Jane Eyre

Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Pub Date: 1847
Pages: 441
Genre: Classics, Regency, Victorian

Yes, I admit it. I neglected to read Jane Eyre up until now. I think my reluctance stemmed from my lack of enjoyment of Wuthering Heights. (I intend to re-read WH to see if I still feel that way).

Can I make the assumption that most have read Jane Eyre or know of Jane Eyre and I don't need to go into a detailed summary? The book's detail leaves me a wee bit intimidated to write a summary. I fear that I might ramble also. So, if I'm going to ramble, I'd much rather do it about my reaction to the literature. (Which means there are probably spoilers!)

First, I cannot help but say, even though Jane and I have very differing religious beliefs, she is definitely someone I would want to know in real life. I love the mixture of vulnerability and defensiveness.

("Human beings must love something, and in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I contrived to find pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow").

She openly requires/desires love and yet does not overtly compromise her self to get this love. Her relationship with the harsh Mrs. Reed is a great example of this. (Later in the text, I view Jane as someone who doesn't compromise herself as a general rule even if it raises assumptions about herself to society or those around her).

I found that Jane had quite a feminist voice for that time period which impressed me. I loved her overall powerful stance even though it never came across belligerent.

"Who blames me? Many no doubt; and I shall be called discontented. I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to some pain already. [...] It is in vain to say human beings out to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. [...] Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is too narrowminded in their more privileged fellow creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playng on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex."
I wonder if Jane would have burned bras in the 60's or if alive during the 90's become a part of the riot grrl punk movement. A part of me felt like she was somewhere between Marge Simpson, Rosanne Barr, a bit of Sound of Music added in. Too much? Perhaps...

It was interesting to me that Mr. Rochester felt that Jane and him were fated and that the gender roles switched - Mr. Rochester being the over-dramatic romantic while Jane maintained sound and logical over their relationship. It also pleased me that the love story occurred in the middle of the book and was not the end result.

Oh and the spookiness of the "ghost" in the house. I have to admit, I read a criticism somewhere and disappointed myself in finding out who the ghost was before I read it. I also spent a good portion of the novel wondering who Jane would marry since I saw in the end "yes, I married him".

I loved that Mr. Rochester and Mr. St. John were each other's foil. Whereas Mr. Rochester was not attractive, St. John was. Rochester symbolized for me a more secular side of life; St. John, obviously, the very devout godly man. Of course, I had no patience for St. John. And I'm surprised that Jane did. Oooh, I kept biting my nails wondering which one Jane married (keep in mind, at this point I only knew that she had married someone).

I do know that many of the critical essays on Jane Eyre generally deal with the religious aspect. I get this, truly. But because I did not spend any time actually looking into the arguments, my view is rather general and thus limited. Upon the ending when Jane chose to be find Mr. Rochester rather than marry St. John, I did not see it as Jane snubbing or losing her faith. Rather, I saw her faith lead her to her fate. I never felt a duality in Jane and her religion. I saw that she weaved herself rather seamlessly in both the secular and religious worlds.

My only complaint about Jane Eyre is the culminating events that allowed for Mr. Rochester and Jane to reconcile. Really? A fire? An altruistic rescue? A dilapidated and blinded Mr. Rochester? And then, a blind man who can now see? A wee bit too dramatic for me and over the top. It was the only time I truly lost my suspension of disbelief. Did anyone else feel this way?


  1. Yes--is she an independent woman, an astute intellectual, a goody-two-shoes? I love how intensely she wants to do the right thing (nonreligious right thing)--even when it is not at all what the superiors around her want, or even what she wants in the present moment. A favorite character of mine for twenty-five years.

  2. I didn't like WH either and was hesitant to read this, but I did love this one.

    As for the end, all those things were actually crucial for the feminist argument that Charlotte was bringing out. Jane could not be with Rochester when she was lowly and poor and not his equal, but once she 1) gained money 2) gained family and 3) he lost both his station and became crippled, they were able to enter a relationship as equals. Without him coming down and her going up, a relationship between the two would have been unequal. This allowed Jane to overcome how he tried to trick her in the past. I didn't have a problem with the ending at all. :)

  3. Mostly what I remember from this book was shuddering when Rochester called Jane his "good little girl" and talked about taking her to the moon so that she could live here with him and ONLY him. He was a little intense for my tastes.

  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed this. It's one of my all time favorites, mostly because I love Jane's strength throughout the novel. She's not fiery like so many other strong women in literature, but she still shows passion and stands up for herself and others when it counts. She's a brilliant creation.

    And for what it's worth, I like Wuthering Heights more on the second read and grew to love it on a third read. For me, the trick was knowing that it's not really a romance.

  5. I did think Jane had a pretty "modern" feel about her ... and I admired that she had her principles and stuck to them.

    And yes ... I had a problem with the "amazing coicidences" at the end.

    I read Jane Eyre last year for the first time so you're not alone in getting to it late. If you're interested, here is a link to my review. I kind of got hung up on the writing style of the book and made fun of it. You might enjoy it (or you might be offended that I "mock" a classic). Here is the link: http://www.lifewithbooks.com/2009/04/thoughts-on-jane-eyre/

  6. I was okay with the end, although that may have something to do with the fact that I was eight when I first read this book. :p I thought the curing of the blindness was okay because it wasn't a miracle cure or anything. He went to some doctors, they did some stuff, his eyes got better. Not good, just better. And I always picture the rescue scene as, like, Mr. Rochester really wants to leave, but he knows it would be rotten not to try and help Berthe.

    I LOVE how Rochester is so crazy romantic about Jane, and she's sort of, Let's be reasonable about this. They crack me up. Jane Eyre is seriously one of my favorite heroines in all of literature. I love her so much when she says "I am no bird, and no net ensnares me."

  7. I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I love that "Who blames me?" passage you posted. As for the ending, what Amanda said :P It was difficult for their relationship to be one of equals in Victorian society if things had been any different. Rochester's blindness allows him to experience some of the powerlessness that Jane, as a woman, had always felt.

  8. Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorites. I did not like WH. The end was a little overly dramatic, but I was okay with it mainly because it was the end and not the whole book. I saw it when it was on Broadway, briefly, and loved it. Still listen to the soundtrack which you might be able to find at your library if you want to giove it a listen.


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