Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I’ve finally finished Jane Eyre! I am, as usual, embarrassingly behind the times.

So a little history about my experience with this book. By the time my two youngest siblings were born, my parents had twigged onto the fact that I liked books and got me one new book for each new sibling (to help the transition, I think?). The books I received were Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and unfortunately, I did not like them. I couldn’t even finish them. For some strange reason, the language made my head hurt. So I put them aside.

When I grew up, I had even less reason to read Jane Eyre. I heard that Bronte spoke disparaging of my favourite Jane Austen (and I reread her books all the time) and was like ‘clearly she doesn’t have good judgement'.

Then, I found out about Jane Steele, the rewriting of Jane Eyre where Jane becomes a murderess. That sounded fun, and since I’m the type that would like to read the original before reading the rewrite, I decided that if I could read Dickens and Braddon, I could probably handle Bronte.

Well, I just finished the book and while I liked it well-enough, I didn’t love it.

If you haven’t heard of the plot of Jane Eyre, basically Jane Eyre is this despised child who becomes a governess who falls in love with a pompous guy who has his mad wife locked in an attic.

My biggest impediment to enjoying the book wasn’t the language (surprisingly), but Jane herself. There were parts where I was like “you go girl” (mostly the parts where she stands up for herself) but she came off as someone who thought herself superior which made it hard to like her.

In fact, while Jane acts like she has low self-esteem, the way the book is written makes it sound like she delights in how she thinks lowly about herself. And more than that, the way she thinks of girls and women who are not like her is off-putting. There are two bright, vivacious girls in the novel - Adele, the girl she teaches, and Miss Oliver.

Adele is somewhat spoilt but charming child and while Jane professes to have an affection for her, you never really see or feel it. And despite her horrible childhood, she’s happy when Adele becomes a “pleasing and obliging companion: docile, good-tempered, and well-principled.” Her Aunt Reed was definitely horrible, but didn’t she want Jane to basically be what Adele became (okay she had some family issues but her charges against Jane were her attitude and behaviour)

Not to mention that she doesn’t seem to mind the fact that Adele’s dad is determined not to acknowledge her. Even though Jane grew up an orphan and probably knows what Adele feels.

As for Miss Oliver, she’s this slightly flighty but essentially good-natured heiress who makes friends with Jane. After acknowledging her charms, Jane just has to add “she was not profoundly interesting or thoroughly impressive.”

All this, plus the fact that Jane the narrator doesn’t give Adele and Miss Oliver the space to develop into well-rounded characters made Jane come off as the self-superior kind which I found to be fairly irritating.

And let’s not get me started on Mr Rochester; who is only superficially similar to another pompous character: Darcy from P&P. Darcy was pompous and socially awkward but he had a good heart. Mr Rochester basically promised himself to someone (think of what happened in Sense and Sensibility) and got her to break it off. Not to mention locking his wife in the attic and trying to force Jane into bigamy.

Overall, I’m glad I’ve finally read Jane Eyre because she’s an important part of Western literature. The language is a little heavy but there were points in the novel where I was genuinely rooting for, and admiring, Jane and her principles. That said, I don’t see this book as something that I will return to over and over again.


  1. Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite novels, and I am sorry you didn't like it more. I love that Jane and Edward are flawed--and I chock a lot of Jane's feelings and thoughts as part of that time period. I know some think Edward is the romantic heroes of all romantic heroes, but I cannot go that far (not even close). I'd much rather Mr. Darcy. I love the Gothic feel of the novel and Charlotte's writing. Alas, she isn't for everyone--and I accept that. I do hope you will read Jane Steele just the same. I finished it this past week and absolutely loved it. I hope you will too. It leans heavily on Jane Eyre, and so I think you will be at an advantage going in having read that. But it's a satire and a story all on its own. Different enough, as Jane Steele herself will tell you.

    1. I am definitely looking forward to reading Jane Steele! I'll agree with you that Edward is no where close to being a romantic hero :p


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