Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage. She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester. However, there is great kindness and warmth in this epic love story, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Yorkshire moors. Ultimately the grand passion of Jane and Rochester is called upon to survive cruel revelation, loss and reunion, only to be confronted with tragedy.
Jane Eyre was the first classic I read, at around the age of 11. I’ve read it 4 or 5 times since, and enjoyed it every single time. Even though my thoughts changed a lot in this reading, I still regard it as one of my favourite books of all time. As I’ve grown up in the past 10 years, my viewpoints on parts of this book have certainly changed, but my love for the story hasn’t decreased.
I’ve always loved the romance in this book, but for the first time I looked at Rochester and noticed so many problems. This is something that has also come from reading Wide Sargasso Sea and having more of an (imagined) background to his character. There is absolutely no shying away from the fact Mr Rochester does not treat Jane well and repeatedly addresses her in ways that appear problematic today. However what I truly love about this story is that Jane doesn’t stand for anything. When she truly believes that she is not being treated with the respect she deserves, she stands up for herself.
I am no bird; and no net ensnares me:
There is no doubt there are many feminist elements to this story, and Jane is one of the most independent women I have come across in Victorian fiction. I spent so much of this story being in utter admiration of her character and how she stands up for herself. I would even argue this book stands away from (or even above) Jane Austen novels, especially in the way this book could have very easily not ended in marriage. Jane creates her own pathways through life and her own prospects, and everything she does is of her own accord.
I also love the setting of Thornfield Hall and the Victorian Gothic aspects of it. There is so much atmosphere crammed in between these pages and the writing portrayed the wild nature of the the British countryside so well – I could picture every scene. I listened to the audiobook this time and I’m glad I did – it gave me a different view of the story and made it feel more accessible too. I’ve always felt this is quite an accessible story, but it is quite long at over 500 pages and I can see why it would feel dense to some. I think because of the length of this book, movie adaptations do not manage to do the writing justice. Even though I love watching adaptations, the book stands above them all easily. You simply can’t portray all of Jane’s flawed character and relationship with Rochester in a condensed format.
I am a free human being with an independent will.
Overall, I did consider lowering my rating because of how problematic Rochester is and comes across as. But the takeaway from this book is Jane, Jane, Jane. She deserves all of the stars in the world.
5 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