Books I Have Loved: Jane Eyre
I’m starting an occasionally series of posts in which I can wax sappily about some of my favourite books. Kenton, before you ask me what a book is, I’ll point out that the one below, at least, is public domain and I’ve already downloaded it for free on my iPod, you know, just to have at my disposal at all times.
The first book up is Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. I’d already determined this when this blog post about why Mr. Rochester is a creep made the rounds of my linked-up literary friends. This made me feel kind of psychic (like Jane; see below).
Jane Eyre is one of those books reviled by folks who “had” to read it in high school. I did read it in school, but for fun rather than for profit. The first time I read it, I stayed up all night to get to the end as fast as I could. A page-turner for me, Jane Eyre. I was 14.
It’s one of the books I featured in my second book, Spine, a book about reading. I imagined a world in which Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre met, as adults, and complained. They turned out to be very self-centred voices, pleased to commiserate, but not really listening each to the other. I imagined how they did not, not, get happy endings; it’s just that we weren’t told about them in the books.
Jane Eyre, like Anne, is a heroine who runs into trouble because she’s intelligent, poor, and “plain” (at least, that was always my interpretation). That’s why she’s loved by mousy, nerdy girls. Unfortunately, and this is dealt with plenty elsewhere (see above link, among others), the Rochester figure as a hero merely encourages girls to love inconsiderate (among other things) bad boys.
Good on Jane, though, that when enough is enough—er, when she finds out that he’s been hiding his first wife in the attic, which, I’ve got to admit, she should have been kind of suspicious about earlier—she just says no and runs away, and narrowly escapes becoming a missionary in China.
Here’s where the book did break down for me: it’s when she hears Rochester calling, “Jane! Jane!” and she knows she has to return to him, and it turns out that he was calling because his house was burning down (see first wife, above) and now he’s blind and therefore humble and no longer such a creep. (In my version, he was still a creep anyway, because if you think you can burn that out of a character, you are much mistaken).
It’s the only place the plot resorts to the supernatural, to Jane’s apparently limited telepathic ability, and I just didn’t buy it.
In today’s world, Jane would have just seen Rochester pop up on “suggested friends” and know that it was a sign.