‘Jane Eyre’ is a beloved Brontë classic, globally renowned for the courageous ascent of orphan Jane, in her journey of female subversion and passionate, unprecedented love with the brooding Mr Rochester. Charlotte Brontë aptly depicts the hauntingly Gothic settings of Gateshead, Lowood School and Thornfield Hall, thus providing reader suspension and apprehension, throughout the dramatic life of the insurgent Jane Eyre, in defiance of the looming patriarchal society.
Taking the Bildungsroman style, ‘Jane Eyre’ is a captivating novel perfect for the progression towards more sophisticated fiction, exuding meaning and purpose for readers of all ages. Personally, the transition from my cherished dystopian adventure fiction, such as ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’ series, to such an elaborate novel as ‘Jane Eyre’, presented a fearful and complex task. Was I really ready for such a daring leap? However, the eloquently written ‘Jane Eyre’ bears staggering similarities to contemporary fiction filling library shelves and book stores today, whilst maintaining unique and distinctive qualities; a dynamic female protagonist, an almost unattainable objective and overwhelming obstacles or challenges all contribute to the success of such an influential novel. As a young adult yourself, you too may have qualms with such classics; ‘Do I really want to leave my contemporary comfort zone?’ and ‘Is ‘Jane Eyre’ too convoluted for my modern novel contentment?’ were questions racing through my mind, as I procrastinated the daunting read ahead. On the contrary, I found ‘Jane Eyre’ to be wholly enrapturing, evoking a drastic range of emotions, from empathy and pity to empowerment and exhilaration. Not only am I boastful of Charlotte Brontë’s exceptionally engrossing novel, which audaciously challenges traditional 19th Century values of the submissive woman and domineering patriarchal forces, but I urge the immediate read of ‘Jane Eyre’ and would recommend such an astounding novel to readers of all manners.
In addition to the Bildungsroman style, ‘Jane Eyre’ also takes the form of the Gothic Romantic, thus effectively utilising the mysterious and supernatural, combined with the desire to escape deep-seated societal standards and expectations, in order to emphasise the internal battle between passion and autonomy. The burning passion of love shared between Rochester and Jane cannot be extinguished, despite Jane’s relentless surge to be “ice and rock” in his presence, through the suppression of her emotions and the restriction of her “imprisoned flame” to “burn inwardly” alone. On the other hand, I remain sceptical as to whether Jane Eyre wholly achieved autonomy, or whether her independent persona was a mere facade for ultimate conformity. Furthermore, was Jane’s self-sufficient exterior merely an illusion to fully cloak what can only be described as extreme self-pity and grovelling? Regardless of your stance, Jane still remains a significant literary figure, captivating my 21st Century Feminist heart.
Finally, I must approach the current topic of avoidance, which cannot be wholly ignored (despite my fear of revealing spoilers). Bertha Mason, or “The Madwoman in the Attic”-a term coined by Gilbert and Gubar, is an unforgettably misunderstood character. Despite my infatuation with ‘Jane Eyre’, I remain terribly disappointed in the misconstrued depiction of Bertha, as “it grovelled, seemingly on all fours” and “snatched and growled”, clearly an exaggeration of the fatal consequences of ongoing oppression, for not only gender prejudices, but race and class too. The great pity elicited for Bertha Mason could only lead me towards resentment and loathing of Mr Rochester, not only as an oppressor of women but as an inhumane ‘husband’ and human. In contrast to popular belief, I do not perceive Bertha as “some strange wild animal”, nor Rochester as a Byronic hero, I personally hold mild detest towards Rochester and compassion and sympathy towards Bertha Mason, as the misunderstood ‘other’ of the novel. What opinions have you formed over such controversial characters?
Overall, ‘Jane Eyre’ is an illustrious Gothic Romantic novel, which will most-definitely change and inform current opinions, regarding either everyday life or withstanding moral principles. In one’s own view, it is a highly recommendable must-read, particularly for the passionate young woman wishing to progress and live vicariously through the strong-willed and determined protagonist that is Jane Eyre.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”