Sunday, January 12, 2014

B is for Brontë

My first dead guy was Austen, and I didn't like her so much. Now my 2nd dead guy—Charlotte Brontë—is something so completely unexpected. Jane Eyre is a marvelous read. And with its Gothic theme, I wonder why it took me this long to read it.

Yes, Jane Eyre is heavy on the melodrama, but I loved it. I loved the eponymous character, she of the head strong female, the kind of person every young girl should look up to. She knows what she wants, and even though she doesn't usually get it, she's prepared to say no to things just because it would be convenient for her. Marriage to a handsome pastor but is not made of love? No, thank you. Jane Eyre will have her Mr Rochester.

The premise is simple enough. Orphaned girl is taken in by an uncle who eventually dies too. Uncle's wife is a huge b***c, who makes life terrible for the 10-year-old Jane. Jane is transplated to a boarding school for orphans, where she stays for 10 years. For the last 2 years, she serves as teacher to the same school. But Jane has itchy feet, and she decides to apply as a governess to the ward of a certain Mr Rochester.

Lowering my expectations on the 1st page
Jane falls madly in love with Mr Rochester. What struck me about this attraction is that it's not at all based on beauty and gallantry. Rochester isn't handsome, he's a bit of a stuck up and very anal, and he seems to have this sense of entitlement which he never fails to remind his household staff. Yes, Jane's attraction isn't explained at all, and that's how I know that this is one good romance. Love doesn't need any justification. You just love someone. Period.

But Rochester has a secret: he's still married to a crazy woman whom he keeps in the 3rd floor of his house. This secret isn't revealed till the day of Jane's wedding to Mr Rochester. The two don't become husband and wife at this point though, for upon discovering this not-so-teeny-tiny a secret, Jane flees. In the last quarter of the novel, we read how Jane discovers her cousins, almost marries a parson named Mr St John Rivers, and comes into her inheritance upon the death of her uncle.

I totally get Jane.
Mr Rochester and Jane do end up as a couple though. And here is where the novel really shines. When Jane goes back to Thornfield, he finds Mr Rochester blind and in a nasty state. But it doesn't matter—she still loves him and she's prepared to make all the sacrifices for the sake of this love. Do you find this sappy, dear reader? I do. But it's the good kind of sappy, the kind of sappy that doesn't make you fling the book at the couple making out in the train.

I'd like to think of Jane Eyre as not just merely a love story. Oh, the love story is a huge part of it all right, but I think it's more of the journey of a character, from someone who seems to have nothing at all to a woman who knows that life is about the choices we make and the consequences of those choices.

Jane always found a way to redeem herself at various stages of her life. In Lowood, the boarding school, she refuses to acknowledge the lies being told about her. In her refusal to marry Mr St John Rivers, she knew that marrying someone just because it would be easy for them to go to India on a missionary tour is a mistake. When she found out Mr Rochester's secret, Jane believes that staying in Thornfield would always present a moral dilemma, as she'd always be in the presence of a man she loves and can never marry.

Yes, this book is a treasure.
To say that I had a blast reading Jane Eyre would be an understatement. I devoured the book. I kissed it when I finished it. I recommended it to friends. It's not a short read, being more than 400 pages, but it's a rewarding one. It's very moral without being preachy, romantic without being too sugary, dark and luminous in different parts. It really is, without a doubt, a classic.

Read this book if:
  1. You love strong female characters.
  2. You know that one should always marry someone you love and nobody else.
  3. You've always been curious about the works of the Brontë sisters.


James Chester said...

Are young going to give Emily a try next?

I think all three sisters are wonderful. Tenant of Wildfell Hall is very under-rated and Wuthering Heights just stands out on a hill by itself cause no one has ever been able to come close as far as I'm concerned

Peter S. said...

I will definitely give Anne and Emily a try!

Kaz said...

This is my favourite Bronte book. I've never been able to deal with Emily and Withering Heights. My BFF, however, has a fascination with that one, and has an enormous collection of different editions of Wuthering Heights... Different strokes!

She (5eyedbookworm) said...

I love Jane Eyre. It's the first book that made me want to read A LOT :) I love your book edition. I have two here but they're just the classic books we often see in bookstores. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it :) Have you watched some of the movie adaptations yet?

Peter S. said...

Hi, Kaz! Different strokes indeed! I'm curious about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall though. I'll think I'll read it sometime this year.

Hello, 5eyedbookworm! Thanks for dropping by! I haven't seen any of the adaptations! Now I'm curious.

Kaz said...

The most recent movie adaptation with Mia Wasikowska was fabulous!

Peter S. said...

Oh, thanks for the heads up, Kaz! I'll download that now.

Monique said...

Just replace your face with mine on those photos, and you'll know that I had the same reactions when I read Jane Eyre last 2012. Yay! :D

Peter S. said...

LOL! Jane Eyre is love!