Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre is a gothic love story… the type of tale that has been told endless times with a few variations from the many similar plots. A classic story of faith and hope, I read it as a teenager and was quite impressed. This second reading was slightly less enjoyable.
Set in the mid-1800’s within the countryside of England, the story develops amongst quaint, sparsely populated villages surrounded by the English moors, farm land, and castles owned by the privileged few. They are descendants of the wealthy land barons… members of an exclusive society of power and money. This is the story of a poor abandoned girl- raised by her wicked Aunt- and sent away to a charity school for orphans where she stoically endures the harsh conditions. She eventually becomes a teacher and later a governess, then falls in love with the master of the estate, Mr. Rochester.
There is nothing remarkable about Jane Eyre. This was Charlotte Bronte’s first novel. Published in 1847 when she was thirty-one years old, the flowery prose is not as developed or polished as in her later books. The plot is tedious at times. It contains many religious undertones, though is spiritual without being ‘preachy’. There are a few miracles and absurd coincidences that help the story flow smoothly but make the plot a bit of a stretch. You may find Jane’s love, patience, faith, integrity, scruples, judgement, and inner strength inspirational, but Jane is just a little too perfect for my taste- saccharine and righteous beyond belief. And Mr. Rochester did not strike me as all that great a catch- marrying for money and then keeping his crazy wife locked in the attic while attempting to commit bigamy. Unlike today, Mr. Rochester’s victim would not have been easily forgiven. Jane would have been totally ruined- ostracized from society forever. And yet strangely, Rochester is Bronte’s hero.
If you do enjoy the melodrama of Jane Eyre but don’t insist on fairy tale endings, I highly recommend Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy which takes place approximately twenty-five years later. The story is a lot more realistic and has wonderful descriptions of the countryside and English lifestyle.
Rated 3 Stars August 2013
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