The Idiot Learns to Read #15: Jane Eyre

Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you?  Do you think I am an automaton?–a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup?  Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  You think wrong!–I have as much soul as you,–and full as much heart!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.  I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;–it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,–as we are!

This has easily become one of my favourite books.  It is a story that I knew well but had never actually read.  There are dozens of movie versions available, but I always say, nothing can compare to a book.  Jane Eyre is a love story, but not in the sappy rom-com style.  You aren’t laden with drivel and sugary sweet words, “I love you” every five minutes.  It is torturous.  It is painful.  It is dark.  It is intelligent. 

The story begins with Jane Eyre as a little girl.  Her parents died when she was but an infant, leaving to her live with her bitchy Aunt Reed who doesn’t seem to care for her very much.  Aunt Reed and her three children treat Jane as a poor relation, even though she promised to care for Jane as one of her own.  Instead, she sends Jane to live in a school for orphans.  This school is typical of the time period:  dark, dreary, lonely and full of oppressive religion.  The students are starved, beaten, and mistreated.  Jane’s best friend dies after an outbreak of typhoid at the school.

Jane stays at the school until she is 18, but she desires to see something else of the world.  So far, most of her life she has spent it someplace where people don’t really care for her.  She decides to take out an advertisement in the paper for a new job.  She ends up at Thornfield Hall, and this is where the real story begins. 

The book is not particuarly long and the language is very simple to read, but there is quite a lot going on.  It’s hard to summarise it, and now I know why the various movies I’ve seen based on this book skip over some parts.  Jane arrives at Thornfield Hall to be governess to a little girl Adele.  Jane loves her new job but doesn’t meet her new master until some time later.  When she does finally meet Mr. Edward Rochester, she doesn’t fall immediately in love with him, like how you find in most romance novels.  I like this.  I think he falls in love with her first, while she realises that she is just a governess, a poor one and that it is too ridiculous for her to start dreaming above her station.  Jane is very practical and logical.  She approaches everything in life with sound reasoning. 

For some reason, as I write this, I can’t seem to summon the words to summarise this novel properly.  I think I am not meant to.  This is a novel you must read on your own to get its fullest enjoyment.  You might ask, “Well, how can I know I want to read it, if you don’t tell me what it’s about?”  As I said, it’s a love story with twists and turns, lies and deceit, regrets and misfortune.  Just when you think there might be a happily ever after, there’s something waiting to rain on your parade.  Jane, a resourceful woman, is not one to dwell on woulda, shoulda, coulda and she does what she has to do to preserve her peace of mind and sanity.  Mr. Rochester, the love of her life, is the one who is tortured by the decisions he has made. 

This is not an adventurous tale, but one that makes you ask you the question, “What would I do if I were in love with someone that was forever divided from me?”  Would you move on with your life and try your hardest to forget?  Would you forgive the one you loved if he had deceived you in the worst way?  If he begged you to stay, would you, knowing that you two may never be together in the way that you want?  Could you love someone else after that?

I give Charlotte Bronte an A+.  I am almost torn between this one and her sister’s Wuthering Heights.  That was a great book too.  Next I am going to read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.


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