Bookish Discussions

Revisiting the Brontës: Jane Eyre

‘Do you think I am an automaton? A machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think me wrong!’


635F70C3-6EBB-47AB-8D69-892F1DA750EFI made it my goal this year to reread (and annotate) all the Brontë novels. It’s safe to say that won’t be happening. I’ve only managed two so far, leaving me with five. It’s doable, but I don’t want to dedicate the rest of the reading year to it, so I’ll carry it onto next year instead.

One of the challenges for this year’s #Victober was to re-read a Victorian classic, so, naturally, I chose Jane EyreIt’s my favourite book of all time. My comfort book. The one I can return to time and time again, never growing bored, and always taking away something new from it. It’s my third time rereading it. I somehow loved it even more this time round.

As usual, the remaining chapters is what makes the book so special to me. It might seem weird to say, but I feel privileged to have witnessed Jane’s journey through life. Charlotte told the story in a way that allowed me to build a relationship with our protagonist. I felt what she felt; I craved what she craved; and I was desolate when she was desolate. It probably has something to do with the type of character Jane is: she’s ordinary. Just like any other. She isn’t a distant, middle-class character; she is very much present in the real world.

Despite her social standing, both in terms of class and gender, Jane is courageous. She is aware of her own mind. She will not willingly submit to patriarchal conventions; she will actively defy them, shown through her feminist outbursts and her frantic escape from Thornfield Hall. Jane is not willing to marry Rochester until he symbolically loses his middle-class status. He must rely on Jane just as much as she relies on him. They must be equals, and so he must lose his house, his eyesight and his hand before she can marry.

Now, I know people are divided when it comes to the debate on Jane Eyre‘s feminism. Is it a feminist novel or not? I firmly believe that it is. Bertha’s storyline does not further the narrative of female oppression, rather it shines a light on it. She is a foreign woman, a married woman, a mad woman. These are things that Victorian society sought to control. Bertha recognises that death is her only escape. She sets Thornfield alight to escape her prison, both physically and mentally. She will be released from her marriage with Rochester upon his/her death. Charlotte highlights how irreversible marriage is, how women were treated and the lengths they would go to in order to be free.

There’s so much to say about this novel, I can’t simply go on. It’s already a ramble, and I’m probably talking nonsense, but I wanted to organise some of my thoughts for you. I love discussing this book with people. I’m too passionate about it to keep quiet for too long. I really love this book. I uncovered a lot of new meanings on this read, like how Rochester and Mrs. Reed are continually described as ‘dark’, which makes me think they have some foreign heritage to them? I’ve never picked up on that before, and haven’t heard anything discussed about it, so…

Anyways, it’s just so good.

Have you read Jane Eyre? What do you think of it? Do you like it? I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments!

Thanks for reading, Lauren X

7 thoughts on “Revisiting the Brontës: Jane Eyre

  1. I’m slowly ambling through the novel for the first time and am finding it much more of a piece than Shirley, which I recently completed and have been blogging about in a few posts. It’s really interesting, this continuing debate about whether it’s a feminist novel, especially as among modern self-identified feminists there isn’t a consensus about what that really means. (And I write as a mere male, observing from the outside!)

    To me, coming fresh on the Brontë sisters — though I’ve yet to read Emily — they strike me as being fiercely independent-minded which, in a Victorian context, strikes me as truly feminist. True, the female protagonists seem to go for the older, intellectually captivating yet ‘manly’ types, not too much different from idealised Austen heroines, but it is what they say and how they act that for the most part shows them as bucking the established male order: insistence on earning their own wages, willingness to contradict the notion of male supremacy, speaking the truth in the face of injustice. Caroline Helstone and Shirley Keeldar, even Frances Henri, are Charlotte’s mouthpieces in this respect, Agnes Grey to a lesser extent in Anne’s novel.

    I can’t believe that Charlotte saw her marriage to Arthur Nicholls as the final goal to her life, even if it offered some kind of financial stability: we can only speculate but I sincerely hope not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree with you – they were writing well ahead of their time when it comes to feminism! Glad you liked Shirley, it’s an excellent read! I personally don’t think she married him for financial stability, as she was among enough money from her work. I think it was probably loneliness that drove her to it!

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  2. It took me quite a while to read Jane Eyre and to get through it… but the more I’ve read the more I was captivated by the story and by the character of Jane. I must say I absolutely adore her! Such a strong, independent and self-aware young woman! So many protagonists from modern literature should learn from her.

    I also love it that she could really be with Rochester only when they became equal, or even when she was in a higher position, because he had to depend on her. Before he was… ugh! I hated his attitude towards Jane. So it was good to see him humbled and matured at the end.

    Anyway, although living in times when woman’s main goal in life was to get a guy, Jane Eyre is so self-concious and independent that she refuses two relationships that aren’t agreeing with her terms. If that’s not feminism and confidence, I don’t know what is. And that’s my favourite aspect of that novel.

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  3. Getting this classic in when I was very young has been critical to my own understanding of feminism. I had far more options than Jane – and took advantage of them. She took advantage of what was available to HER.

    Her choices were for HER, however inconvenient to her – or others. Without principles, what are we?

    Like

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