Jane Eyre, the first book in the genre of romance that I’ve read, has proven that my preconception — all romance novels are terribly cheap and boring — is WRONG. If I had to compare David Copperfield with Jane Eyre, the latter book, in my opinion, is actually more interesting and vivid than the first one mentioned. This book, written by one of the famous Bronte sisters, Charlotte, is another Oxford World Classic. What I like best about this book is that, though it is rather short for a classic, it has the “widest” empathy link between the characters among all the books I have ever read. “Quality, not quantity” must have been the author’s favorite motto.
The basic plotline of the story revolved a lot around the same place with a timespan of only a few years. Jane was first an outcast in her family, with her cruel aunt Mrs. Reed treating her like dirt instead of a niece, with Jane’s cousin John Reed treating her even worse than dirt, and being told off for “crimes” she didn’t commit. Her aunt, unable to tolerate her anymore, sent Jane off to a boarding school not far away. Before Jane left, she opened up her heart and aggressively told her aunt how miserable she felt when she looked at her, how dreadfully scared she was of her and finally, that she would never call her aunt “Aunt” again. The only person who sent her off with warm regards was Bessie, her caretaker and companion.
What I found most enticing in Jane Eyre was the amount of pity for the main character (Jane) and her loved ones. Jane and her master Mr. Rochester, both whom were noted by other characters in the book as ugly, got so much sympathy from the author that we found both of them majestic and good-looking. What I found strange was that, though most of the antagonists were cruel and haughty, many of them were also described as elegant and beautiful. This led to my assumption throughout the whole of the story that all the well-dressed, rich and striking people were the bad guys. This proved true for the first few characters including Georgiana and Miss Ingram. However, there were certain exceptions including Bessie who remained a kind soul throughout Jane’s life.
One thing you’d expect in a romance would be something Shakespearean like a tragic happening or event. Well, this differs only slightly. Instead of the main character undergoing a near-death experience, it is her lover and master, Mr. Rochester. Jane was hired as the governess for an orphan of Mr. Rochester’s. Quite early on in the book, Mr. Rochester asked Jane to marry him. Well, I found this very bizarre because, firstly, who would marry their employee? And secondly, why would you marry a person almost 20 years younger than you who has no wealth whatsoever? Anyways, after Jane figured out that her master already had a wife (who was a maniac that tried to kill numerous people living in the estate), she felt that Mr. Rochester didn’t love her and she left the estate.
So Jane wandered around, starving and homeless, where she eventually came upon a small house. The residents of the house were 2 women, Diana and Mary Rivers, with their brother St John Rivers. The 2 sisters slowly nursed Jane back to health but Jane refused to tell them anything about her past. Eventually, they found out that Jane was their cousin, Jane’s father’s sister being their mother. Again, Jane was asked to marry St John, for in that time cousin marriage was legal. Jane knew that St John only wanted her as a missionary’s wife, not for love. Therefore, she again declined and wished to be back at Rochester’s estate again. As with all romance books and films, there is something blocking the 2 lovers from coming together and this novel is no different.
In my opinion, Jane is quite a fragile and loyal person. When St John asks to marry Jane to go to India with her as a missionary’s wife, she declines due to 2 reasons, her love for Mr. Rochester and her weak endurance. She is described as small for her age of 19 and though she has experienced many dangers, she remains unhardened by the suffering. Jane is the type of person who regrets not doing something because she is too shy. Had she asked Mr. Rochester to marry before he did, they would have gotten on way better. Jane is a caring person who has no problem in bravely standing up for herself when she is mistreated, though too late for her own good sometimes.
Mr. Rochester, Jane’s master and husband to-be, is a flexible man. To many, he is described as sharp and stern with ugly features and quite cruel. To Jane and readers, he is described as cunning and caring, with sharp features that make up for his ugliness. In my opinion, Mr. Rochester is cruel in the aspect that he already had a wife and then wooed Jane (though polygamy might have been legal at the time) and that he never told Jane he was already married, albeit to a maniac. Later on near the end of the novel, we pity Mr. Rochester after his whole estate is burned down, his maniac wife killed, his property lost and he himself loses his eyesight and becomes a cripple. In the end, when Jane and Edward (Rochester’s first name) are reunited, we feel that they deserved it after all their miserable suffering.
My favorite quote in the book is when, after St John discovers that Jane is his cousin, he tells him of her wealth after her uncle had died.
“Well,” said he,”if you had committed a murder, and I had told you your crime was discovered, you could scarcely look more aghast.”
“It is a large sum – don’t you think there is a mistake?”
“No mistake at all.”
“Perhaps you have read the figures wrong – it may be 2000?”
“It is written in letters, not figures, – twenty thousand.”
I found this funny because Jane has gotten so used to poverty that when she is finally rich, she doesn’t know what to do. Because Jane Eyre is written in first person, it’s rather funny when you see Jane’s own P.O.V.
I would recommend this book to everyone as it is not really violent. I would also recommend the simplified versions to children younger than us. After reading these classics, I find that books older than 1950 are worth reading after all.