Charlotte Bronte's masterpiece of gothic romance—an epic and intimate narrative of love, tragedy, and one woman's struggle to find happiness in the face of overwhelming hardship—now with an insightful introduction from Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and an excerpt from her novel
Jane Eyre follows a timeless heroine's quest to find her place in the world. Orphaned as a child, Jane Eyre suffers cruelty and abuse at the hands of her aunt and cousins. Banished to the Lowood school, she forges a path for herself and thrives—in spite of loneliness, poverty, and hunger. When the opportunity for work as a governess sends her to Thornfield Hall, she meets its owner, Edward Rochester, the man who will forever alter the course of her young life. At home for the first time, she begins to fall deeply, irrevocably in love with Mr. Rochester, nurtured by his near-spiritual adoration. But the manor is rife with mysteries, and one, bound to the attic of Thornfield, will threaten Jane's hard-won happiness in ways she had never imagined.
A tale of fire, storms, and dark secrets, Jane Eyre has endured as an enthrallingly timeless classic.
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In this reading, I was struck by the juxtaposition of Rochester with St. John Rivers. While Charlotte Bronte had a strong moral streak, she was no blue nose. She builds a strong case against a woman utterly subjugating herself to the will of a rigid kind of I-know-what-God-really-wants Christian.
I can also see how Jane Eyre could be considered a kind of proto-feminist, well-educated and independent.
I was struck, too, by how far the mid-19th century morality differs from that of today. If Newt Gingrich or John McCain had been saddled with Bertha Rochester, we know what they would have done, given what they did in fact do to their sick or injured wives. Heck, nowadays, Rochester could have dropped her off in any bus station and still made a successful run for public office. And maiming himself while trying to save the lunatic from the fire she set? Out of the question.
In some ways, I am glad that our society is less hide-bound in some ways, but at the same time, I wish that more of us felt our principles (whatever they may be) more deeply.more
Jane is so independent and so desperate to live her life on her own terms that she sometimes comes off as harsh and rude. For the times, however, I think that all of the Christian aspirations and self-infliction of suffering makes sense.
This novel, though a longer one, has always captivated me and, I think, always will. Jane feels sorry for herself as a child but grows to become a woman who understands that to suffer is to live and that finding your own happiness is what one should seek in life. She enjoys being a refined woman and knows herself well.
It's easy to find fault in her not becoming Mr. Rochester's mistress but she clings to her morals and for that I have always respected her. At the end of the book when it is proven that they both love each other for who each other is the ending is that much sweeter. Had she become his mistress I think the ending would have been much closer to her death in India or some such place.
One of my favorite things about "Jane Eyre" is the awful way that everyone constantly tells her how plain and horrible she is. It's terrible and I don't really understand why this was acceptable to do even to a woman of 19...however, it makes it so sweet and romantic when Rochester calls her his fairy and his sprite and talks of how pretty he finds her and how interesting. And I love how she calls Edward ugly but finds him handsome through her love for him. I like how it's not a perfect romance with beautiful people that don't seem real. At the end, she loves him even in his mangled state and finds herself happiest when with him.
My favorite favorite book in the whole world. Even before "Matilda" by Roald Dahl.more
I actually really liked the beginning portions when she was younger and had unrefined spunk. I enjoyed the section about her time at school (surprise - I work in education, so that's not really a stretch there). Then, bring on the lunacy - I only wish there had been more of that - I was intrigued, it made the house more interesting. However, not nearly enough time was spent on what could have had a few more scenes...
Most of the time, I really liked Jane ~ wanted to get some of that spunk back when it came to Miss Ingram, but apparently, she had grown up too much.
The men in this story annoyed me - they didn't seem very strong at all. Mr. R was better, but still moped around, pining, and her cousin? Really? Just weird. Who wants to marry their cousin only to have a wife to look good? Go Jane - it was one of her better moves.
Anyhow, I have read it. I didn't need to read it in high school or in college, so this was a first. Eh. Only so-so.more
I liked Jane and her struggle for independence, her indomitable spirit and her yearning for love. Nearly all the male figures in her life seemed harsh, selfish, rigid and yes, passionate. Ironic, since Jane was accused, from a very early age, of being too passionate. I cringed with the abuse she suffered as a young girl, both at the hands of her "family" and the school she was banished to.
Romance in literature seldom works for me. Perhaps had I been a woman in my twenties when this novel was first published (circa 1847), I would have been shocked by Jane's independence of thought and deed. I might have been more sympathetic to the romantic ruminations and the ending would have felt less obvious. For romance to appeal to my heart, I find I need the characters to be tragic. A bittersweet, instead of a happy, ending sings to my soul. And it could be said that this ending is bittersweet so it's not a complete disappointment on that point.
My favorite portions of the novel flowed from various character's Christian testimony and example. First and foremost, Helen's gentle and grace-filled friendship to Jane at Lowood. Later, St. John's passionate call to fulfill the Great Commission, even unto sacrificing his happiness, and to some extent Jane's happiness, for what he perceived to be the Will of God. And even Jane's life journey evidences compassion, mercy and love to those she encounters and who are within her power to aid and ease their sufferings.
My motivation to read Jane Eyre stemmed from a book club selection for June 2009 - The Eyre Affair. It was suggested that I first read, or at the very least, watch a movie adaptation of Jane Eyre before proceeding. I am happy that I took the time to read this English literature classic. It will appeal to all young women and has many life lessons to impart.more
This week I felt like reading this and as is the way with a story you like, you want to make the best of the experience. So like an idiot, I discarded my £2 Penguin edition for a thicker, much more pliant and beautifully decorated edition that cost £13, just because it felt nicer to hold. Such a pleasurable experience, reading this wonderfully written book, relishing every perfectly chosen word and turning each page without a hurry. Also, there's this, which makes me love Jane all over again, every time:
Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.
How does an eleven year old approach this novel of feminine independence, moral dilemmas, romance and pain? It was just a story to me then. But, that early introduction gave me time to grow my appreciation for it over several years. I've read it -- and about it -- many times now. I need not discussion the story itself -- with movies, parodies, and a million cultural references under our collective elbows, it's hardly important -- but the ideas in it implanted themselves in my head and have had influence subtle and not so subtle ever since.more