The 20th book I have completed from my 1001 list of novels is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Furthermore this is the second novel I have completed for the Victorian Reading Challenge. In 1847 this novel was published in England and the following year it was released in the United States. This first-person narrative focused on Jane Eyre, a woman who had to fight to survive in a world that did not give her many breaks in life. During her childhood she lived with her cousins and aunt who were physically and emotionally abusive. Then she moved to Lowood School, where she made friends, but the school was for unfortunate children and while there she endured hardship and tyranny. After many years she left the school to work as a governess in Edward Rochester’s home. Things started to look up for Jane. However, once again fate intervened and she had to leave Mr. Rochester and her home. I don’t want to go into too much detail after this point in the novel since I don’t want to ruin it for those who have not read it. The remaining two sections after leaving Mr. Rochester are quite fascinating. Watching Jane evolve from a timid child into a self-assured woman made me want to stand up and cheer for her.
When this novel first made its appearance the critics really didn’t know how to respond. In today’s world, the heroine is brave but nothing out of the ordinary. However, during Bronte’s time period, Jane Eyre was different. She was independent, obstinate, conceited, and not very lady-like. She sought to find herself and she was a determined and passionate woman in a time when women were not allowed to think about these aspects of life or to desire more out of life. Critics were also surprised by some of the elements of the novel, including attempted murder, fires, bigamy, and an insane wife who is hidden from all. Victorians had a difficult time reconciling these events and ideas with what they deemed as proper reading.
This novel is a great read. One of my favorite parts was when St. John proposed marriage to Jane. During his proposal he stated, “God and nature intended you for a missionary’s wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not for love. A missionary’s wife you must–shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you–not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign’s service.”
I had to chuckle when I read this part. Why St. John thought that this would win any woman’s heart is beyond me. But this marriage proposal demonstrates the Victorian attitude. St. John did not see Jane as a woman. He did not see her independence and her sense of self. He saw her as an instrument to serve God. I’m not saying that Jane was not a moral woman. She was. She was seeking morality. But she was also seeking for a way for a woman to live a moral life that had meaning. And she wanted to be able to determine her future. She wanted a life that was worth living and she wanted to be happy. Was that too much for Jane to ask for? Hopefully you will read the novel to find out.
This used to be one of my favorite books when I was younger, to the point that my copy literally fell apart. Looking back, both Charlotte and Emily Bronte’s heroines tended to go for dysfunctional men. Of all the dudes in England, Jane had to end up with the one with the crazy wife in the attic, and let’s face it, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights wasn’t exactly the gentlemanly type, lol.
One thing that is interesting about Charlotte’s writing is that it’s meant to be a social critique on so many different levels. Lowood School is based on a school that the Bronte sisters actually attended. Two of Charlotte’s sisters died as a result of that experience.
This was my first time reading it and I loved it. Her novel is a great commentary on social issues at the time. I didn’t feel like she was beating me over the head with it, but she makes some very good points and raises good questions via her story. I didn’t know that her sisters died at the boarding school. That is awful.
I haven’t read Wuthering Heights yet but that is on my list for this summer. I’ve heard Heathcliff isn’t all that nice but I don’t know all the details yet. Is it as good as Jane Eyre?
I liked Wuthering Heights, but Charlotte and Emily are two very different writers. Emily is more concerned with telling a story than critiquing society. I enjoyed it, but not everyone does.
Thanks for not giving away the ending. This book is on my never-ending and rapidly-expanding “to read” list.
I recommend it. It isn’t like a Dean Koontz novel but it is a good read 🙂 But I understand if you don’t get too it anytime soon. Seems like there is never enough time to make progress on the list of books you want to read. Every time I finish one I add three more to the list.
Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books!
I have to say I wasn’t too keen on Wuthering Heights. Not many of the characters are that likeable. I hope you enjoy though – lots of people seem to really enjoy it!
I was surprised by how much I like Jane Eyre. For some reason I had it in my head that I wouldn’t like it, but I don’t know why I felt that way. I’m glad that this is on my list and that I finally stopped being stubborn and read it! Here’s to hoping that I’ll like Wuthering Heights.
I also read this when I was quite young and can not really remember all that much anymore. i read sme artciles about it that all emphasized how modern a heroine she was. I think it was daring for its time.I have seen a few of the movies and they have changed my memory of the book. Despite not being much of a re-reader I’ll read this again. I have a few others of the Brontë’s books here. Villette, also by Charlotte and my favourite Wuthering Heights by Emily. And one by Anne. They are such a fascinating family. I read that Jude Morgan’s A Taste of Sorrow, a novel of their lives is very good.
