”Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their effort, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer, and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”
The first time I tried to read Jane Eyre was during high school. I didn’t read much of the classics then, and I gave up only after a few pages. It seemed boring then. However recently, I decided to give it another go and I fell in love with this book. I wish I had read this before because it is one of my favourite classics now.
I think the question arises of what makes a book a classic. For me, it’s relevance. If a book written in 1847, still seems to be relevant in the 21st century, then it definitely classifies as a classic. The relevance lies in the emotions. Jane Eyre which was written in the Victorian era makes one feel emotions which are universal and can be felt by anyone, even now.
Jane Eyre is a bildungsroman. It begins with a ten-year-old, orphan Jane, living with her aunt and her kids. Jane’s mother married a man below her status and thus, she was disowned by her family. When her parents died, she was adopted by her uncle, her mother’s brother. However, he too dies quite tragically when Jane is just a child. Her uncle’s wife, Mrs Reed considering his last wishes, brings up Jane along with her own children. Jane’s treatment, although, greatly varies from that of her own. She treats Jane poorly because Jane isn’t her biological daughter. Her son bullies her mercilessly. So Jane tries to keep out of trouble by keeping her distance and minding her own business. She loves to read and spends her time reading books.
This one time when John, Mrs Reed’s son bullies her, Jane pushes him. For that, she is locked in the red room. It is the same room where her uncle had died. The book takes a gothic turn, and Jane sees something. She is young and therefore, her mind is filled with images of the worst happening. Jane believes she sees the ghost of Mr Reed and she faints.
A doctor is called and he learns of her condition. He suggests Mrs Reed put Jane in a school. Jane agrees and is quite excited to leave Gateshead and go to school where she wouldn’t have to deal with Mrs Reed and her son anymore. Mrs Reed calls over Mr Brocklehurt and decides to send her away to Lowood. In a fit of passion, Jane tells Mrs Reed that she hates her when she badmouths her in front of Mr Brocklehurt. After that, she is sent over to Lowood institution.
Jane becomes properly educated here, and she learns all the social graces a lady should be knowing at Lowood. It is a turning point in her life because she loses her first friend Helen Burns who dies. Helen is a true Christian whose death instils her Christian values within Jane. She becomes a much more docile, even-tempered woman later.
After spending eight years in Lowood, Jane desires more. She is tired of being in the same place and wishes to have novel experiences in her life. Therefore, she gives out an advertisement and gets a job as a nanny at Thornfield Manor to the young Adele.
It is when she meets Mr Rochester that her life changes. They eventually fall in love. However, to make her confess, he pretends to be engaged to Miss Blanche Ingram. On the other hand, Mrs Reed gets sick and Jane visits her. There she gets the closure she needs and finds out more about her father’s side of the family. When she comes back to Thornfield, Mr Rochester and Jane confess their feelings for each other and he proposes to marry Jane.
Unfortunately, on her wedding day, she finds out that Mr Rochester is a married man whose current wife is mentally unstable. He keeps her locked in the attic and she is the one responsible for all the gothic happenings in the manor. Mr Rochestor asks her to go away with him, but she runs away in the middle of the night.
Jane finds herself in the house of St. John who provides her with food and shelter. His sisters are kind to her. He even provides her with a teaching job. In the turn of events, Jane finds out that she is rich, and St. John and his sisters are actually cousins. She shares her fortune with them. St. John, however, asks her to marry him and move with him to India. Jane agrees to go to India but refuses to marry him. He keeps persuading her, and when she’s about to say yes, she hears Mr Rochester’s voice calling out to her.
Jane goes to Thornfield Hall to find it a ruined mess. Mr Rochester’s wife sets it on fire and killed herself there. Mr Rochester saves all the servants but loses his eyesight and a hand. She somehow finds Mr Rochester and they are united.
The most forceful emotion I felt while reading this was anger. At first, I was mad at Mrs Reed for mistreating Jane, then at Mr Brocklehurst for humiliating her at Lowood, then at Mr Rochester for lying to her and being so condescending and patronising. He even treated Adele badly. Then there was St. John who was constantly pestering Jane to marry him.
Jane Eyre goes back to the time when the only honourable profession for women was the position of a governess or a teacher. Others got married, but Jane doesn’t sit around for a suitor to come. She is truly an icon of feminism. Throughout her life, she sticks to her own principles and morals. That is the most admirable quality about Jane. I guess I was happy when she chose not to marry Mr Rochester because she upholds her principles even when she was completely grief-stricken and heartbroken.
She is also an intelligent woman who is witty and charming. Women also weren’t supposed to be intelligent and sharp-tongued in the 19th century, but Jane Eyre broke all stereotypes. Her conversations with Mr Rochester were so intelligent, and she always held her own. I think everybody should read Jane Eyre. Let me tell you Jane isn’t a conventionally beautiful woman, yet she is attractive and admirable. Her spirit was indomitable.
The only thing I didn’t like in the entire story was Jane ending up with Mr Rochester. None of the men in this book deserved her.
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