Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a masterpiece. No wonder then that of all the things the Bronte sisters wrote, Susan Wise Bauer included only Jane Eyre into her list of 32 novels produced by the Western world since the genre was created, around the 1600s. Jane is way ahead of her time. She makes herself the equal of a man (a wealthy gentleman, too) – great feat in 1847! – through conversation and wit and attitude.
But Jane Eyre is more than just an early feminist. She is a Christian who is grappling with injustice, hypocrisy, delusion, and missionarism in the people around her. Some have said this book is anti-Christian because of characters like Mr. Brocklehurst and St John Rivers. These men seem more like caricatures, but have you not met hypocritical characters in your local congregation? Have you not met exalted young missionaries who are deluded into thinking they are doing God and the world a favor through their daily sacrifices? I know I have met my fair share of such people. So this book spoke to me on a very personal level.
I have also enjoyed reading the development of Jane herself. This book is written as an autobiography, so we hear Jane speak in the first person. She takes us on a journey about her life from the time she was 10 until her late 20s.
And then, there is the love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester. I will not give away much of the plot, but suffice it to say that it is fascinating. Personally, I have never liked men my father’s age in a romantic way. But I know several women who enjoyed relationships with men who were older by 13-25 years. In that aspect, I did not “get” Jane. Everything else about the evolution of their relationship though was very believable and I could come to terms with.
I liked how Charlotte Bronte described the landscape and the rest of the characters. I enjoyed looking into the metaphors hidden in the names of the different places Jane stayed at: from Lowood to Ferndean, the author hid a message and a description in each location name.
This has been such a powerful book, I need a break from fiction for the next week, so that I can still bask in the atmosphere of Jane’s universe while I read a nonfiction book.
By the way, I watched the 1970 production of Jane Eyre, which is available for free on Amazon Prime, but did not like it very much. A lot was left out of the book – big chunks, which gave a lot of insight into the development of Jane’s thoughts and feelings. Several things were changed from the book, to fit a simpler plot. It is really not worth your time unless you want to have a visual of what some of the scenes might look like – and even then, would you not like to stick to what your mind imagined by reading the book?
This movie is definitely not a replacement for reading the book. Oh, and you can get Jane Eyre free on Kindle. Your local library probably carries it too, in the Classics section.