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CRP: “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

The Classics Reclamation Project is my personal challenge to read and enjoy the classics. Each Wednesday, I post about the classic I’m reading at the moment.

The Classics Reclamation Project

So. I made it through 28 years of my life knowing only the briefest generalities about Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. How I avoided the details for so long is a mystery to me; even the back of my edition, which I read after finishing the book, gives the basic plot for more than half the novel. (Seriously, why??) I am so very pleased I managed to read Jane Eyre with so little prior knowledge. It would not have been the same if I’d known more than I did.

It took me three weeks to read Jane Eyre. It’s one of those books I could have torn through, but I made myself go slowly. More times than I can count, I’ve heard people cite Jane Eyre as the book they’d most like to read again for the first time. So, each night before bed, I’d curl up and read a few chapters. It was perfect.

If you have yet to read Jane Eyre but plan to, I recommend that you stop reading now. In other words: spoilers ahead! Rather than reading my post, go and get yourself a copy of the book and dig in.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (cover)I loved Jane Eyre the book, but more than that, I loved Jane Eyre the character. I wanted her to be my friend. I admired her strength and her self respect. She inspired me. By the end of the novel, I wasn’t worried any more on her behalf; I trusted her to make the choices that would best suit her. I felt like I really knew her, to an extent I’ve rarely experienced. It was a little difficult for me to keep in mind that she is a character, not a flesh-and-blood human being.

Mr. Rochester, on the other hand, did not win me over until the final pages. He had to prove himself, and it wasn’t until his reunion with Jane in his humbled state that he did so. I was angry at him for having hidden the existence of his first wife; it made his affection for Jane seem less authentic somehow. I was wary of his reunion with Jane, unsure of how Bronte could reconcile the two without Jane giving up some essential part of her. But Mr. Rochester absolutely redeemed himself in the end, and the whole of part 2, chapter 37 made me extraordinarily happy. By the last page, I felt he was at last worthy of Jane.

At several moments I felt briefly like there were a few too many coincidences: Jane happened to flee directly to her cousins’ home? Mr. Rochester’s first wife conveniently flung herself from the roof during Jane’s absence? But I found myself caught up in the story, swept away by Jane’s narration, and my objections never lasted long. I have no solid complaint to lodge against the book, and even these potential quibbles are, overall, hardly worth mentioning.

I’m content to end my probing there. I cannot do justice to Jane Eyre nor put into words all my reasons for loving it. I have no desire to pick it apart or analyze it further. I’m just happy to bask in the glow that comes with having recently finished a long, leisurely reading of a wonderful novel.

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  • http://zenleaf.amandagignac.com Amanda

    I’m so glad you liked this!! I admit, I’m one of those people that adore Rochester, and I explained my reasonings for it in my way-too-long review I posted a few weeks ago. I also didn’t feel like it was a coincidence that Bertha flung herself off the roof – I felt like had she not been caught, she would have done the same thing every other time she’d escaped. She wanted to destroy Rochester and end her life, and she kept attempting that over and over, and failing. Now the whole coincidence with her cousins, yeah that defies probability and all, but I loved the story so much that it didn’t matter to me. My cousin read this and though the whole thing seemed very cliched, but she’s a reader of modern romances which all have their roots in this story, so it was hard for her to separate that out.

    • Erin

      That reminds me, I need to go back and read your post! I hadn’t read Jane Eyre when you posted it and didn’t want to encounter any spoilers. I did end up really liking Mr. Rochester, I must admit. I did not trust him until the end of the book. As for Bertha, I guess coincidence isn’t quite the right word. Perhaps that one was just convenient that the time she succeeded was while Jane was away. The cousin thing I noticed, but like you I didn’t mind. I loved the rest of the book too much to be bothered by that one little glitch!

  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    I know a lot about this story, but have never read the book. I actually am hoping to later this month, and got a push when my mom told me that it’s one not to be missed! I didn’t read your whole review for fear of spoilers, but I will be coming back to it once I have finished the book. I am so glad to hear that it was worth savoring!

    • Erin

      My mom got me to read Jane Eyre, too! She was mildly appalled when she found out I’d never read it and told me it was one of her favorite books in high school. It’s definitely worth reading, and I hope you love it!

  • http://wormhole.carnelianvalley.com Charlie

    So glad you enjoyed it! I agree with what you say about Jane, and most definitely with the coincidences. I know it’s something Charlotte seems to like (Villette is full of them too unfortunately) but it does make the story less enjoyable, I found my reading speed dropped at the cousin section.

    I loved Rochester throughout, as much as I agree that he was wrong to do what he did. It was the humour that won me over, which probably speaks badly of me that I was willing to overlook the wrongs for him.

