Bronte-Saurus Part Two: Jane Eyre

October 15, 2012 Classics, Women's Studies 31

Hello my Bookworms!

Did everyone have  a lovely weekend? I certainly did. We visited with my Slaw (Jenny, who again, smells nothing like cabbage) and her husband New Guy (who is only called this because there are four other “Jims” in the family) AND The OJ (whose name is Jenny as well, but since I met her through my Slaw and I can’t function with multiple names, I refer to her as OJ, “Other Jenny.”) Fun was had, dinner was eaten, multiple Halloween episodes of Roseanne were watched. Glorious. It’s been a gray, rainy weekend, which is perfect weather for spending an entire Sunday in your pajamas reading!

They just don’t do Halloween episodes like they used to…

I’ve been thinking about what to post this week and I thought that it would be a good time to return to the Bronte sisters. I wasn’t especially nice to Emily, but Charlotte is my home girl. As you probably recall from my post on Wuthering Heights, I was going through a lonely grumpy phase when I read these books.  It was shortly after college graduation and I was done with school. Great right? Only problem was that school was the only thing I’d ever really been GOOD at. I’m a solid A minus student, and when your schools don’t dock your GPA for the “minus,” you look really smart. Anyway, in between suffering through strangers’ weddings and begging my boyfriend to marry me, (CHARMINGLY, of course… He did eventually marry me, so I couldn’t have been THAT annoying) I decided to fill in the gaps left by my education.

Enter Jane Eyre. It’s said that Charlotte Bronte made a bet with her sisters (and fellow authors) that she could write a successful novel with a female lead who had neither beauty nor charm. I assume Charlotte meant “charm” in terms of female ideals during her time, because I find Jane quite charming in her own way… That’s another way of saying that I wholeheartedly, unabashedly, frickin love Jane Eyre.

I’ve got a thing for underdogs, and Jane starts out life as an unwanted orphan. She’s emotionally and physically abused by her aunt and cousins. It’s a really rotten upbringing poor Jane has to deal with (it actually reminds me a lot of Harry Potter, pre-Hogwarts.) As soon as it’s reasonable to do so, the miserable Reed family ships Jane off to a charity school (which is, unfortunately, not as cool as Hogwarts, but this is a realistic novel, not a fantastic magical journey.) She’s sent with the message that she’s deceitful and troublesome, but in time Jane proves that’s not the case at all. She’s a good student who makes friends and eventually ends up teaching in the school. After a couple of years teaching, Jane decides to take work as a governess at Thornfield Hall.

While Jane is at Thornwood, wonderful and spooky things begin to happen. Jane becomes attached to her charge and is drawn to Mr. Rochester, the man of the house. She also deals with mysterious laughter and an unexplained fire in Mr. Rochester’s chamber… But it’s a big spooky old mansion, a little bit of creepiness is part of the package, right? One midsummer night, Mr. Rochester professes his love for Jane, and she for him. They’re on a road to happily ever after… Almost.

Jane prepares for the wedding, but feels like someone is watching her. She gets eerie feelings and has bizarre dreams of a deranged woman in her room. Still, she goes ahead with the wedding, even though her veil is mysteriously ruined shortly before the nuptuals. You know that part in a wedding ceremony where the pastor always asks if anyone can object to this union? That’s where things turn a little Jerry Springer.

A dude stands up in the middle of the ceremony and shouts, “I object, Mr. Rochester is already married… To my sister!” GASP! As it turns out, Mr. Rochester has been hiding his violently insane first wife in the attic! In Rochester’s defense, though, the woman is, well, violently insane. Rochester was duped into marrying her by her beauty and her family. Dating in the 1800s wasn’t exactly thorough- I mean, you hung out in parlors and read poetry together and stuff. With chaperones. There wasn’t a lot of time to spend getting to know how loopy your intended was, especially if it’s a whirlwind courtship. And there were no psychiatric drugs yet, poor girl. Her family was well aware of her condition, but they were greedy, and since Rochester was new in town, he didn’t have the advantage of knowing her history. So, he sort of accidentally married a severely mentally ill woman…  Then he was stuck with her. I guess locking her in the attic was his best option? Honestly, it was probably a whole lot kinder than sending her to an asylum- those places were nightmarish.

What about our Jane, though?! She’s not heartless, but she’s not going to enter into a bigamist marriage. She may not have beauty, but she’s got pride. Jane takes off for the countryside devastated, but determined to move on with her life. She ends up coming across some kind distant relatives who take her in (and don’t beat her and call her a liar like those douchey Reeds.) While she’s there she has another offer of marriage, but gets cold feet. She keeps hearing Mr. Rochester’s voice calling to her, so she goes back to Thornfield Hall.

