My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the Author:
Charlotte Brontë (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855) was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels became classics of English literature.
She enlisted in school at Roe Head in January 1831 at the age of 14. She left the year after to teach her sisters, Emily and Anne at home, returning in 1835 as a governess. In 1839, she undertook the role as governess for the Sidgwick family but left after a few months to return to Haworth where the sisters opened a school but failed to attract pupils. Instead, they turned to write and they each first published in 1846 under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.
Her first novel The Professor was rejected by publishers, her second novel Jane Eyre was published in 1847. The sisters admitted to their Bell pseudonyms in 1848 and by the following year, they were celebrated in the London literary circles.
Publication Year: 1847
“Jane, be still; don’t struggle so like a wild, frantic bird, that is rending its own plumage in its desperation.”
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.”
‘Jane Eyre’ is an autographical account of the life of a young orphan girl Jane. She lives with her aunt’s family and they treat her disdainfully. After an incident, she is then sent to Lowood which is a charity school for orphans. Jane stays there, first as a student and then as a teacher. She then leaves the school after accepting a post of governess at Thornfield.
There she meets Mr. Rochester, her employer who’s bad-tempered, brooding, unpredictable but also intelligent and kind. Jane is drawn to him but and is totally oblivious to the fact that he carries a dark secret. Now, Jane has to decide what she wants from life and Mr. Rochester when the secret comes to light and threatens her chance at happiness.
‘Jane Eyre’ is one of the best-written novels of all time. The writing is beautiful and impressive. It is a mix of a lot of different genres like an autobiography, coming-of-age, mystery, gothic and historical fiction. The events described in the book have a mysterious and supernatural feel to them and create a thrilling and suspenseful atmosphere which was interesting.
The story of Jane Eyre is told in the first person by Jane herself. We follow her on the journey from a tender age of ten when she’s lonely and unloved and we watch her grow into an adult who’s capable of standing on her feet and deal with the hardship that befalls her path. Jane is an amazing protagonist. She a woman who has a high sense of self-worth and dignity; she’s searching for love and wants to be treated equally without sacrificing her freedom and integrity.
Written in the nineteenth century when women didn’t have the same status as men, Jane sets a great example of feminism and gender equality. She encounters different men in her life who want to control her at some point, and she finds herself in difficult situations that attempt to bring her down. But she manages to deal with them without yielding and sacrificing her beliefs. As much as she wants to be loved, she cannot give up on her principles, so she seeks to live her life on her own terms independently.
She’s incredibly brave as she makes a choice to give up everything she’s ever known instead of compromising. She works hard and sticks to her morals and is awarded in the end. I really love and respect her character. She’s an underdog, not much of a looker and had a rough start but she stays authentic to herself. It’s incredibly awesome to follow her on the journey and watch her triumph. ‘Jane Eyre’ is a very compelling and empowering book and it’s one of my favorite novels of all time.
“I can live alone, if self-respect and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”
The other thing I loved in the book is the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester. Their conversations were witty and put a smile on my face. Perfect romance cannot get any more perfect than this! Their relationship gave me fairy-tale vibes. I loved all of their interactions and the way the relationship blossomed between them.
“Where are you going?”
“To put Adele to bed: it is past her bedtime.”
“You are afraid of me, because I talk like a Spynx.”
“Your language is enigmatical, sir: but though I am bewildered, I am certainly not afraid.”
“You are afraid — your self-love dreads a blunder.”
“In that sense, I do feel apprehensive — I have no wish to talk nonsense.”
Jane Eyre is a very progressive novel, far ahead of its time. Written in the era where women were not encouraged to write, Charlotte Bronte wrote under a pseudonym ‘Currer Bell’ and got her novel published. When she was 20 years old, Bronte sent the English Poet Laureate Robert Southey some of her best poems. He wrote back in 1837, telling her that she obviously had a good deal of talent and a gift with words but that she should give up writing.
The Professor, Brontë’s first novel, was rejected nine times before it was finally published after her death. When she published Jane Eyre—her publishers didn’t know Bell was really a woman until 1848, a year after the book was published! From the start, the book was a success—one critic called it “the best novel of the season”—and people began to speculate about who ‘Currer Bell’ was. Now, that’s something interesting!
In this context, Jane Eyre is the perfect portrayal of a feminist ideal. That’s the reason it manages to stay relevant even in this era. She’s a girl who’s simple and average looking, yet intelligent and brave and she works hard to earn her keep. She falls in love with a guy who’s way older than her and who’s from a different social class which was generally frowned upon at that time. When she discovers his secret, she wants absolutely nothing to do with it and seeks to find her own identity. She is one of my favorite female protagonists.
“I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.”
Now, as I’ve said earlier I loved this novel and it’ll always be ones of my favorites. But it’s time for me to take off my rose-colored glasses and look at it objectively. I once had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine and many good points came up. First, there’s the age gap. While I know it’s a period piece and ‘age is just a number when it comes to romance’, it still makes me a little uncomfortable. But it’s not such a big deal.
Secondly, Jane Eyre who’s supposed to be a strong and independent woman chooses a most ordinary life by marrying Rochester. While some people may believe that’s not very ‘feminist’, I choose to disagree. It’s the same criticism given to Cinderella, Katniss from ‘Hunger Games’ and Hermione from the ‘Harry Potter’ series. Jane Eyre was rebellious and made her own choices within reason.
She’s never had someone in her life whom she could call her own. She finds love in Mr. Rochester who deceives her. But, in the end, she chooses to be compassionate and forgiving and ends up marrying him, showing qualities that are feministic. As you know, a strong woman does not need a man to complete her; in the same manner, there’s nothing wrong in choosing to be with someone or choosing a ‘conventional life’. I think people completely miss the point when it comes to feminism.
Third and the most important point- the case of Bertha Mason. She’s very crucial to the plot, yet it’s all a mystery when it comes to her. We only know her as an insane and violent person as stated by Mr. Rochester but there’s no single evidence that can prove that, other than his explanation and Jane’s biased opinion.
Rochester was drawn towards her by her beauty and pressured by his dad to marry her and similarly, Bertha was pressured by her relatives and was shipped off to a strange land with a strange man and we can only assume, she was driven to madness by the bad treatment she received at his hands or the neglect on his part. It was far easier for him to discard her and confine her due to her gender.
Throughout the novel, she never tried to harm Jane but she seemed only angry with the man who did not treat her right and put her in captivity. There can be different interpretations about her character and I did not like the way she had to die in the end unjustified. I feel sorry for her character but there’s nothing we can say conclusively about her situation.
That being said, ‘Jane Eyre’ is still one of the most ground-breaking works in literature. You’ll have to read and draw your own interpretations from it. I enjoyed reading it immensely and I recommend it to anyone who loves literature. (Also check out the Jane Eyre movie that came out in 2011 starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. You’re welcome!)