Monday, March 7, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I finally finished Jane Eyre this weekend, and absolutely loved it! It is a wonderfully romantic novel that also deals with weighty issues like faith, sin, and death. The story is so well-known that there's no need for a review, but I thought I'd touch on some of my favorite themes or moments in the book (note: this post contains some mild spoilers, so if you haven't read the book or don't want to know the story stop now!)

- Jane is in some ways a thoroughly modern heroine, able to take care of herself and remain upright through enormous hardships. She gives freely of forgiveness and love though she has been shown few of those mercies herself, and she knows her own mind and isn't swayed by stronger personalities. When Rochester tries to persuade Jane to live with him as his mistress, she is sorely tempted but knows the pleasure of giving in would not outweigh the consequences:

"...while he spoke, my very conscience and reason turned traitors against me, and charged me with crime in resisting him. They spoke almost as loud as Feeling; and that clamored wildly. “Oh, comply!” it said. “Think of his misery; think of his danger—look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature; consider the recklessness following on despair—soothe him; save him; love him; tell him you love him, and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?”

Still indomitable was the reply—“I care for myself. The more solitary the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?"

- I enjoyed the multi-layed presentation of Christians and faith. There are examples of people who are esteemed as Christians but really have none of the qualities, like Mr. Brocklehurst. St. John has the fire and the passion to do great things for God, but he expects perfection out of himself and others and isn't able to temper his  expectations with compassion. Jane clings to the law of God as she resists Mr. Rochester in the above passage and realizes she has made him the center of her universe: "I could not, in those days, see God for his creature of whom I had made an idol."

- Neither Jane or Rochester are conventionally attractive, but in the other's eyes they are beautiful. She tenderly cares for him when he loses his sight, and he in turns adores her. Don't we all long to be judged more for our inner selves than for outward appearances? As Mary says on hearing that Rochester and Jane were married, “she'll happen do better for him nor any o’ t’ grand ladies.” And again, “If she ben't one o’ th’ handsomest, she's noan faĆ¢l and varry good-natured; and i’ his een she's fair beautiful, onybody may see that.”

Rochester (Toby Stephens) and Jane (Ruth Wilson)
 Over the weekend I watched the 2006 Masterpiece adaption with Toby Stephens as Rochester and Ruth Wilson as Jane. For the most part I really enjoyed it, though I wondered at several of the plot changes that seemed unnecessary (instead of dressing as the gypsy fortune-teller, Rochester pays a real one to entertain/question the ladies, St. John finds Jane on the moor instead of her collapsing outside Moor House, Jane has no knowledge of Rochester's injuries before she arrives at Ferndean). I can't wait for the new adaption, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, which from the looks of the trailer below seems to play up the gothic aspects of the story.

source: personal copy. This book was one of my selections for Subtle Melodrama's 2011 Victorian Literature Reading Challenge.


  1. I really hope I get the chance to re-read this before the new film opens near me on 4/1! Great to read your review. :)

  2. I thought the 2006 Jane Eyre was really good, the best of the two or three adaptations I've seen so far. But I'm still rather excited for the new film. :D

    I'm glad you liked the book! I love it so, I want everyone to love it as much as I do!

  3. @Ruth: It's such a great book! I can't wait for the movie to come out!

    @Jenny: I haven't seen the other adaptions but it will be hard to top the 2006 version! The scene at the end is so sweet and charming. I loved the book too and have been trying to convince everyone I know to read it :)

  4. I loved your thoughts on this book! I recently read it and am anxiously looking forward to the movie!

    I linked this review over at Kate's Library in my Friday Five.

    Have a great weekend!

  5. Thanks Kate! I hope you enjoyed it!