Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jane Eyre: Over 40

I have just finished re-reading Jane Eyre--the re-read fitting in well with a couple of reading challenges I'm in the midst of. I hadn't thought much about this book for about 25 years or so. The last time I read this novel, I was young and hormonal and all caught up in the romance and gothic feel of the thing.

This time around, I'm still hormonal (but of a different variety), but what grabs my attention is Jane's independent nature. A nature that in her era is criticized as unnatural and "of the devil" (witness her aunt's tirades and Mr. Brocklehurst's announcement in front of the school). Heaven forbid that a young girl know and speak her own mind. Or that she recognize injustice and proclaim it. Jane's independent nature doesn't leave her when she leaves the school. She is ready to meet Mr. Rochester on his own verbal ground, sparring with him and proving herself his equal in every way that truly matters. Nevermind, the inequality in status.

Yes, the romance is still enthralling. I love bits like:

"I have told you reader, that I had learnt to love Mr. Rochester: I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me--" AND

"Sacrifice! What do I sacrifice? Famine for food, expectation for content. To be privileged to put my arms round what I value--to press my lips to what I love--to repose on what I trust: is that to make a sacrifice? If so, then certainly I delight in sacrifice."

Charlotte Bronte can certainly weave the romantic tale. But within it she can also hide a bit of feminism. Jane making her own way. Jane following what she believes is right for her. Jane refusing to stand still for injustice. Jane showing herself every bit an intellectual equal (and an emotional superior, I think) to St. John.

A well-told tale that ages well. That is to say, it's one of the small number of favorites I've had in by-gone days that remain every bit as enchanting when I read them now. Jane Eyre over 40 is a delight. I gave her four stars when I last read her and she has earned the same again.

1 comment:

BookQuoter said...

Jane Eyre is one of my favorites.