    • Erin

      I haven’t read Villette, but I want to, and soon. I can deal with coincidences, I think, as long as the story and characters are as good as they are in Jane Eyre! As for Rochester, he was definitely witty and humorous, but I didn’t trust him until the very end. I always felt like he was hiding something, and even though I didn’t know what it was, I wanted Jane to look out for herself!

  • http://www.stephandtonyinvestigate.com Steph

    I re-read this last year although it had been so long since I had read it the first time (when I was a young girl) that it was essentially like reading it from scratch. I too loved it, and like you, I was leery of Rochester until the very end as well! Dude is suspect and kind of creepy before that! I think Jane Eyre is a great introduction to the classics because it is not stuffy or slow at all!

    • Erin

      Yes! I felt like Rochester was hiding something, a secret or an ulterior motive or the like, that made me wary for Jane. I’m glad he won me over in the end, though, or I wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfied with the book. I agree that Jane Eyre is a great classics starting point. I almost never felt like I was reading the kind of book I think of when I think “classic.”

  • http://www.thingsmeanalot.com/ Nymeth

    It’s true that the plot almost defies our suspension of disbelief at certain points, but it probably says something that this is so easy to overlook. So much to love here!

    • Erin

      Very true — the rest of the book is so strong that I’m willing to allow Bronte her occasional coincidence!

  • http://www.lifewithbooks.com Jenners

    This is one of the few classics that I have read. I did admire and love Jane … but the coincidences at the end drove me crazy!

    • Erin

      I’m really happy the coincidences didn’t drive me TOO crazy. I was so worried I’d dislike Jane Eyre, or feel indifferent toward it. I do think it’s a good classic to read, whether you plan to read one or a hundred.

  • http://www.eclectic-eccentric.com Trisha

    My main problem with Jane is the overly serendipitous events that just happened to occur. Other than that though I did so love this book.

    • Erin

      Yep, definitely. The rest of the book made up for that, though, for me, so that I noticed the serendipity but didn’t dwell on it.

  • http://ardentreader.wordpress.com Christina

    I read Jane Eyre for the first time last month and just loved it! Could not believe that I managed to not read the book nor hear a lot about the plot for 19 years. And like you I really had no solid complaint to logged against the book. I just tried to (and managed to) enjoy reading the book as it is.

    • Erin

      I’m glad you got by without learning the plot, too! I don’t think I’d have enjoyed the book as much if I’d known more about the plot. I liked going into it with very few expectations or assumptions.

  • http://jennysbooks.wordpress.com Jenny

    Yeah, the coincidences are mighty coincidental, I’m not going to lie. The wife dying seems okay to me though — I feel like the whole Jane Eyre situation might have tipped her already crazy self over the proverbial edge, and that’s why she cracked like an egg, thus precipitating the whole roof-falling thing. Right? I think that works. :p

    • Erin

      That’s true about Bertha. I guess maybe that was less coincidental and more convenient…the one time she actually manages to wreak havoc on Thornfield is while Jane is away. I’m willing to accept that one. And I’ll overlook the cousins thing, but I really can’t come up with a good justification for that one!

  • http://coffeeandabookchick.blogspot.com Coffee and a Book Chick

    I really need to revisit this one again, it’s been so long since I last read it :)

    • Erin

      I can’t wait til I’m at the point of revisiting it! I do think it’ll be a book I read multiple times, even though I’m not generally a big rereader.

  • http://sophisticateddorkiness.com Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    So glad you liked this one! I have always loved Jane as a character, wanted to be her friend, all of the things you said. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Rochester — he makes me mad, but he also makes Jane happy, and in the end I most want Jane to be happy. I haven’t read this book in awhile, but now I want to reread it.

    • Erin

      Sounds like we had similar feelings toward the book! I’m looking forward to the time when I’ll be due to reread Jane Eyre :-)

  • http://yourmovedickens.blogspot.com/ Darlyn

    I’m so glad you like Jane Eyre–it’s one of my favorite classics, right up there with Pride and Prejudice. I noticed the coincidences too, but I completely overlooked them, mostly because I loved Jane Eyre the character too much. :)

    • Erin

      I’m hoping to read Pride and Prejudice soon! I was willing to overlook the coincidences, too. The rest of the book was that good!

  • http://www.litchick.typepad.com melanie

    Hooray for you & Jane! I never noticed all the coincidences..I just think it’s perfection on paper. And I remember finishing it in bed and being so satisfied I wept. And I agree that the story was less about the romance (for me) and more about her strength and dignity.

    • Erin

      I was so satisfied by the ending, too. I stayed up late to finish it and just sat there for a few minutes after I’d finished the last page. I was so happy Jane stayed true to herself but also found happiness — I feel like oftentimes a character has to give up something or compromise to get what they want.