Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 1848

It's about: This book is about ... a girl named Jane Eyre. Jane was orphaned as a small child and raised by her bitter and resentful aunt Reed. At age 10, Jane is sent to Lowood - a boarding school for young orphan girls with notoriously bad living conditions. Jane works hard as a student and eventually works her way up to become a teacher. Eager to leave Lowood and experience the world, Jane leaves to work as a governess at Thornfield mansion. While at Thornfield, Jane meets Mr. Rochester, who is head of the estate. He falls in love with Jane's sensible and strong character. But there is a catch, a catch that involved maniacal laughter and fire. We will leave it at that, for those of you who haven't read it!

I thought: First of all, I would like to point out that I read the Norton edition of Jane Eyre, which includes footnotes as well as an appendix including information on Charlotte Brontë as well as critical essays on Jane Eyre. I highly recommend Norton editions because they help the reader to place the work in a critical framework as well as providing a bit of background, which greatly adds, in my opinion, the one's enjoyment of the work.

As for the novel Jane Eyre itself, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The story is compelling, and every element within the book seemed to work to propel the story forward. It seemed like no part was unnecessary or could have been left out. I appreciate this, because I know it takes a tremendous amount of skill to craft such a sophisticated and complex tale. Speaking of tales, Adrienne Rich in her remarkable essay printed in the back of my edition called "Jane Eyre: The Temptationg of a Motherless Woman," says of this novel:

Jane Eyre is different from Wuthering Heights, ... not because Charlotte Brontë lodged her people in a world of governesses and employers, of the love between men and women. Jane Eyre is not a novel in the Tolstoyan, the Flaubertian, even the Hardyesque sense. Jane Eyre is a tale.

Of course we all loves "tales," because there is nothing more important in a tale than the tale itself - that is, the story itself is central. That is what is so delightful, in my opinion, about Jane Eyre. This novel is focused entirely on telling, us, the readers, (even directly addressing us as "dear reader,") Jane's story. This novel isn't about society, or even "the human condition." It's about Jane. This allows us to focus in on her directly and get to know her as the complex character that she is.

Verdict: I am going to go right ahead and place this one on the shelf.

Warnings: None.

Favorite excerpts: "A rude noise broke on these fine ripplings and whisperings, at once so far away and so clear: a positive tramp, tramp; a metallic clatter, which efaced the soft wave-wanderings; as, in a picture, the solid mass of crag, or the rough boles of a great oak, drawn in dark and strong on the foreground, efface the aerial distance of azure hill, sunny horizon, and blended clouds, where tint melts into tint."