I love it.
I am sure that most of you, book lovers, are familiar with the story of Jane Eyre as this novel is quite a darling of English Literature and is often a school compulsory reading. It wasn’t the case for me. I have never watched any film adaptation and I began to read it not knowing much about the story except that Jane Eyre is an orphan girl who goes to a charity school and later becomes a governess and strange things begin to happen at her new home. That pretty much sums up what happens in Jane Eyre. Some people like to include the details of Jane’s love story when telling what Jane Eyre is about but I didn’t find it really relevant. In fact, I think that considering Jane Eyre a love story is as wrong as think Jane a plain girl – there’s so much more to both of them than what meets the eye.
“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!–I have as much soul as you,–and full as much heart!”
Ms Eyre is all about speaking: “Speak I must,” she says to herself on chapter five when confronting her cold aunt, Mrs Reed. So it is no wonder that Jane Eyre is so full of great quotes with so much talking going on. I think that this quote above is one of Jane’s best descriptions. She’s plain-looking and outspoken, unlike most literary heroines until her, but her heart is full, and so is her soul.
Jane was a very atypical character for her age. She is aware since a very young age that she owns nothing to no one and is determines to be true to herself no matter what. She cherish her independence and is proud of her education, her head is full of ideas and she’s not afraid of voicing them. All that would be fine for a 19th century novel character, were she not a woman. But she is a woman and it is probably because of that that she has become such a beloved literary heroine, one whose adventure has definitely stood the test of time.
Jane Eyre was a very atypical novel as well. Besides having such an outsider as main character, there are many other peculiarities about it. Jane Eyre is a mix of several literary genres: it is mostly considered a Bildungsroman but there’s also a bit of romance in it and echoes of mystery and Gothic novels. Also, some of the ideas it portrays are quite ahead of its time, like the feminism exhibited by Jane, who thought women equal to men in some aspects, or the apparent anti-religious ideas that pop up throughout the novel. Nevertheless, Jane Eyre became a classic in spite of its oddities. Or perhaps because of them. It was relevant back in the 19th century because it addressed some of the important questions of Victorian society and it is still relevant nowadays because it goes further than that. Jane Eyre is a novel about identity and human nature: Jane is only a girl trying to find her place in the world. She wants to be free and respected and longs to be loved for who she is.
“You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so.”
I totally loved Jane Eyre. I liked the story and I couldn’t put it down at times, especially during the middle section when Jane is living at Thornfield Hall and all these mysterious things happen. I couldn’t stop reading when the wedding was approaching and I thought Jane was mad when she chose to ru away at night. I also thought she was mad when she agreed to India with St John. But here’s the beauty about Jane Eyre: as much as I disagreed with her about her choices, I didn’t stop liking her because I understood why she had done so. Jane Eyre was also an unusual novel in the sense that the main character opened her mind and heart completely to the reader. And as much as Jane considers herself a hot-tempered person, she’s also rational. Her decisions are logical and always consistent with her own values. So I may or may not agree with her but I could never say she was wrong.
Jane Eyre was my third book for The Classics Club. I have gone through the reviews of Jane Eyre listed there and I realised that very often people either love it or loathe it. I’m glad to say I loved it. Now I’m very curious about other works by Charlotte and her sisters.
Have you read Jane Eyre? Did you like it? Any thoughts on it you’d care to share?