I asked my mum for a copy of it for last Christmas and she bought me this lovely, cloth-bound edition. Now, I know, a good reader should not “judge a book by it’s cover” but there are some books that take pride on my book shelf not just because of it’s content but also for what it is packaged in. Some books are just wonderful to hold.
Anyway, onto the review.
Charlotte Bronte, you wonderful, wonderful woman. I can’t help but wonder what she may have been like if she lived in the 21st century, she was so ahead of her time. I know some people say that Bronte wasn’t a feminist, but there is something definitely proto-feminist in her works;
“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, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing 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.”
Jane Eyre is a fantastic character, quiet, unassuming and yet completely sure of herself. She also has some of the best character development that I have ever read, towards the end of the novel she gains such self-confidence that you feel proud of her, despite knowing that she is fictional.
I also love that this is not just a mere romance novel. Although that is one of the most captivating elements of it. It’s about finding yourself, and knowing for yourself what you can and can not do. Jane learns through hardship that she can forgive those who wronged her and she knows that she can’t be with Mr Rochester because of his still breathing, yet strark-raving mad wife. Yet she can neither bring herself to marry St John.
Mr Rochester was also a complex character, I found myself hating him one page then swooning the next. The fantastic thing is that, while you sympathize with him, you can’t quite bring yourself to thinking him just in his actions.
The Gothic element of the novel is just icing on an already delicious cake. Aside from the slightly over-flowery descriptions at points, I can find barely a fault in this novel.
[ I know some people find it abhorrent that Rochester losing his sight was the only way for them to become “equal” but I don’t think that was where Bronte was coming from. I think she had a more religious analogy there. Samson Judges 13:19–24 is a powerful man granted with supernatural strength by God, who had two weaknesses. Distrustful women and vanity. After he tries to marry someone that his parents do not approve of he is blinded. Sound familiar? The only difference here is that Samson dies without his sight, here, however Rochester repents and is eventually rewarded by being able to – at least partially – see again. Or, it could be that Bronte wanted to exchange Rochester’s physical sight in order for him to more clearly see his sins and God, therefore gaining metaphorical sight and then, once achieving that, being awarded with physical sight once more. Either way, I enjoyed this vulnerability he now had, enabling him to speak as plainly with Jane as she did with him without him having to resort to jealousy tactics or dressing up as a gypsy. I thought it was touching.]
Overall, I really enjoyed the whole experience of reading Jane Eyre and am sure I will revisit it often. It will definitely be going on my favourite shelf!
“Jane, be still; don’t struggle so like a wild, frantic bird, that is rending its own plumage in its desperation.”
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.”.