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Transplanted to Miami, FL, from Iowa City, IA. Trying to find a balance between reading, knitting, playing mom taxi, and enjoying the sun and sand in Miami.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

  I remember Jane Eyre as one of my favorite of the books I had to read in high school AP English. With the release of Jasper Fforde’s new book, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, I decided it was time to revisit Jane Eyre. There is also a new movie version of Jane Eyre being released this month. I started to read Jane Eyre and was amazed that it was so good. I remembered enjoying the story when I read it in my sophomore year, but it really is an amazing book. If it’s possible to spoil a book this old, there are spoilers ahead in this review.  
Jane is a remarkable heroine, an orphan who was raised by an aunt by marriage for the first ten years of her life, she received little love or kindness. She was sent to a school for other unfortunate girls. There she finally saw some kindness and learned valuable life lessons. Jane then decided to seek employment outside of Lowood Institution. After running an advertisement for employment. Jane accepted employment at Thornfield Hall as governess to Adele, Edward Rochester’s ward. 
Jane got settled in at Thornfield with Adele and the housekeeper, and was quite enjoying her peaceful life. Then, one evening, Jane went for a walk and while sitting on a fence stile, she meets her employer, Edward Rochester. From that point on, the book is a love story. Up to this point, Jane had been learning to grab any little bits of peace and happiness she could find, and endure the bad times with stoicism. 
Jane finally begins to come out of her shell and be herself around Rochester. For the first time she harbors a dreamy vision of what her future could be like. No matter how hard she tries to talk sense into herself, Jane persists in holding on to that nugget of hope. However, even while Jane is at her highest point, there are clues that she may not be destined for a happy ending. The destruction by lightning of the horse chestnut tree she sat under with Rochester, for example. Other elements that really add to the gothic feel of this novel, like the middle of the night fire in Rochester’s bedroom, the strange laughter, and finally the appearance of a strange woman in Jane’s bedroom shortly before her wedding. 
One of the big themes in Jane Eyre is family. In a way, it has a message that still applies, that there are many types of families. Some we are born into, some we choose for ourselves, but always, they have struggles. Jane’s time with her aunt, Mrs. Reed, definitely had little happiness. Jane was somewhat happier, at least in the close associations she made with some of the women at Lowood Institution, but those were destined to be transitory. Finally, at Thornfield, Jane saw the chance at a real family with whom she would be happy, with Edward, and Adele, and even the staff at the large house, Jane would have been very happy. Unfortunately, that was not to be either. Ultimately though, Jane does find a family, both family that she would choose for herself, and by a happy coincidence she is also a blood relation. 
Jane leaves Thornfield and is taken in by the Rivers family. St. John is a pastor, and his two sisters are governesses. Jane is immediately taken by the family, especially the two women, with whom she has much in common. She takes the position as the village school mistress, for the girl’s school. Eventually Jane learns that the Rivers’ are actually her cousins, and that she is the recipient of an inheritance from her father’s brother.
I think Jane is able to finally seek out Rochester after her interlude with the Rivers’, because she knows she has a home, come what may. I was so glad that Jane was able to stay strong enough to turn down St. John Rivers’ proposal. I think Jane could have found a certain satisfaction from missionary work, but it is much happier that she found passion and true companionship. It also helped that Jane returned to Rochester in a position of strength that enabled her to be sure that she was his equal. Jane had an independent living, and Rochester’s injuries rendered him in need of assistance for very basic things. 
Bottom line, if you have never read Jane Eyre, you should give it a try. I think I like it better than Jane Austen. If you haven’t read Charlotte Bronte’s work since high school, the time is perfect to revisit it. The novel took me a little longer to get through than most books of similar length. That was partly due to phrases and passages that were in French and not translated in the edition I had. I ended up finding a free iPad app that would allow me to translate the French into English, and it made the book much more enjoyable. I also needed a dictionary of some type handy to look up some of those archaic words that are rarely seen. I didn’t find having to look up either words or French phrases a detraction from how good the novel was. 
I’m going to give Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, 1 bookmark. 
I’m currently reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, and will be going through the rest of the Thursday Next series in order.