I loved this novel. I didn’t think I would as so many people complain about the classics, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad I didn’t have to read Jane Eyre in High School, I probably would have completely misjudged (also known as misunderstood) and resisted the intelligence and beauty of the novel. Now that I’ve read it, it’s made me want to read the rest of the Brontë’s works as I thoroughly enjoyed Wuthering Heights and this novel.
“No reflection was to be allowed now: not one glance was to be cast back; not even one forward. Not one thought was to be given either to the past or the future. The first was a page so heavenly sweet–so deadly sad–that to read one line of it would dissolve my courage and break down my energy. The last was an awful blank: something like the world when the deluge was gone by.”
I believe the quote above truly signifies the essence of this novel. It’s a coming of age proto-feminist novel written well before its time and I truly loved the elegance as well as the seemingly ostentatious fictional aspects of the novel. At times I almost felt like it should have been two separate novels and perhaps it was serialization and that’s why it lends itself so well to potentially multiple volumes, but I don’t know. Even though they were writing quite a few years after Jane Austen, I can’t help but compare the Brontë sisters with Jane Austen. I know the Brontë’s write in the Gothic style and Austen was more of a romantic fiction writer and perhaps it’s just they are all lumped into the British Classics, but I think there’s more to it.
These were women well “before their time” – I don’t actually like that phrase, but as it’s the accepted phrase I’ll use it. These women were so outside of their time they were strong willed and independent and made names for themselves in their own rights. And not only this, but they wrote about strong independent female characters. These are characters that have lasted and have struck chords with people for nearly two centuries. I looked up Jane Eyre in Wikipidea and that’s where the ‘proto-feminist’ came from and I’m not quite sure it fits, but I would definitely classify them as feminist/pro-female rights in times when women were hog-tied to their nearest male relative whether it was their brother, father or distant cousin and when they got married it was to their husband or oldest son.
In Jane Eyre, we have Jane whose parents both died and was left to live with an Uncle who cared for her who also died leaving her with a heinous aunt by marriage. She is mistreated and kept downtrodden until she is shipped off to a school for orphans posing as a boarding school. There she finds herself and truly comes into her own. At that point she decided to make something of herself and goes out beyond the world she knows and succeeds. It is here where things get better and worse for her, leading to the quote at the beginning of this post.
The fantastical (and Gothic) comes in when Mr. Rochester who becomes both her demon and saint. I’m not really going to talk about it much, but I will say that it ends happily ever after(-ish) and Jane remains true to her morals and values throughout the novel to the point of near death on at least one occasion. It’s a hopelessly romantic story and a tale for the ages as seen by the numerous adaptations throughout the years. I’m not sure how they have adapted it in this newest version, but the new version is what pushed Jane Eyre to the front of my reading list.