Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Report: Jane Eyre

My friend Connie refuses to read gothic, English Victorian romance novels like Jane Eyre because {according to her} there's always a dark rambling mansion, a secret lurking inside, misunderstandings brought on by something like a lost letter, and a horrible traumatic event such as a flood, fire, or earthquake.

Hmmmm. Connie may be onto something because Jane Eyre has all that and a whole lot more.

The good news is I found Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte a lot more readable, and thus enjoyable, than say a Dickens' classic like Great Expectations, or even another Bronte sister's masterpiece--Wuthering Heights.

Jane Eyre was first published in 1847, but read this excerpt and tell me it doesn't sound thoroughly modern:

"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. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex."

Yes, there's a rambling mansion lit only by candlelight, a madwoman run amok, implausible coincidences, and a catastrophic crippling event for one of the main characters.

But Jane Eyre is also an amazing story of survival culminating in an incredible love story. Have you felt like this with the love of your life? I have:

"My spirits were excited, and with pleasure and ease I talked to him during supper, and for a long time after. There was no harassing restraint, no repressing of glee and vivacity with him; for with him I was at perfect ease, becaue I knew I suited him; all I said or did seemed either to console or revive him. Delightful consciousness! It brought to life and light my whole nature: in his presence I thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine. Smiles played over his face, joy dawned on his forehead; his lineaments softened and warmed."

This plain Jane triumphs as a piece of great classical literature.


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