Jane Eyre has been on my TBR pile for years. Although I read many great pieces of classic literature in high school – including Wuthering Heights, a masterpiece by another brilliant Bronte – Jane Eyre was never assigned. In my adult life, I have picked up the novel several times, only to put it aside after a few chapters. (I’ll admit that the length of the novel intimidated me, even as an adult.) After joining the Mount TBR Reading Challenge, however, I resolved to finish Jane Eyre this year. And I’m SO GLAD I did!
Jane Eyre’s early life is miserable. After her parents pass away, Jane is sent to live with her cruel aunt and loathsome cousins. Though Jane’s aunt dotes upon her own children, she treats Jane with contemptuous detachment. She is, after all, only raising Jane due to a promise she made to her dying husband. Jane’s cousins are equally unlikable – they either ignore Jane completely or treat her with ruthless hostility. Jane is relieved, therefore, when her aunt agrees to send her to Lowood, an all-girls boarding school. Rather than providing the freedom Jane yearns for, however, Lowood reinforces the submission and deprivation to which the young girl has grown accustomed. In spite of all obstacles, Jane is resilient. She not only excels in her studies at Lowood, but she also becomes a beloved teacher at the school. Soon, however, Jane knows she must move on to other opportunities and thereby finds herself at Thornfield. While at Thornfield, Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester, the manor’s brooding, mysterious owner. Throughout the novel, Charlotte Bronte traces their dark romance.
In many ways, I’m thankful that I didn’t read this book in high school. I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much as a teenager as I do now. For instance, the importance of Jane’s inner turmoil as she considers St. Clare’s proposal would have been lost on me as a teenager. As an adult, however, I found myself cheering for Jane as she chose to refuse his proposal. Jane knew she might not receive another proposal, yet she would not wed a man who did not love her passionately – like Mr. Rochester. The stubbornness that Jane uses to resist her ruthless cousin at the beginning of the book saves her from a lifetime of service with a man she cannot love.
I also enjoyed the darkly romantic nature of Bronte’s book. Mr. Rochester is certainly a mysterious character! He is haunted by his past. Oh, and he’s haunted by his crazy wife hiding in the attic. 🙂 I have to admit that I was tempted to hate Mr. Rochester MANY times. After all, he did not reveal his past marriage to Jane until it was uncovered by his brother-in-law at the ceremony. This was certainly ill-treatment of a woman who showed him acceptance, understanding, and love. I found myself loving Mr. Rochester simply because Jane loved him.
Jane Eyre is now one of my favorite books! This is my fourth book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. It is the fifth book I’ve read so far in 2012. I’m currently in the middle of A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly and The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, both of which are on my TBR list.