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Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

April 21, 2011

I did not want that ending. I wanted Jane Eyre to be as depressing in ending as it was during its peak. I shouldn’t have expected anything different (how immensely uncharacteristic of the literary period if it had been), but that does not change the fact that I wanted Charlotte Bronte’s tale of love, deception, and love again to be more about deception in the end than about love.

I cannot lie though, I felt, for a moment, a few pages of disbelief as it seemed that Miss Eyre was going to marry another man out of anything other than complete and total love. It felt like it was impossible for a woman so particularly characterized as a woman as principle to do anything but that which absolute principle supported. And I did not want to read it happening – I was frightened; and for it to have happened without her meeting her real love once more! Why! that would simply be unacceptable.

Thank goodness it did not happen that way (though if this were a modern novel, with modern themes on humanity, I am sure it would have – my how we seem to have lost those rose-coloured glasses with which we once allowed ourselves to envisage our species).

I appreciated the romantic theme of the novel a great deal more than I anticipated – and how it, though similar to other works from the period, is a bit more particularly defined. In its way of honouring true love above convenient love or practical love, it made the female protagonist a strong and demanding individual, educated and smart and powerful in her relationships. This is similar to other major works from the period, such as Pride and Prejudice, but, unlike Pride and Prejudice, we are aware of the protagonist’s love throughout this novel. Nothing is hidden. And she is confronted with a choice in the end, not given the thing that she desires most in a final few rousing chapters without a considerable fight.

The ability of the author to outline the different ways that we can love others, and the lengths we are almost willing to go for those we love in ways other than romantic, was really quite impressive. St. John Rivers, a character introduced late in the novel but who becomes intimately involved in outlining the theme, is a perfectly executed foil to Mr. Rochester (indeed, this perfection comes in one of the last moments of extended dialogue in the novel, between Mr. Rochester and Jane, in which you cannot help but laught.) Charlotte, like many of the authors of her time and locale, was quite the observer of the human condition – of that there is no doubt.

She was also, clearly, quite attached to darkness, superstition, and deception. Though the first chapters of the novel come off as a criticism of the church, the last few chapters and the introduction of St. John Rivers seems to affirm the church as a home of good-hearted persons (just with a few bad eggs in the carton). Moreover, odd events take place that are always raising the hairs on the back of your neck as you are reading – attempts at murder, suicides, cataclysmic destruction of estates. Laughter, or cackling, at night. Beckoning voices that are coming from nowhere but calling you to somewhere. How intriguing that love and superstition are exalted into the same sphere – given the same book to reveal themselves.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Jane Eyre. She was a fascinating character, as were many of the others in the story. A hero of sorts – whose world was being thrown into a confusing state of flux. And at times the story is written in this manner – there were moments where the dialogue and the writing made me delirious with confusion. And the characters, the dialects, and events which bring them together – all features worth praising. A highly, highly recommended read.

And now onto something decidedly more modern – Yann Martel’s latest novel about truth, Beatrice and Virgil.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie Cockrill permalink
    April 22, 2011 10:56 pm

    Will I read this book? I am intrigued by the theme of deception, the idea that Love fails us if it wears a mask. I want to feel Jane’s pain, Charlotte’s pain – it is my own already. Prepared as if for me, how could I deny this book its way? To my dismay, I am currently on medication which makes it difficult to read. I might settle for the movie, but I am nonetheless thirsty for Charlotte Bronte’s words. Thank you for both posts on this novel.

  2. canadianhumility permalink
    April 23, 2011 6:40 pm

    If you are not able to read it, I would recommend an audio book. I've actually never enjoyed a novel in this format, but I don't think that Bronte's words are to be missed, or replaced with an abridged version – such as you will find in the movie. I'm looking forward to seeing that interpretation when I can, though (and I'll be sure to let you know how it views).

    I would recommend finding a way of enjoying the story though – and the characters. And if that has to be done in film format then I hope for your sake (and many others') that it is very good adaptation.

    Regarding audio books, many public library services have links to online resources where you can download audio books as though you are borrowing them from the library. They tend to vary in how you 'return' the book, but you can play them from your computer or MP3 player as though they are podcasts. This may be a great, and inexpensive, compromise for you.

    Thank you for the comment, Katie. It is a pleasure to know that somebody is reading what it is that I am writing.

  3. Katie Cockrill permalink
    April 26, 2011 2:35 am

    Thank you, Neal. I agree it would be worth looking into audio books… I will see how it goes. As for your blog, I am already enjoying it. Good luck with your new reading strategy!

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