Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is an intriguing tale for sure. The story starts with Jane as a ten-year-old living with her aunt and three bratty cousins. Mrs. Reed is not Jane’s blood relation and has always resented the girl, and the only reason Mrs. Reed keeps Jane in her home is because of a promise coerced from her at her husband’s death bed.

Although the aunt keeps the promise of continuing to allow Jane to live in her home, she never attempts to raise Jane as one of her own. The aunt is cruel and unfeeling toward her ward. Jane’s cousin, John, is even crueler. Jane spends much of her first ten years trying to keep out of his way so as not to be abused, both physically in the form of flinging books, and mentally by continually reassuring her that she is nothing but an ugly orphan who should feel grateful for every crumb.

Jane becomes ill after being locked in a room she believes is haunted. The doctor, in the course of his examination, realizes the situation in which Jane lives and suggests to Mrs. Reed that she send Jane away to school.

Jane ends up in a school for orphans and unwanted children, and is run by a man even more heartless than Mrs. Reed. He and his family live in luxury while he grinds into the children’s minds that they should be humble. A lack of proper food and adequate heating keeps them that way until half the children die of disease and alert the surrounding community to the children’s inhumane treatment, and a governing board for the school is formed. Conditions improve dramatically, and Jane is raised to be an educated, well-mannered young woman.

After her favorite teacher leaves, Jane becomes restless and advertises for a position as governess. Her request is answered by only one opportunity for employment—which she takes. Jane finds herself in a lovely home, teaching a young French girl and discovers eventually that the young girl, Adele, is the orphan-ward of Mr. Rochester—a man in his early forties who has lived a riotous life but wants to settle down.

Although Mr. Rochester is twice Jane’s age, the pair discover they are like-minded and enjoy one another’s company, and they fall in love. One would wish the story to end right there. Let the wealthy man, who is proud and sure marry the young girl who has never had anything. But Jane discovers Mr. Rochester’s dark secret while standing at the alter waiting to pledge her love.

The author teased my mind, wondering all the while if the pair would get back together, or if Jane would find another kindred soul who was younger and more suited to her in age. After running away from Mr. Rochester, Jane becomes the benefactress of kindness bestowed upon her by a younger and certainly more handsome man. He saves her from the brink of death and he and his sisters nurse her back to health.

He is not her soul mate, however, and his overbearing ways are soon made manifest. Although he does not love her nor pretend to, he wishes her to be his wife and travel to India so they can be couple missionaries there. (He likes controlling her life.) After having known love true and passionate, Jane cannot bear the idea of marrying a man for sheer convenience.

Poor Mr. Rochester doesn’t get off as easily.

Jane Eyre shows the greatness of true love. However I wish someone would rewrite it in American English. While Jane is tutoring Adele, there are many passages in French that are never interpreted, and the old-style English with which the novel is written is sometimes hard to understand. However, that said, it is worth the effort.

1 comment:

Valerie Ipson said...

I need to read this. People (okay, well, women)
are always mentioning it.