I personally believe that this book is overlooked a lot of the time in favor of the other Bronte sisters books, such as Wuthering Heights. I first read this in high school, actually studied it, which was surprising as I actually enjoyed it. Usually studying books in school ruins them forever, but for some reason, I loved it even more!
At least in my eyes, this book is one of the more inspiring classics. It revolves around a woman called Jane, who has lived a horrible life filled with abuse by her relatives, neglect in an orphanage and the seemingly despairing gulf of plainness. Having been told all of life that she is, in essence, a plain Jane, she becomes a governess in order to support herself. This career path leads her to Thornfield Hall to educate a young french girl. While there, she meets the owner of the Hall, Mr Rochester, who takes an interest to her. However, a strange presence is in Thornfield Hall which is revealed at Jane’s ceremony to Mr Rochester. A presence that has been locked away to be neither seen nor heard.
I found this book to be thrilling and daringly blunt for its time. The reason I say this is that often, women are described in most classic books as an almost fairy like creature, beautifully primped and pruned for marriage and children. However, this book confronts an issue that is quite unseen, a woman who has no good relations, no thoughts of marriage and is independent of urban society. For me, as I’m not a fan of most female characters who seem destined to turn into the perfect lady, I find this really refreshing. The quote I have chosen from the book kind of shows this, as it has always been a favorite of mine and a real statement about women of that time and Jane’s proud nature:
“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you – and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.” – pp. 292, Chapter 23
I also really enjoyed the character of Rochester, who is quite a Darcy like fellow, with the burdened past, and the inspiring warmth but then sudden aloofness. I really feel for Jane who, seemingly naive to any game of love, is bounced around by him as he galavants with his fellow wealthy friends. Just as in Pride and Prejudice, there is evidence of a huge separation of status which is both emphasized and then closed by the leading male character.
The writing style is also quite modern and flows from page to page. Although dominated by Jane’s narrative, there are moments of beauty in which she describes scenery or feelings. The authoress also takes the time to make the conversations flow as well, which allows the voices of the characters to be retained, long after closing the book.
As far as the negative side of the book, although I can’t think of one sweeping problem that could put either myself or someone else off, I do have one thought. When I started reading this book, no one had suggested that it can be quite fanciful. Therefore, when I encountered the mystery parts, I thought it strange and didn’t really understand it (as I had not yet finished so there was not an overall perspective). I think that going into this book, you have to be prepared for an almost anything and not look at is as a general Jane Austen type book where romance and class distinction are the only main themes.
In the end, I would definitely suggest this to anyone. I feel that it is especially important for girls in their teens, as it reinforces those feelings of pride and morality which is often questionable in those times. There is also a streak of feminism which although evident, isn’t smashed into the reader’s senses which is a good amount for any younger reader. However, this book should suit all, as it has romance, adventure and mystery all within it.
The BBC has an amazing mini series on this book which, if you enjoyed the book, you should definitely hit up. I found it very true to the books which is lovely.