Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Bronte
(Gothic novel/ Christian fiction)

I have no picture for this book because the edition I read is from the library and is old (©1976 --ok, that's not old, I realize) and has no book jacket.

I can now cross another of the classics off my list. "Jane Eyre" is one of those novels I always felt I should read, and now I have. Bully for me.

It took me a while to get through this book; I found it a little tedious and some of the chapters rambled on too long for my liking, although I did enjoy the book more than I anticipated. What struck me most though, is that, originally I found Jane Eyre to be a sad character; she never got a chance to know herself. She spent her life being submissive to others and bending over backwards to please other people. I find that very sad. First it was Mrs. Reed, then to the teachers at Lowood, to God (especially), to Mr. Rochester, then to Mr. St. John. Jane Eyre is simply an acquiescent young woman who constantly feels the need to stifle her true being, to the point of denying herself, feeling herself unworthy of love, even; constantly considering herself plain to the point of ugliness and believing no man, other than Mr. Rochester, could love her. Jane is told and agrees that she is "made for labour, not for love." She's only nineteen years old and that is how she feels about herself. I realize this was set in a different time, but still, Jane made me feel sad for her.

I will say it is good to see her stand up for herself every once in a while, but she waits until she reaches the boiling point to say anything. I was happy when she exploded to Mrs. Reed, that was excellent. But Jane doesn't express herself enough, which really doesn't help her.

I'm glad Jane found some family, but I despise Mr. St. John Eyre Rivers. He is unfeeling and downright mean to Jane, which she doesn't fully realize. First of all, cousins marrying = not ok. But beyond that, he tries to force Jane to marry him by telling her:
"[...]and do not forget that if you reject it, it is not me you deny, but God. Through my means, He opens to you a noble career; as my wife only can you enter upon it. Refuse to be my wife, and you limit yourself for ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity. Tremble lest in that case you should be numbered with those who have denied the faith, and are worse than infidels!"
What a bastard! He exploits her devotion to and faith in God and her sense of duty. How could she in good conscience deny him, and thus deny God? It's deplorable. She suppresses parts of her being so St. John will think she's obedient and almost says yes to his oppressive offer! Glad she didn't though. Amidst John's ridiculous marriage proposals I kept thinking Jane should have just stayed with Mr. Rochester in the first place and been happy. Sure there's a crazy woman in the attic (By the way, mental health was clearly a severely neglected and unfortunately misunderstood issue.), but that's easily overlooked...

I was happy to see Jane go back to Mr. Rochester. When she made the decision to go back and seek him out, that is when she gained my respect. That is the moment when she owns herself, and I applaud her for that. And it's made obvious in contrast to her relationship with St. John that she is more herself, and does truly know herself when she is with Mr. Rochester. Kudos, Jane.

(On a juvenile note: Every time Mr. Rochester said, "What the deuce?" I thought of Stewie Griffin. ^_^)

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