This was my first book any of the sisters. I’ll have to check my list to see how many more are on it. I know Wuthering Heights is on it. A Taste of Sorrow sounds pretty good. Thanks for the tip! I’m always amazed when a family can produce so many talented people. Have you seen the most recent Jane Eyre? I have yet, but after reading the novel finally I think I will track down a copy.
I find the choice for Mr Rochester a bit experimental… I’m not a big fan of Michael Fassbender but I would still like to watch it.
I’m not that familiar with Michael Fassbender. I think he was in the recent Xmen. But I don’t know if I’ve seen many films that he’s been in.
I do need to read this one of these days. I’ve held off just because I know the story, largely from Jasper Fforde’s book, The Eyre Affair, but also from what I’ve seen of films. I really wanted to see the latest version of Jane Eyre in the theater but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.
I haven’t heard of The Eyre Affair. Is it good? I also missed the movie in the theaters. I wanted to read the book first, but I couldn’t find the time. I’ll have to get it on DVD.
Yes, it is a really fun book and one I think you would enjoy more having read Jane Eyre.
Hi Grace. I have heard very mixed reports about Wuthering Heights. I’m excited to read it so I can give my opinion on the novel and joing the debate. I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks to get it done!
Great review! I am currently reading it now (I think you commented on my blog about it). I have not gotten very far but I am very excited about finishing it.
Thanks! Can’t wait to hear what you think of it.
Wonderful review of a wonderful book. Studied it a long, long time ago at school and wouldn´t look at it again for years (too much over analysis has been done methinks!) but then I picked it up again about 10 years ago and have re read it several times since. It´s not one that gives you a warm glowy feeling when you´ve finished it…lots of really quite dreadful characters and sometimes I just want to slap Jane (sorry!) but a fantastic novel nonetheless.
Thanks! There are some interesting characters for sure in this novel. And many of them were quite cruel and/or cold. One of the things I loved about Jane was that she wasn’t perfect and there were times when I was like “come on Jane, why did you do that.” She could be quite stubborn, but in the end I appreciated her independence.
I’ve only seen movies of Jane Eyre. I did enjoy those but never picked up the book..if I did that now it would sit with other “classics” I have here but haven’t read…but it is in the back of my mind!
Hi Deslily. What “classics” do you have?
I have 3 books of dickens and one of wilke collins and one of Trollop’s books that I can think off off hand Then I have some classic Sherlock Holmes and a few others that aren’t coming to mind right now.
I read my Mother’s ancient copy a few years back – a boxed set of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I think it’s time to do so again.
Sounds like a good plan. Do you have a favorite out of the two?
I love Jane Eyre! I recently read a contemporary YA retelling called Jane by April Lindner. Lol. Mr Rochester becomes Nico Rathburn, an aging rock star. It was different.
Mr. Rochester…an aging rock star. That’s pretty funny.
As a precocious child I read Jane Eyre quite early in my life. I appreciate it better now but still prefer Emily’s Wuthering Heights to Charlotte’s Jane Eyre.
I haven’t read Wuthering Heights yet but I will be starting it soon. But I’m finding from people who commented on this review that some either love it or hate it. I’m curious to see which camp I’ll be in.
I’ve found that books by the Bronte sisters are second only to “The Catcher in the Rye” with the degree of love or hatred that they get. There’s almost no in between.
Hi Grace. That is an interesting thought. I wonder why. Maybe people hear that it is a great novel and then they read it and are like, what’s that about and so they say they hate it.
Has your copy of The Catcher in the Rye gone to a third home yet?
This is one of my favorite novels!! I read it for the first time in 2010, and I loved it so much, I decided to start reading classics. 🙂
You must read Villette as well, a novel that I believe I prefer to Jane Eyre.
About Wuthering Heights — it’s exceptional!! Very, very emotional and erratic, and very different from Jane Eyre. Scary almost, for the emotion you can feel screaming from the pages.
You should also try Anne — another of the sisters with a style all her own. 🙂
Hi Jillian. I really loved Jane Eyre. It was fantastic. I haven’t heard of Villette but I’ll look into it. I’m excited to start Wuthering Heights. Thanks for all of the suggestions!
Deslily it sounds like you have some great classics to read. Dickens has ten books on my list so I will be starting that project soon!
Jane Eyre was wonderful. And I too had to chuckle at that proposal…reminds me a bit of Mr. Collins proposing to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. Not so much the content, but the sentiment of “You must marry me to do your duty” rather than “Please marry me because I love you.” It was also reminiscent of Mr. Collins’ proposal in how shocked they both were when they refused!
I’m going to have to read Jane Eyre again sometime soon. It’s definitely one of my favorites 🙂
That is a great comparison to Mr. Collins. I’m trying to decide which one is worse. Mr. Collins annoyed me the most. There were aspects that I liked about St. John. But both proposals were ridiculous.