In high school, we were assigned 4 books in our English classes to read throughout the school year, and I remember forgetting most of them. But the ones that did stick with me I loved (or hated, in the case of Wuthering Heights, but I did love the atmosphere of the book). Alas, ever since, I’ve been severely lacking classics in my reading diet. So in order to remedy that, and just generally read more on the genre, I’ll be doing this new monthly feature! “Classic of the Month” is where (yes, you guessed it) I read a classic, and then basically flail. Or stew in anger. We’ll see. In this first edition, I read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre!
Why Jane Eyre?
My friend has read this, and whenever I ask, so what can you recommend me, instead of giving me YA or romance (I know, right) she always tells me, “Jane Eyre! Jane Eyre is my favorite,” and I always wrinkle my nose in response because of this:
As an orphan, Jane’s childhood is full of trouble, but her stubborn independence and sense of self help her to steer through the miseries inflicted by cruel relatives and a brutal school. A position as governess at the Thornfield Hall promises a kind of freedom. But Thornfield is a house full of secrets, its master a passionate, tormented man, and before long Jane faces her greatest struggle in a choice between love and self-respect.
This does not bode well. At all. I foresee a heaviness in my chest, just from this summary. And I was right. I’m always easily affected by characters, and what happens to them, which is why I stay away from books with heavy angst, or themes. This is probably one of the reasons I’ve put off reading classics, honestly. But Jane Eyre quickly gets past that, once she leaves Gateshead, and Lowood, and I enjoyed reading the rest of the novel!
While I don’t have a particular “favorite” chapter, the stand out ones are definitely Chapter 23, where Jane and Rochester finally let it all hang out in Thornfield’s orchard, and the chapter where they reunite, after a year of being separated. The reunion (did you know this was originally “reunification”, until I realized it sounded too technical and academic) was sweet, honestly, and so easy, and after all that hullaballoo with St. John Rivers, Jane and Rochester just seem so right together.
Actually, thanks to St. John, Rochester looked great. He was like a foil to Rochester’s character, but not in a bad way. St. John only served to highlight Jane’s “why” of falling in love with him. I really could’ve rooted for St. John, since I feel like him and Jane are a much more sensible fit? I can see the practicality of the arrangement St. John is proposing, but at the same time I see where Jane comes from that she can’t abide by a loveless marriage. If only he wasn’t so bitter and mad that Jane rejected him, like he can’t comprehend why exactly he was rejected.
Jane is also my girl. Lady has some sass:
“I scorn your idea of love,” I could not help saying; as I rose up and stood before him, leaning my back against the rock. “I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer: yes St. John, and I scorn you when you offer it.”
Yes, tell him, Jane! I actually really liked her when she was insistent on what she wanted, if ever she did go to India with him. Really, by this point I was mentally nudging St. John to accept her terms, because that’s how much I liked St. John. Liked, being the operative word.
Regarding his appearance, since he has been rendered blind, and cripple by the Thornfield fire, Rochester asks his ~fairy~:
“Am I hideous, Jane?”“Very, sir: You always were, you know.”
I actually snorted out loud with this exchange. Jane is so very good for a man’s ego.
Jane Eyre was a good call (thank you friend), and it’s certainly made me look forward to the next classic work I’ll be reading! I’m not sure whether to read another Bronte sibling’s work (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte), or finish another work on my currently reading list (Kokoro by Natsume Soseki), so we’ll see! Or would anyone have another work in mind?