Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Friday, August 8, 2014 5:46 PM
Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Brontë
Published: May 5, 1992  (first published 1847)
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions
Genre: Classic Literature
Pages: 409
Source: Purchased
Ranking: 5 stars
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Synopsis
Having grown up an orphan in the home of her cruel aunt and at a harsh charity school, Jane Eyre becomes an independent and spirited survivor - qualities that serve her well as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him whatever the consequences or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving her beloved? (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
You would think that after reading or listening to Jane Eyre four, maybe five times, I would have grown tired of this story, but I don’t think that’s possible. If anything, I've grown even fonder of the story with each reading. I love revisiting Thornfield Hall, and meeting Mr. Rochester all over again, and watching as this all too familiar tale unfolds. Every time I read Jane Eyre, I feel like I've returned to a place near and dear to me, like I've ran into an old friend and we’re catching up, and it’s a lovely feeling. I know everything that happens, there are obviously no surprises, but I'm always deeply affected by this story nonetheless.

Jane Eyre tells the tale of a lonely orphan, who, after losing her parents to typhus, is taken in by her Uncle Reed. When her uncle passes away, she is left in the care of her Aunt Reed, who resents Jane for the favoritism she was shown by her late uncle. She is mistreated at the hands of her aunt and her three cousins, attacked with words and fists, and the constant object of scorn and suspicion even when she has done nothing wrong. Eventually, she is sent to school, a charitable school for poor or orphaned girls called Lowood Institution. Nearly starved and facing harsh punishment, her experience there is almost worse than the injustices she suffered at her aunt’s estate Gateshead Hall. Yet she finds friends and role models at Lowood, and as she gains an education, she grows into a respectable lady with many skills. She eventually applies for a governess position and finds a place at Thornfield Hall. Her interactions with the master there, Mr. Rochester, leave her feeling both confused and enamored. A complicated romance unfolds, and Jane begins to discover herself and a place where she might belong after so many painful years.

Jane Eyre revolves around the romance between Mr. Rochester and Jane, a romance that is far from typical, and cannot be called easy or straightforward by any means. Both characters have been hurt in the past, and both of them bear invisible scars that may never fully heal. It is this romance that keeps my interest, that makes for a gripping tale that will leave you raw and emotionally affected. While Mr. Rochester is superior in status and wealth to Jane, they are well-matched in intelligence and personality, and they recognize in each other a kindred spirit, something they have longed for.

Mr. Rochester is not a book boyfriend, or a fictional crush of mine. He is not perfect, or dashing, or charming in any sense of the word. He’s a brooding, temperamental character who tends to frustrate more than he wins over the reader. I’m not even sure I like him that much, although his fractured self, his maddening personality has me mesmerized and unable to put down this book. He holds a dark magnetism that has the reader wanting to read on, to discover more of his character and uncover his deep dark secrets. Just as Mr. Rochester is flawed, Jane can be cold, stubborn, and slow to trust, which is understandable given her rough past. But she is also strong and holds to her values. It is clear that the two are made for each other, at the risk of sounding clichéd, and they make a fitting pair. The reader may not always like these main characters, but you can’t help but cheer them on, hoping that they’ll end up together after all they have been through.

The characters of Jane Eyre may not be likeable, but they were never meant to be. And even so, I cannot help but sympathize with their plight, as I also find redeeming qualities in each of them. But while the characters are so complex, and wonderfully developed, it is the underlying messages conveyed that truly make this novel stand out. Ahead of its time, Jane Eyre brings up feminist and social class issues. When Jane tries to assert herself as an independent woman, she finds opposition from men in her life. Even Mr. Rochester would have her dependent on his money, happy to shower her with gifts when Jane would wish otherwise. Jane is insistent on the fact that she will not rely on a man’s fortune, and that she will not marry for a situation but only for love, and I really grew to respect her because of this. Then there are so many instances in Jane Eyre where characters will look down on the working class, and even Jane herself is guilty of this. She judges others for their class prejudices, but then shares in them herself. Jane Eyre takes a hard look at the hierarchical class system of England in this time period, and illuminates some of the hypocrisies and cruelties of the higher class.

While Jane Eyre heavily focuses on the achingly beautiful romance shared between Mr. Rochester and Jane, it is also so much more than a romance. It is a Gothic novel, containing elements of suspense and even horror as we try to discover Mr. Rochester’s dark past. It is also a social commentary on the time period, revealing how the upper class and even Jane herself discriminates against the lower classes. Jane Eyre is a classic for a reason, as it is a timeless novel, one that will never be forgotten. I’d recommend this one to any fans of classic literature or Gothic romance, as I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.



