What were Rochester's plans and motives for his relationship with Jane? Why does he insist that Jane appears in the drawing room every evening while Blanche and friends are staying, even though he fully understands and comments on how depressed it makes Jane? And would Rochester have married Blanche if Mason hadn't turned up, making a big society wedding impossible? If so, was Jane always in his mind as a mistress and backup in case marriage to Blanche was not possible, or did he only decide to marry her much later? What sort of basis for a happy marriage is that, and can the equalising effect of his later disability and her inheritance really conquer it? It's true that Rochester tells Jane I feigned courtship of Miss Ingram, because I wished to render you as madly in love with me as I was with you, but that is after Mason's visit, so is it true?
Rochester's treatment of Bertha is even more problematic: divorce wasn't viable, and yet he didn't want to leave her behind in the Caribbean
very odd. In a funny sort of way, he might have felt he was doing the right thing by her, or at least, not the wrong thing.
In a society which condemns divorce and cohabitation, is Rochester's planned bigamy justifiable? As Rochester hints to Jane early on, Unheard-of combinations of circumstances demand unheard-of rules. He also knows that Jane's integrity means she must be unaware of the details if he is to be with her (he says that if he asked her to do something bad, she would say no sir
I cannot do it, because it is wrong), though in fact there is a bigger tussle between her head and heart than he might have expected. Later, he ponders the fact that she is alone in the world as being some sort of justification, It will atone and extends to the more blasphemous and deluded I know my Maker sanctions what I do. For the world's judgement - I wash my hands thereof.
Jane's bond with St John is very different, and she realise it, I daily wished more to please him; but to do so, I felt daily more and more that I must disown half my nature. His proposal is positively alarming, You are formed for labour, not for love. A missionary's wife you must - shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you - not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign's service! Under the guise of serving God and man, he is irredeemably self-serving.
The strangest element is the small but hugely significant ethereal message from Rochester that might now be called magical realism. It sits oddly with the rest of the book, but I can never decide whether this is it a strength or a weakness.
Who Knows What?
A constant theme is who knows what?. Is Aunt Reed ignorant of how awful Lowood is and has she truly convinced herself that her treatment of Jane is appropriate? How much does Mrs Fairfax know (and tell) about Rochester's wives, current and intended? Does Rochester know whether or not Adele is really his daughter, and what does Jane believe? Blanche appears to know very little, but is she only seeing what she wants to see?
Overall, there is so much in this book, it is well worth rereading, but I am not convinced that it is a love story. It is the easiest label to apply, and although Jane certainly finds love, I am not sure that love finds her. They're intellectually well-matched, and the sparring and physical attraction bode well. On the other hand, my doubts about his motivations when he was juggling Blanche and Jane make me uneasy.
Incidentally, I first read this book at school (a naive mid-teen enjoys and appreciates it for very different reasons than an adult). One day, we were at a point when Jane was with the Rivers and possibly being courted by St John. We were told to read to page x for homework, so I turned to that page to mark it and saw the famous words (not that I knew they were), Reader, I married him and was shocked to assume it referred to St John.
Jane's Place in My Life
There are many reasons I love this book, including - but not limited to:
1. The cliché of first reading this at an impressionable age (15).
2. Coming with no preconceptions, other than knowing it was a classic - so I had a couple of big surprises in the plot.
3. Being at a boarding school myself at the time - though fortunately not (much) like Lowood.
4. Questioning my faith and the role of religion - then and since.
5. Questioning the roles and rights of women - then and since.
6. Jane, herself. That's a major one.
7. The fact the book is daringly subversive for its time (most of the Christians are bad, and Jane is fiercely outspoken and independent - most of the time).
8. I get something new from it each time.
Like many, I first read this at school. I was captivated from the outset. Jane was wild, and brave, and rebellious - all things we weren't supposed to be, and yet we had to read and write about her. I vaguely knew about the wedding scene, but everything about her time with the Rivers was new and unexpected. For all that I had doubts about Rochester, I felt (in a naive, teenage way) I shared a passion for him. When I thought Jane would end up with St John, I was devastated. The actual ending was a happy relief - all the more so because it had been unexpected.
I thought I understood the book, and got good marks for essays about it (apart from the injustice of being deducted marks for a comment a teacher refused to believe I hadn't copied from Brodie's Notes - a study guide I'd only ever heard of!).
But like all great works of art, it speaks differently on each encounter, and the more I've read it, aided by a bit of maturity along the way, and now discussions with GR friends, the more I've seen in it.
So no, this not a love story - on the pages. But there is a love story: between the reader and Jane.
I finally read Jean Rhys' prequel Wide Sargasso Sea, reviewed here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/
I was disappointed with the Jane Eyre film. Mia Waskikowska was good as Jane, and it looked right, but Fassbender as Rochester was awful. He didn't brood enough for my liking, but what I think is less excusable is that he didn't really change during the course of the story. Just as bad, Jamie Bell was too nice to be St John. In fact the whole episode at the Rivers' was very poorly done. Overall, it removed all ambiguity, making a complex story of truth and lies, divided loyalty and mixed emotions boringly straightforward. The kind of novel that makes one believe in love (again) - or at least desire to hold on to the illusion.
Likely my favourite read for 2020.
For the time being, just basking and swooning.
I know it's out of fashion
And a trifle uncool
But I can't help it
I'm a romantic fool
- 532 pages
- Jane Eyre
- Charlotte Brontë
- 01 March 2017Charlotte Brontë