Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I have wanted to read Charlotte Bronte for a while now, but what kept putting me off was the writing style I generally encountered in books published in that time period. I found it too descriptive, and generally slow. And I will admit, I often would have to stop and read back a page as I would find it hard to understand where the author had gone with the story (Jane Austen and Scott F Fitzgerald I am looking at you).
But Jane Eyre was different.
The plot kept moving from page one. Yes there were long sentences, lengthy descriptions and rich internal monologues, but, none of it was too much. At no point did I get “lost” in the book and have to wonder where the story had moved. At no point did I mix up characters or wonder where a character had suddenly appeared from. The story flowed beautifully, and gripped me in to the point I could not put the book down by the end; I just had to find out if Jane and Mr Rochester would end up together.
But what I loved most about Jane Eyre is that it was daring and rebellious.
I doubt that many people would use those words to describe Jane, a character that firmly abides but strict moral ideals and religious views, but you must consider the society that Jane grew up in. The book was published in 1847. This was a time of servants and masters, a time of strict and dogmatic religious views, of social classes and gender inequality, where men were viewed as superior and women were told to be meek and reserved.
Yes, Jane Eyre is quintessential of the Victorian time period it was written in, but, oh did Bronte also challenge those views in this novel. Jane was outspoken and had opinions (gasp!), she challenged not only Mr Rochester but also the accepted viewpoints of her time. She was independent and self-sufficient, she was strong and opinionated, she challenged the harsh treatment of children that was widely accepted at the time and challenged that idea that the ideal woman was submissive and quiet.
To us today, the below sentence would be taken for granted, but imagine the Victorian man reading it in the 1800s. The outrage!
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.“
Reader, Jane was what today we would call ‘a strong, independent woman, that don’t need no man’.
If you are like me and don’t generally love Victorian novels, give Jane Eyre a chance, you won’t regret it.