I know, I know, I say that about every book, but I’m serious. This book was crazy.
For those of you who don’t know what this book is (aka me a year ago), Jane Eyre is a mid-nineteenth century book by Charlotte Brontë. There have been, like, six million adaption, from mini-series (I see you BBC) to blockbusters. The book was huge when it first came out (and still is, in the classical book nerd world) and created major controversy.
Now I’ll ask the question I ask every week: What could have possibly been so great about this book? Isn’t it just another 1850s British book?
Well, to fully answer that question, I would have to give the biggest and meanest spoiler EVER, so I’m just gonna talk about a few aspects of this book. Let’s review our characters. There are a few that I can’t mention without spoilers, but I’ll touch on some.
Our hero is the book’s namesake, Jane Eyre. Jane has lived a poor, unfortunate life as an orphan being raised by her cruel aunt and cousins. To get rid of her, they send her to a boarding school, where she accels. Basically, she’s the OG Harry Potter, just less obnoxious (I’m not gonna go into that now, but I think we can all agree that Harry’s a brat). Jane’s whole life, the world has been working against her. Instead of crumbling under the pain and loneliness, she rises to the challenge and becomes top student, top teacher, etc. In a world where women aren’t in charge, she runs her own life. There’s a famous quote she says: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” That’s a bold thing to say for a nineteenth century woman. Women had no rights back then—Charlotte Brontë had to publish this book under a boy’s name because no one would take her—and yet Jane perseveres; Jane tells men, her “superiors” (insert extreme eye roll), when they’re wrong. She’s a role model people in our world need—even now, especially now, almost two hundred years later. I applaud Charlotte Brontë for creating such a forward character.
The other lead is a man almost entirely referred to as Mr. Rochester (never his first name, Edward). Mr. Rochester is an interesting guy. I can’t really decide how much I like him—there were times I gushed over him, and there were times I scolded him for being so cold-hearted, so brooding—which is sort of unreasonable, considering he’s a Byronic hero, so his whole schtick is that he’s brooding and emotionless. Which is actually also the thing that we’re supposed to love about him, too, I think: that even though he’s cold and mean sometimes, there is still love in him.
I realize I’m not making any sense. I’ll rephrase that.
Mr. Rochester doesn’t want to feel emotions because he’s been hurt before. And while that may seem like somewhat of a basic plotline now, it wasn’t when this was written. Mr. Rochester was one of the first characters to be written like that. If I had to pick one word to describe Mr. Rochester, it’d be afraid. He’s secretive and insecure, causing him to do some questionable things (don’t worry, I won’t tell you what that is because NO SPOILERS TODAY). He’s a hero that’s not perfect, and still has quite a bit room to grow by the end, which is sort of a weird and bold choice for Charlotte Brontë to make, but whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I can’t tell.
So that still didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’m moving on anyway. Read the book and you’ll get it.
All I’m going to say about the plotline is that the twists are INSANE, because if I say any more then spoilers will be spilt.
So I literally wrote an entire paragraph about how Jane Eyre is such a modern role model, but I thought I’d clarify: this book is still dated. Not as dated as it could have been, and certainly still feminist to a point, but there are misogynistic things that Charlotte Brontë didn’t even think of cutting out because they were so ingrained in her way of thinking. Throughout the book, Jane calls her significant other “sir” and “Mr.” while he calls her “Jane” and “Janet” (apparently Janet used to solely be a nickname for Jane—I thought it was weird too). Another time, while Jane fights this one, a man asks her to marry him simply because he believes they cannot travel together without looking like it’s an “inappropriate relationship.” I won’t get into too much detail about these (I am seriously trying to give nothing away), but I wanted to clear that up.
That’s just about it for today. I know this was a shorter one; sorry about that, but I’m really intent on not giving anything away. This plot is too good for a spoiler. Next I’ll probably get back on track with my Hunger Games reviews (see below). Keep reading, book nerds!