I haven’t read anything from the Brontë sisters—Jane, Emily, and Anne—because 1) I find this kind of classics intimidating even if I read classics before, 2) You may say that I am not a big fan of romantic classics—Yeah, like Jane Austen, and 3) I don’t know, it looks boring to me. I always see this Jane Eyre in all book stores with different format, publishers, and editions, and I never tried picking it out because it’s always there and will always be there so I’ll never have problems getting on if I want to read it. You know what I mean?
Anyway, when the book club decided to read Jane Eyre for the month of April, I easily got my copy from a second-hand bookstore. It’s amazing, no? You think of a certain book and poof! there it is in front of you (or under those pile of books).
This is the book that I focused on. Not because I want something smart or witty to say during the book discussion, but because it is worth it. There are a lot of major themes that took place in the book—love, religion, feminism, sexuality, social class, education, etc. For those who have no idea what the book is all about, it’s about this woman Jane Eyre during the Victorian Era. As a child, she grew up with her Aunt Reeds and cousin because her parents died of Typhus. She experienced traumatic treatment from people around her (her cousin John Reeds beat her—bullying during the Victorian Era!) and she became a hard-headed child. Getting rid of her, she was sent to Lowood Institution, a charity school for orphan girls like her, where she learned to be a classy and educated woman. Here she experience the love and belongingness from people like Helen Burns and Miss Temple. It became a stepping stone for her to be a governess. After that, she went as a governess of Thornfield Hall and there started her unending thoughts of unrequited love and longing for her Byronic employer, Mr. Rochester. After series of heartbreaks and shocking secrets, she fled from Thornfield Hall and landed on the Moor House where she met St. John and his sisters.
Actually, you may find it boring because it’s all about Jane Eyre and who the hell is Jane Eyre to read about in the first place, no? The book is tad long with 40 chapters, but I never regret reading this book. I love the book to bits because I really admire and love Jane Eyre and her strong personality as a woman (see quote above). She’s my heroine, even if sometimes she’s such a drama queen. She may not belong in high social class, but I see how she thrived and acted like one. With her education and own perspective on things, she carried on. It’s just weird that this book is somehow the author’s biography because Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë has the same experiences in life.
The only thing that disappointed me is that Jane Eyre submitted herself too much to men. Not sexually, mind you, but how she obeyed those leading male characters in the book, Mr. Rochester and St. John.
“…It is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded to, must lead, ignis-fatuus-like, into miry wilds whence there is no extrication.”
Mr. Rochester is Jane’s Byronic employee. He’s not exactly a good-looking guy, but he’s, well, rich. He charm his way with his arrogance and intelligence. I admit that I was smitten at my first encounter of his name while reading. I really find him really attractive because he is when I met him in Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair, but I was wrong. Fforde introduced him with a completely different personality! (Also: See How Gullible Tricia Is). I don’t like him because he’s really manipulative and a big fat liar. I don’t even know what Jane Eyre love about him! Even if she learned about his dark secret. The same with self-righteous, ego-centric St. John; he’s the most unbelievable creature I’ve ever met. Actually, in the society of today, there are a LOT of people like him. Well, I avoid them as much as possible. Anyway, I gave Rochester the benefit of being a human being because he admitted his mistakes in the end. He has his own reason why he did those things (unlike St. John who has the most ridiculous and unreasonable excuses ever. Like ever).
“I had not intended to love him; the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, great and strong! He made me love him without looking at me.”
It looks like a love triangle, no? During the discussion, we were asked to choose between the two mean men, but nope, most of us chose neither of them. Some chose Rochester because he’s the one Jane Eyre truly loves; also, I don’t remember anyone giving a reasonable answer why they like St. John.
One more thing about this book: Charlotte Brontë wrote the book beautifully. It’s not hard to read (they say, compared to Jane Austen) because it’s in first person POV, and I love how she put gothic elements and extreme emotions in her prose. ♫ The feeling’s so strong were lasting for so long ♫
Reading romantic classic book isn’t that bad. I actually enjoyed it because I laughed how I can somehow relate to Jane Eyre’s unrequited love thoughts, or Mr. Rochester’s bulok style.
And because I was hooked with this book, I also read Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea.