Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

In trying to find an image of the copy I was reading for this post, I've discovered that a LOT of people have cats named Jane Eyre. And they like to pose said cats and take pictures of them.

This reading of Jane Eyre marks my third time entering her world. I believe the first time I read the book I was in high school. My mother had a copy, a large, illurstrated hard-back, and, when I was looking for a new book, she urged me to read it. I remember being reluctant; it was a CLASSIC after all, which meant that it would be boring. But I never found Jane Eyre to be a boring read. I loved it, and I love it still!

The second reading, when I got the copy that I re-read this time, had to have been for a college English class. I was an English literature minor, so it was probably for my Brit Lit class, but I really don't recall. The only proof I have of reading it a second time is the book itself.

As I have stated, I LOVE Jane Eyre. Jane is one of my favorite heroines of all time. She is far spunkier than most female protagonists of the time, and she's not beautiful herself, which made her much more relatable than the alabaster-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed heroines some authors created.

I far prefer Charlotte Bronte's writing to that of Jane Austen's (don't crucify me, Austen fans!). I think it's the Gothic elements. Because, overall, Jane Eyre IS a Gothic novel. And I love those little things that make it so: the madwoman in the attic; Thornfield Hall, the prototypic Gothic manor; the voices across the moors. Even Mr. Rochester, with his lack of physical beauty, seems to embody the Gothic hero.

Like most people, my favorite scenes are when Jane is at Thornfield, and, like most people, I HATE the parts where she is with St. John Rivers. But I think they are necessary to give a rounded picture of society at the time. The saintly, self-sacrificing St. John, ruled by his sense of religious duty is a nice foil to the turbulent, passionate Mr. Rochester, ruled by his emotions. Two men of opposite ends of the spectrum who each wish to make Jane his wife. And poor Jane, in the middle, knowing she should choose duty, but choosing to give in to her passions instead.

The love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester is my favorite of all time, with the exception of Anne and Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables. When the two of them came together, before Jane learned of the FIRST Mrs. Rochester, tears sprang to my eyes. I like a happy ending as much as the next girl, so I'm glad that all ends well with Jane.

I recommend this book to anyone who has never read it. Or to anyone who feels the need to read a classic that doesn't FEEL like a classic. It's a fantastic read.

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