Jane Eyre is like a myth to me. Maybe like Moby Dick or Hamlet. Books or works that I hear too often and scare me because they are important piece of literature. Last year I resolved to read more notable classic literatures and since Penguin published the book and its cover is illustrated by Ruben Toledo, I decided to buy it. I thought: if I don’t like it, at least it’ll look good on my shelf.
But not only does it look good, Jane Eyre is exceptional. It begins like a Cinderella story. Jane is 10 when her mother died, she was left orphaned and she lived with her uncle, Mr.Reed and his family. In the household, only his uncle is kind to her. After he passed away, Mrs. Reed wants to get rid of Jane but she can’t because of her husband’s dying wish. So Jane has to endure abuse – mentally and physically from her aunt and her three cousins. The only one whoo is kind to her is Bessie the maid. Later, after an incident, Jane is sent to a charity school far from home. Jane is glad to be able to leave Reed’s house and – this is why I like Jane – she confronts Mrs.Reed and tells her that she will never call her ‘aunt’ again, that she hates her and her children.
I am glad you are no relation of mine. I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if anyone asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserably cruelty.
And this is the fourth chapter of 38. AND it is said by a 10-year-old girl to an adult woman who has been very cruel to her since the beginning of her time in the house. I knew then I was going to read a book about a strong, independent woman.
Jane’s years in Lowood, her school, is hard and miserable. The children are mistreated and many died during a typhus epidemic – including Helen Burns, Jane’s friend. After six years as a student and two years as a teacher in Lowood, Jane decides to leave. She’s got a job as a governess in Thornfield Hall. There her love story with the mysterious Mr.Rochester begins.
In Thornfield Hall, Jane meets Mrs.Alice Fairfax, the old housekeeper and Adele, a young French girl who she is to teach. Both of them are very nice and Jane likes them – but the master of the house, Edward Rochester, is someone who is not easy to like. He often travels and he always challenges Jane in every discussion.
‘Here is Miss Eyre, sir’ said Mrs.Fairfax, in her quiet way. He bowed, still not taking his eyes from the group of the dog and child.
‘Let Miss Eyre be seated,’ said he; and there was something in the forced stiff bow, in the impatient yet formal tone, which seemed further to express, ‘What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre be there or not? At this moment I am not disposed to accost her.’
What a thrilling and cold first meeting. Later, finding that Jane is an original and not afraid of him, Mr.Rochester finds her a great talking companion. And later, Jane realised that she falls in love with him. There are no lines in books that I have read that could match how Charlotte Bronte described Jane’s feeling.
I had not intended to love him; the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, green and strong! He made me love him without looking at me.
That last line! I had to put down the book for a moment and thought of Jane’s feeling. To love someone when the person does not deserve our loves – or even acknowledge it – is so sad yet so full of beauty.
Jane’s love story isn’t an easy one. There is a rival, a beautiful but snobbish Miss Blanche Ingram. There is also a mystery that surrounds Thornfield Hall. Jane hears mysterious laughs in the middle of the night. One day a fire mysteriously starts in Mr.Rochester’s room while he’s sleeping. Jane is sure that there is someone lives inside the house that is kept secret from her and Adele.
Most people (who haven’t read the book) would think Jane is a docile, passive, boring woman who falls weak in the knees when it comes to love. On the contrary! Jane displays a woman who is brave and hard. Who leaves the man she loves and holds strong on her principles. I can’t tell you how much I adore Jane Eyre. Yes, the book is mainly about romance, but more, it’s also about strong will and bravery. We, modern woman, have a lot to learn from Miss Eyre.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (first published in 1847)
Cover Design and Illustration: Ruben Toledo
Published by: Penguin Books (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition), 2009, 453 pages