I’m sure that this classic has been covered a million times already… but I’m going to be reviewing it anyway!
Here’s a bit of irony – I first came across the name Jane Eyre in another story (Roald Dahl’s Matilda), but as I was only seven at the time, I didn’t really take much notice of it. It wasn’t until I was about thirteen and saw the 1943 adaptation of the book (with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. It’s one of my favourite movies.) that I decided to look into the story. After buying a copy while visiting family in Donegal, I started reading.
Right from the first page, it’s very easy to see the sufferings of a young Jane Eyre. Bullied by her aunt and cousins, she is forcibly locked into the Red Room where her uncle died and falls ill. Jane is (willingly) sent away to a boarding school in Lowood. Life there fares no better – branded a liar by the cruel Mr. Brocklehurst, losing her only friend Helen Burns to illness – but after eight years, Jane finally gains a chance for a new start when she gets a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall. After some time, she meets her ward’s guardian, the mysterious Mr. Rochester and there, the story gets interesting…
In an era where women were seen as passive, vain and controlled by the men in their lives, Jane definitely stands out. She’s intelligent, independent, serious and capable of making her own decisions. She chooses to go to school, she chooses to work, she is determined to make a good life for herself. Initially romance does not play a great role in Jane’s life, but that changes when she meets Edward Rochester. Even then though, it doesn’t shake her determination to find true happiness.
Jane is very compassionate in her character. When her aunt is on her deathbed, Jane finds it in her heart to forgive her, even when she learns that her aunt deliberately kept a letter from her one surviving uncle. However she also shows her ability to stand up for herself. Right before she leaves for Lowood, Jane finally tells her aunt how she really feels about her (one of my favorite scenes in the book!) and refuses to become Mr. Rochester’s mistress after their disaster of a wedding. She is even to refuse a marriage proposal from St. John Rivers (pronounced ‘Sinjin’. I wish I knew why.) despite massive pressure from the latter.
By the end of the story, Jane finally achieves what she was so desperate to find in life. It was not love, but happiness. A home, a life where she is not seen as a burden. Love was an extra element that she found with Mr. Rochester. Despite his disabilities, she is still able to see the man that she fell in love with. As she says it simply: ‘Reader, I married him.’
Jane Eyre is definitely a book that I feel that people should read. See the movies surely, but you need to read the book as well. Once you get used to the writing, you will really enjoy this romance story. For me, this is a REAL romance (unlike others that I could mention….)
P.S. If you do decide to watch the movie, watch the 1943 version, it’s definitely the best.