Waffling, I do not have the patience for it; which is ironic as I do seem to have issues with verbalising my elastic-band thought process.1 I loved Jane Eyre, but at times I wanted Brontë to shut-up; my friend suspects that had she an editor a quarter of the novel would have been cut.
Jane Eyre is a novel I had been meaning to read for ages, almost everyone I know has read it and I was lagging behind them in my obstinacy. Jane Eyre also features on my list of books to read before I am thirty; four down, many more to go.
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. With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Brontë’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.2
Annoyingly (more so for you than me) I am going to write about Jane Eyre back to front and then possibly back again; as to discuss Jane Eyre I need to voice some aggravations before I can sing its praises.
Up until Bertha’s discovery I was gripped, as you will know if you follow me on twitter; however once Jane ran off into poverty I became disheartened. This I attributed to the novel’s early climax and the fallout being rather voluminous. In a way that I do not think would be as tolerated in modern day literature, Jane’s run from love and moral corruption lead her straight into the arms of a family she never dreamt she could have; as heart-warming as this is, Brontë allows it far too much time. It was lengthy and aggravating; I am sure I missed a paragraph or two during the St John (pronounced Sin-gin) narrative.
While I realise in St John is there as a total opposite and more gathered individual to our emotional and extravagant Mr Rochester, he bored me to death with his pious, defensive and stubborn nature. He matched Jane in temperament and control, but lacked the passion to entice her. Mr Rochester is all that Jane is not; they say opposites attract.
That, in essence, is how I fell in love reading Jane Eyre; however, as fantastic as Mr Rochester is, a man like Rochester will never exist. He is our authors fantasy man; passionate, Rochester is open with his emotions, past lovers and experiences. While physically unattractive, Jane falls in love with Rochester’s personality and he with hers. Brontë is criticising those who lust after beauty, who have no intelligence to know there is more to love than fortune and good looks. Rochester knows about the world, an attractive feature to a naive untravelled young girl, he can sing, he is funny, he is the ideal companion.
Jane is a wonderfully pure creation; for any woman who feels ugly or plain hers is a shared journey. She is passionate but reserved, she knows her places and fights the temptation and games Rochester throws at her. Rochester is a cruel man, he teases and plays with Jane and still she loves him. He has acted horrendously in his youth, has made many mistakes in love and still she sees through these errors. Jane is arguably too forgiving, considering the crimes Rochester has committed, possibly attributing this to his passionate nature. Jane wants to fix the wings of her broken bird, she is the calm to his storm.
The one dark cloud hovering over Jane and Rochester’s beautiful love story takes form in Bronte’s colonialist connotations. Depressingly ignorant (a sign of the thinking at the time), the colonialist tones in Jane Eyre are unsettling. Rochester’s treatment of Bertha is horrific, to then align her as ‘The Other’ was offensive. Bertha, a “half-Creole” West Indian, is demonised as ‘The Other’, a mad and regressed woman of wealth Rochester is tricked into marrying. Only Jane shows her the slightest of sympathies, however, only in that it is not her fault she is mad.
“To tell me that I had already a wife is an empty mockery: you know now that I had but a hideous demon.”3
Bertha is a far more sympathetic character than she is given words for, her race and gender are cast against her and her husband locks her in a tower. I am sure I would go insane locked in a windowless room. She is then fortuitously, for Jane and Rochester, killed off so that the protagonists may be happy.
Colonialism and length aside, Jane Eyre was beautifully written and addictive; well worth a read.
- As in, there is one over-all subject I am trying to talk about formed as an elastic-band ball in my mind, however, I discuss it in terms of each individual elastic-band and not the ball as a whole. A lot of the time it seems like I am rushing to say lots of unrelated things, but it all works towards the main topic of conversation. [↩]
- Synopsis from GoodReads [↩]
- Rochester [↩]