Genre: Novel, Romance
Originally Published by Smith, Elder & Co. of London in 1847
Published on 29/06/2006 by Penguin Classics
Rating: 4.13/5 on Goodreads
Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard.
But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?
In my eyes –
Jane Eyre, a bold, courageous girl who ventured on her journey of incomprehensible circumstances, whilst shielding her individuality, at a time of the 1800’s when a woman was not allowed to do anything other than embellish herself to infatuate affluent people of rank; and for women like Jane Eyre who were disposed of their pedigree, there were only a few sundry occupations: being governesses in ignorant and materialistic aristocratic families, and other so called petty affairs such as knitting, sewing and drawing. During a time, which a woman was restrained from expressing her feelings, Jane Eyre dared to love a person who was out of her league.
Warning – Contains spoilers; so before you read the rest, enjoy reading the novel first.
Her story goes through five significant stages at five places: her childhood at the Gateshead Hall with cruel aunt and her daughters; Lowood school (by the word “Low” the author must have intended to show that the school was low and underprivileged), where she witnesses the death of Helen Burns in a tear-jerking moment, in whom she finds a beloved friend for the first time in her life; at Thornfield in which she meets her destined master; Moor House to which she was brought by fate unknowingly to find her blood cousins; The manor-house of Ferndean, where she finds the bliss of love to last for the rest of her life.
The quintessential novel has some preternatural scenes: Jane’s being passed out in the red room of Mr. Reed, Bertha Mason coming into her bedroom and tearing away the new wedding-veil. But the scene that touched my heart the most was Jane’s response after the failure of performing the wedding. She got to know that she was duped in some way by her master, but she had no hate. She came into her room, but did not cry her eyes out; instead she perfunctorily removed her wedding-dress and laid on the bed. Then an interesting thing happens in her imagination: she sees a high wave coming and drowning her in it with its current. This reminded me of Shakespeare’s famous play Macbeth, where he uses water as a motif to symbolize guilt; but here Charlotte Bronte had used water as a sorrowful current which sinks the person in it.
Whilst the protagonist always surprises the reader with her infallible perseverance and sharp reciprocation for the double-edged questions thrown at her by her cold master, there is an interesting story of the cold master himself, that is gradually unfolded by the author as we go forward with the story, page by page. As the reader dives deep into Mr. Rochester’s character, the reader can by and by comprehend that his coldness is a mask he puts on to veil the miserable situation he is in. Mr. Rochester being harsh, before long is controlled by Jane’s profound answers, and his taciturnity fades away in front of her. He, who won reader’s curiosity at the beginning of the plot by his mysteriousness, wins the sympathy and love of the reader, as at the end of the novel the harsh shell of Mr. Rochester is burst and a sensitive, vulnerable and loving man comes out of it.
The novel talks about freedom of women in all versions. While Jane was finding her freedom by endeavoring to become an independent woman, her aunt’s daughter Eliza Reed tries to find it by being an inmate of a nunnery. Jane reluctantly expresses her dislike to her in these words, “I suppose, in another year you will be walled up alive in a French convent.” Hence, in a way Eliza chooses to lock herself up in a nunnery.
Moreover, it’s interesting to look at the way Bertha Mason (Mrs. Rochester) was narrated. She was imprisoned at the Thornfield for a long time since she was discovered to be mentally unsound. The character of Bertha sounds ghastly by the words “clothed hyena” and “savage.” Instead of making the character so spooky, the author could have tried to create sympathy towards her, as she is a lunatic in colloquial language. Ultimately, Bertha finds freedom by jumping from the roof of Thornfield and committing suicide. In the very novel that depicted freedom of women, it was sad to see a woman who had no voice committing suicide at the end. In the movie adaptation of 2011 for the novel, a justification was added by Rochester for keeping Bertha in cell. In the movie, Rochester says that he tried to take her to an asylum but he witnessed that the inmates in it were chained and treated like animals. He says with teary eyes, “At least, I spared her that.”
In the novel, the author has used symbols and adages of the Bible and Holy Scriptures and also some from past literature. Some of those symbols and motifs were Jane’s hand, “fire and ice,” the role of mother, and the lightening-struck chestnut tree. Not to forget the destitute four days Jane spent outdoors, eating left-overs and rotten food under the nurture of mother Moon.
There were heart-touching dialogues, which expressed love, that were inscribed in my mind. Some of those were,
- Helen Burns – I’m going ‘to my long home – my last home.”
- Rochester – “I must be aided, and by that hand: and aided I was.”
- Rochester – “Oh! come, Jane, come!”; Jane – “I’m coming” (long delayed reply to him at the very end of the novel.)
There is so much to say about this grand novel. Yet, I let you to read the magical words of Charlotte Bronte and enter the world she had conjured up with these layered characters. That’s the very reason for “Jane Eyre” to be a celebrated and distinguished novel for generations and many more generations to come.
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