Charlotte Bronte: Literary Badass, Sibling Bet Winner

While Jane was chilling with her cousins rocking out some sweet needlepoint, Rochester’s crazy wife burned down the manor, jumped from the roof to her death, and Rochester suffered terrible injuries as a result of the fire. When Jane returns to find him, she sees the ruins of the manor and seeks him out. He was afraid to come and find Jane because he lost much of his fortune, was blinded, and lost a hand. But Jane? God love Jane! She’s like “whatever dude, I don’t care about your lost hand or eyes. I still love you. And since your insane first wife is dead now,  I’ll totally marry you.” And they do. And live pretty darn happily ever after.

Now THAT’S a role model! Jane is brave, smart, forgiving, and tough. I love her to pieces. She isn’t the kind of girl who gets caught out in the rain and dies of fever two years later (I’m looking at YOU, Emily. Catherine in Wuthering Heights was a wimp.) Jane totally deserves her happy ending. Have any of you read Jane EyreDo you share my reverence for Jane, or did you find this book a bore? Tell me about it!

31 Responses to “Bronte-Saurus Part Two: Jane Eyre”

  1. Daddio

    After Wuthering Heights I couldn’t bear to look at another Bronte entry. But this one sounds not totally bad. Classic time!

  2. Liesel Hill

    Great review! I’m a fellow Jane Eyre lover! One thing I can say about this story is that there are probably ten movie versions, of which I’ve seen about eight, and while I like different things about different versions, I’ve never seen one that I totally hated, or where I thought they totally slaughtered it. That’s rare, especially for classics. I think Jane Eyre is just such a great story that it’s nearly impossible to screw up, and that says a lot. 😀

    • Words for Worms

      I haven’t yet seen a movie version because I’m terrible about watching movies, but I’m intrigued by the one they put out recently with the cute girl from Alice in Wonderland. It’s a relief to know they haven’t messed it up. Seriously, what’s not to love about Jane?!

  3. didibooksenglish

    I agree I much prefer Jane Eyre. I discovered that book at 12 years old and fell in love with it. We read Wuthering Heights the year after for school and I was so disappointed in it. Not a bad Halloween read. Why not read Frankenstein, Dracula or Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde?

  4. Words for Worms

    Hmmm… I’ve read Frankenstein, but I didn’t find that frightening so much as severely depressing. Dracula I have on my kindle and I’ve been procrastinating reading for like 2 years. And Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde I read in “Great Illustrated Classics” form (my 8 year old self wasn’t that excited about the book set from my grandparents, but I enjoyed them in spite of myself.) I’ll try to think up some more good Halloween posts.

    • Words for Worms

      Now that you brought up Little Women, I’m going to have to write an ode to Jo March.

  5. Lyssapants

    I read this book, and I remember thinking Jane was an awesome badass.
    I lizzed at the rocking out sweet needlepoint. Sounded a little Napoleon Dynamite there for a second.

  6. ThatAshGirl

    I LOVED Jane. She’s strong and surprisingly tough for a young woman of her age, specifically during that time period. I love that she sticks to her guns and refuses to marry him when she finds out about his wife but at the same time is able to forgive and move on when the time is right.

  7. Cindy

    I love Jane Eyre.

    One time, in a job interview I got one of the oddest questions ever – “If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?” My mind went completely blank. I mean, really? What kind of question is that? How does that help you decide if I’ll be a good employee or not? And he had no idea how much I read! Thank goodness I was re-reading Jane Eyre at the time. I was able to make a good case for how being like her would translate into being a good employee.

    I have never been able to get into Wuthering Heights. I keep thinking I need to read it and then decide to read something else instead.

    And so glad to find you from Lauren at Filing Jointly!

    • Words for Worms

      Oh yay! Hi Cindy! Nice to meet you, digitally. I love hypothetical questions like that. My answer probably wouldn’t have gotten me hired though… I would have said “I want to be Hermione Granger because she can apparate, she’s got magical powers, and she’s an insufferable know-it-all… Just like me. I mean the insufferable know-it-all part. Because I only WISH I could apparate. Sigh.”

  8. Jayne

    Another Jane Eyre fan here! I much preferred it to Wuthering Heights as well. I never understood Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship. But Jane, on the other hand, IS a badass (plus she has an awesome name, IMHO). I even have a super-old copy I bough off eBay because it’s such a great book.

  9. Yamika

    So I love your blog and since we both love Jane Eyre I thought that I would tell you that while I was in London about 3 years ago, there was a TV movie (or a miniseries) depicting the entrapment of Mr Rochester by his greedy, greedy father. Sadly, can’t remember the name.

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