Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Publishing Date: 1847
Format: Print, 643 pgs
About the Book:
Determined to make her heroine “as poor and plain as myself,” Charlotte Brontë made a daring choice for her 1847 novel. Jane Eyre possesses neither the great beauty nor entrancing charm that her fictional predecessors used to make their way in the world. Instead, Jane relies upon her powers of diligence and perception, conducting herself with dignity animated by passion.
The instant and lasting success of Jane Eyre proved Brontë’s instincts correct. Readers of her era and ever after have taken the impoverished orphan girl into their hearts, following her from the custody of cruel relatives to a dangerously oppressive boarding school and onward through a troubled career as a governess. Jane’s first assignment at Thorn field, where the proud and cynical master of the house harbors a scandalous secret, draws readers ever deeper into a compelling exploration of the mysteries of the human heart.
A banquet of food for thought, this many-faceted tale invites a splendid variety of interpretations. The heroine’s insistence upon emotional equality with her lover suggests a feminist viewpoint, while her solitary status invokes a consideration of the problems of growing up as a social outsider. Some regard Jane’s attempts to reconcile her need for love with her search for moral rectitude as the story’s primary message, and lovers of gothic romance find the tale’s social and religious aspects secondary to its gripping elements of mystery and horror. This classic of English literature truly features something for every reader.
I don’t even want to admit how long I had this book on my TBR, but I’m thrilled I finally took the time to read it! I have read each of Jane Austen’s novels at least twice, but I now say that I prefer Charlotte’s writing to Jane’s. I believe this was at least in part because Jane Eyre is a story of finding belonging and not merely a husband of high wealth and social standing. My heart quickly connected with Jane and hoped for her happy ending. Each time she faced more heartache my heart broke a little more. She was an easy character to feel empathy for.
Mr. Rochester was quite the tricky character. I couldn’t decide if I loved or hated him. There is no question that he was a flawed man, but I believe that Jane brought out his better side. Isn’t that one of the blessings of a relationship though?
While I would consider this story to be about Jane’s search for belonging, it extended to other characters as well. As shown in a few different scenes (no spoiling), you can see that Mr. Rochester questions his value within his own social circle–desiring to be liked for who he is and not merely his wealth. He is outwardly sarcastic yet inwardly self-conscious. St John speaks of wanting a wife, but it appears to be more about the fact that he doesn’t want to be alone. In the end, people need others. Life is not meant to be lived alone without love and affection from those closest to you.
At over 600 pages this wasn’t exactly a short story, but I was sad to see it end just the same. Jane Eyre may very well now be my new favorite classic. It’s one I certainly intend to place on my re-read pile. If you enjoy classics but haven’t gotten your hands on a copy of this book yet, I highly recommend that you remedy that immediately!