17 comments:

  1. I absolutely agree that this tale never gets old, no matter how many times I revisit it. Like you, I find it impossible to romanticize Mr. Rochester into a fictional crush of any sort. I love the realistic quality of his romance with Jane; the raw exposure of his dark underbelly side-by-side with his pure love for her. When I first read this at thirteen it completely altered my perception of true love and I keep returning to it precisely because of that quality. Darcy, for all his flaws, is too easy to mold into Prince Charming--though I looove him!--but Rochester stubbornly refuses to give even an inch and I admire his character separately from Jane's, now, having re-read this story many times. Lovely review, Courtney--adore this book and your review of it.

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    1. awwww thanks Keertana! and I agree with everything you said! This is why I love Jane Eyre so much. Mr. Rochester defies all of your expectations, and he's so different from every Prince Charming character you've seen before. It's such a realistic romance, and it remains my favorite book!

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  2. Wonderful review Courtney! This is my favorite novel, and I was glad to read your thoughts on it, especially as I agree with so much of it! (I'd just say that Mr. Rochester is totally my book boyfriend LOL Which probably says some weird things about me.:D)

    The fact that this story is more than the romance, which is such a popular aspect of it, really resonates with me - it's why I keep coming back to it to read and ponder because I love the messages it holds, and Jane's character is so inspiring to me. I'm so happy that I read your review and that you are such a fan of this book too!

    Do you happen to have a favorite film adaptation?

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    1. No that's not weird at all! I did have sort of a thing for him back in the day! and I am ashamed to admit I've only seen the 2011 version with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. I own it and I plan to rewatch it this weekend because reading the book has me wanting to see it again. Do you have a favorite adaptation you could recommend?

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    2. I LOVE the 2011 version! I think it captures the mood and the spirit of the story so well even if it doesn't include everything in the book. Probably my favorite adaptation is an older miniseries from 1973 - it doesn't have much in cinematography and it can be a bit like watching a play than a TV show, but I love the acting, and the script is so close to the book. And it also has my favorite Rochester.

      I saw Rachel's comment below and I have to say that the 2006 version is really good - especially Ruth Wilson - but I was disappointed by a few things in it. And the 1996 version was the first one I watched so I think I have a fondness for it, but it doesn't come close to the 2011 version for me. I feel like watching the 2011 film now too! :)

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    3. Okay I am definitely going to have to check these out! I'm excited to watch these!

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  3. I loved this classic too, Courtney! Like you, I've never tired of the story. Every time there's a new film adaptation I'm always on board and I've read a re-telling of it that I adored. I just noticed your comment above about film adaptations, and I have to say my favorite is the 2006 version with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. 2nd favorite was the one with William Hurt (1996), surprising choice for Mr. Rochester, but he was really good! Great actor! I think Charlotte Gainsbourg was my favorite choice for Jane.

    Wonderful review! :)

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    1. Thanks, Rachel! I'll have to check out these movies! It's a shame I haven't seen them yet! Maybe I'll do a marathon :D

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  4. Jane Eyre is one of the classics that is so close to heart. I've read it multiple times and each time, the love for the novel grows more and more. Like you, I find Mr. Rochester not a likable one but loved the romance between him and Jane. Courtney, this is a beautiful review!! :)

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  5. I picked up a free audiobook of this one from SYNC a while back, not really thinking much of it because classic literature isn't my forte, but I surprisingly grew quite fond of it as well! I love how you describe Jane, Mr. Rochester and their romance - I felt the same. Of course they're not perfect characters and I love that. But together they compliment each other so well and I found myself completely engaged in their story. I also loved the feminist themes! Really fantastic review here, Courtney!

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    1. Exactly! They work so well together and it's great that they found one another after everything! Thanks, Aylee!

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  6. This is one I'm reallllly longing to try. I bought the audio recently and was thinking it might be a fun fall listen.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it! It's a perfect fall read :D

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  7. Aww that's wonderful that you continue to love Jane Eyre more with each reading! I don't know if I told you this before, but I tried reading it in high school and ended up putting it back down shortly thereafter. Thank goodness I took that class on 19th century British Lit at Laf so I was forced to read it - and realized that I really, really liked the story.
    This is such a beautifully written and thought review, Cort! I also feel like it's the beginning of a critical analysis (of which I approve). And now this is making me want to re-read it myself...Soon, perhaps. :)

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! No, I don't believe you told me that. I'm so glad you eventually did read it, and I wish I had taken that class now. haha :D

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  8. I love this book, and the romance! Such an endlessly re-readable classic. Lovely assessment of the characters - you're right, they aren't very likable and Rochester wouldn't make a boyfriend list - but they work so well as a pair. I also like what you said about this book having some feminist and social class themes too. It makes me think of Charlotte's sister Anne's book The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which surprised me a great deal in some of its progressive themes and ideas.

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