Synopsis: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.
Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Brontë
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Pub Date: First published 16th October 1847
One of the famous Brontë classics, I have always had Jane Eyre on my to read list. After receiving the beautiful clothbound hardback for Christmas two years ago, I finally got the book off my bookshelf and started reading. Why? Because, according to friends (and Buzzfeed), Mr. Rochester is my ideal man. I was intrigued; could he take over Heathcliff’s place in my heart?
Turns out he can’t. When I first finished the book, I despaired of it – what a joke, I said. I dismissed Mr. Rochester as too flamboyant, quick to fall in love, and downright mean (I don’t care how crazy your wife is, you do not lock her up!).
But then something happened. My copy on the book stayed on my bedside table for a while and I couldn’t help staring at it and thinking about it. Then, my opinion slowly started to change.
I disliked the book at first glance as a sweeping romance because, put simply, it wasn’t sweeping; there was no passion or despair. Even Mr. Rochester’s declarations of love are tame compared to that of Heathcliff and Cathy. But is that a bad thing?
In a world where we see countless plain Jane heroines becoming suddenly beautiful and winning the heart of the hottest guy in the crowd; it was actually quite refreshing to have someone fall in love with Jane as Jane, warts and all. Their love is one that grows and strengthens on mutual sympathy, respect and a meeting of the minds.
I realised how much I enjoyed the fact that, in a war between self-respect and grand passion, principles win hands down. Mr. Rochester’s rousing and passionate speeches, however lovely, can’t make our heroine forsake her beliefs. At no point does she become submissive and swoon into her strong man’s arms.
Finally, I started to fall in love with Jane herself; her character breaks the boundaries associated with her gender in the Victorian age. She has confidence in herself, her knowledge and her beliefs, and stands up for herself against negative and positive forces in her life. Her aunt, her cousins, and her one true love cannot and will not change her will.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Jane’s intellect is also emphasised throughout the novel. Her curiosity as a child was deemed unsightly and strange by her family but, once at school and in a situation where intelligence is nurtured, Jane blossoms. For Brontë to portray the truth of Jane’s equal intellect is a great step for the recognition of women of the time. The book received a whole host of negative reviews at the time of its publication for this element alone, which makes me love it that much more.
By the time I’d put the book back on my bookshelf, my opinion had completely changed. I love Jane Eyre, not because Mr. Rochester is my ideal man (though even he has grown on me), but because Jane is a heroine that every girl should grow up with.