Jane Says…….I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will………
I ‘m addicted to film based on the books of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. I was enraptured by the recent Cary Fukunaga version with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. If Jane Eyre is advertised on PBS Masterpiece Theater on a Sunday afternoon or I’ve run across it on Netflix, I’ve watched it. I am sucker for a period piece of dark Gothic romance. Strangely enough, I had never read the book, except for an adapted version that I used for a remedial class at work. The adapted version was bland and boring, and I never thought I’d tackle the real Jane Eyre.
I’m rife with confessions in my book reviews and admitted in review #4 that I was a cheapskate. This miserly behavior led to my download of a free version of the Jane Eyre e-book for my Kindle (and yes, it’s the cheapest Kindle sold!)
The kids, my mom, and I went to the beach for a couple of days for spring break and I brought along the Kindle just so I would have something to do while the kids swam in the still-freezing pool. I decided to tackle Jane Eyre, and I cannot believe I waited so late in life to finally read this novel.
The story focuses on the title character, Jane Eyre and her growth from a young girl into a woman. Jane is the saddest of girls because she is an orphan forced to live in the care of her aunt– the typical Victorian tale of woe. As trite as this situation may be to the modern reader familiar with Dickens, Charlotte Bronte creates the most heartfelt and broken scenes of Jane’s life and misfortune using the most gorgeous vocabulary I have read voluntarily in a long time. You may find it antiquated, but it warms my heart to read SAT vocabulary used in elegant prose.
Jane’s story is divided into several acts. The first act focuses on her life with her maternal uncle’s family at Gateshead. Her parents are dead and now so is her uncle and Jane is cared for by Aunt Sarah Reed who treats her like a servant. Further, the cousins are mean and the male cousin is mentally and physically abusive. “You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us.” — cousin John Reed.
Whereas many heroines will take the abuse as if they deserve it, Jane rebels and fights back. She is punished for her refusal to be abused by being locked in the very room where her uncle died. Jane is terrified, but upon her release, she is brutally honest, I am glad you are no relation of mine. I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to visit you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty.–Jane Eyre .
After her aunt finds a way to rid herself of the orphan, Jane is sent to the Lowood School for Girls, which is exactly as awful as you can imagine. Here, the girls aren’t always physically abused, but they are barely fed and rarely loved. However, it’s far better than what she escaped from: I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations, for Gateshead and its daily luxuries–Jane Eyre. Jane also meets Helen Burns and they strike up a friendship. Even though conditions here are mostly awful, Jane excels in her education spending six years there as a student and two additional years as a teacher. What else is a girl to do but study and work when she is poor?
The pivotal act of the book for me was when Jane is employed as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where Jane’s only charge shall be the young French girl, Adele Varens. The house itself is Gothic and foreboding, All these relics gave…Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine to memory. I liked the hush, the gloom, the quaintness of these retreats in the day; but I by no means coveted a night’s repose on one of those wide and heavy beds: shut in, some of them, with doors of oak; shaded, others, with wrought old-English hangings crusted with thick work, portraying effigies of strange flowers, and stranger birds, and strangest human beings,–all which would have looked strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam of moonlight …
The master of the house is the mysterious Mr. Rochester, the perfectly Byronic hero of the book. He is mad, bad, and dangerous to know—-a man of secrets and moral ambiguity. He had a dark face, with stern features, and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked ireful and thwarted just now. Even though he is threatening, there is something about Rochester that intrigues Jane, but she is not the type of heroine to give in to his demands or desires just because he is the man in charge.
Jane is very strong, fierce and independent. Although she was created in a time of suppression of the female gender, she does attempt to have a fulfilling life on her own terms. She is a woman before her time and I so wish that Jane Eyre could be valued more in a modern audience, rather than the insipid Bella Swan. I know all of us wonder, “Why Am I Here? What is my Purpose in Life?” Jane questions her own life and purpose just as much as any of us still do today, but she doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for herself. She makes the best of what she has.
Jane Eyre is in my mind a romance. There were the moments of swooning (mine and Jane’s), when Jane admits at one point, her true feelings for Rochester, I had not intended to love him: the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, green and strong! He made me love him without looking at me. It may not have the sweeping gestures of a typical modern romance, but Jane does find satisfaction.