Books, Feminism

Jane Eyre: Book Review

Author: Charlotte Bronte

 

“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 efforts, 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.”

Jane Eyre is a part of a huge book that I own called Complete Novels of Charlotte & Emily Bronte, which has Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette, The Professor and Wuthering Heights. I look forward to reading them all! (I had reviewed Wuthering heights some time back, click here if you are interested to read that.)

Back to Jane Eyre, I believe that a book is a window to the Author’s soul. You can see the raw thoughts, emotions, suppressed dreams and longings of her or his soul. And if that is even remotely true, Charlotte Bronte is one woman that I would have loved to be acquainted with!

Jane Eyre is truly one of the strongest character that I have come across in literature.

Jane’s life is divided in five major parts.

In the first part, she is an orphan living with her Aunt, Mrs. Reed and her two daughters and a son. They detest her and bear with her only because it was her uncle, the deceased Mr. Reed’s wish that she be properly looked after. The way Jane rebels in her own way, is noteworthy. The lecture she gives Mrs. Reed, wherein she refuses to call her an “aunt” shows her courage and her raw passion. At this point of time, we also see her being drawn to books. Her thoughts are shaped and refined because of these. Her thoughts are strong and sharp, as we see in the quote above.

The next part of her life, starts when she is sent to Lowood, a charity school. This is the school where there is little food, less clothes and many diseases. Here Jane meets Helen Burns, her first real friend. When Helen gets a punishment, Jane admires her for the way she handled the punishment, quietly. “Where I in her place, It seems I would want the earth to open up and swallow me up”. It is Helen who teaches her the path of passive rebelation. It is heart wrenching to read about Jane lying in bed with Helen, and waking up to find her dead. 😦 Loosing her only real friend, teaches her how to deal with loss.

The third phase of her life starts when she feels the need for a change. With no relatives to help her, she advertises. This is her first step to be independent in true sense. She wants life on her terms. The advertisement is answered and she moves to Thornfield to look after Adele. It is here she meets Mr. Rochester, and falls in love. But even here, she refuses to live on his money. She insists that if they get married, she would continue her job, and fund her own expenses. A thing rare to see at that time. Also, we see a character of Ingram Blanche, who is a typical “woman”, who is of Mrs. Bennet’s school of thought, get a rich guy and marry. Ingram’s plastic smiles and fake talks shows the stark contrast with Jane’s Character, both in looks (Ingram is described as “the most beautiful woman” while Jane as “almost no remarkable feature in her face, quite plain, really”) and in personalities.

The fourth phase of her life starts when she runs away from Thornfield in the middle of the night. I will not state the reason why she does it, but DO read the book, its worth it, I promise. Here she meets her cousins, and inherits a fortune. Her strength of character is again tested when she is asked to marry and move to India for “good faith”, as an unmarried young man and woman cannot travel together, it would not look good. She point blank refuses to marry just because of that. She did not believe that a woman’s worth was only valued if she married.

And lastly, her turbulent journey ends with her going back to Rochester, and that’s when she feels truly “at peace”.

Truly a book worth reading. Strong characterization and a gripping story line, is what sets this apart from other classics. Give it a read, you will not be disappointed.

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