Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

janeWhen most people think of Jane Eyre, they think it’s a romance between Jane and the brooding but charismatic Mr. Rochester. Sure, that’s the focus of the longest section of the book, but Jane Eyre is much more than this. It is the life story of a young woman who is forced into independence and must make difficult moral decisions about how to live her life.

In the Mr. Rochester part of the book, the 19-year-old governess Jane goes to work at Thornfield Hall. Here she meets and falls in love with her boss, who is hiding a terrible secret. Jane must choose between love and doing what she knows to be right. But long before Mr. Rochester comes onto the scene, we watch Jane as an orphaned child growing up first with a cruel aunt, and then at an even crueler boarding school. After the Rochester section, Jane spends an extended time with St. John Rivers, a minister, and his two sisters. If you ignore these first and third sections, as some film adaptations do, then you are mangling the book, removing important elements of the story of this remarkable young woman.

Jane is a psychologically complex character like no other female seen before the 1847 publication of this book. She is plain and poor, but she has the intelligence and the inner strength to stand up to her “superiors”. Here’s Jane responding to Mr. Rochester as he tries to goad her into revealing her feelings for him:

“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!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;–it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,–as we are!””

That last “equal,–as we are!” always gets me. What an amazing thing for a young woman in the early 1800s to say to a man, especially a rich, upper class man who owns an estate and employs her as a governess for his ward. She’s got spunk!

With Jane’s rich inner life revealed, Jane Eyre is said to be a forerunner of novels by James Joyce and Marcel Proust. But don’t let that keep you from reading it!

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One Response to “Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte”

  1. MC Says:

    I love Jane Eyre and have probably read this book more than 10 times. I’m glad my mom recommended me this book in my early teens and cant wait to recommend this to my daughter 🙂

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