I come to this post with some reluctance because I am both a bit under the weather, and I honestly do not know what to write concerning Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, the recent novel I finished this week. That is not to say I did not enjoy the book. On the contrary, I found this novel to be a delightful read. The reader finds himself caring deeply about our protagonist from the start — constantly hypothesizing what will happen to her, and yet I must confess it had one of the most unique tints to its image. And though my mind is certainly foggy at the moment, and the will is not there to write, I do so on two strict principles: (1) I am beginning to discover that I process and think better and with more clarity as I write. Reader, many times (I do not understand outlining ) I honestly have no plan, but then when I look back, I guess it is not all bad. This little revelation should give you some insight into my wit: if he thinks better when he writes, and his writing has no objective, consequently when he is not writing… (2) Secondly, I adhere to the principle that everyone should practice their hobbies they love even on the off days so as to look all the better when life is such. Now, with that out of the way and my mind fully engaged, we can proceed.
As noted, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel as it had a somewhat seductive technique in the way it was written. Each chapter felt like its own adventure as Miss Eyre, our first person narrator, would paint us a stunning picture with her very eloquent prose before diving into the action of the plot. Many novels do this, but Brontë’s is magnificent in my mind. This technique is effective primarily because the reader has time to associate with everything, get an outward focus, and then plunge into the intricacies of the story. Reader, I do not consider myself a good reader (though diligent perhaps), and so I refuse to believe that the younger generation cannot swallow this book. For she is spoon feeding her readers, and the food is delicious.
But I felt a uniqueness, or better, an uncouthness from the beginning. Yet, Reader, know that it was a delicate oddity, not an outlandish one. Much more was it a whimpering dog than a tall bumbling fool. It is much more like Shiloh than Mr. Jaggers. A whimpering dog is the best analogy I can make at the moment, and I think it might just work. For their were two dogs in the novel, one by which Jane meets Mr. Rochester who indeed exemplifies the uncouthness of the novel. But better even is the line drawn between Jane and the whimpering dog, and this analogy demands an explanation with spoilers sure to follow. The novel displays Jane from the beginning as an adopted orphan who is largely misunderstood by her step mother and sisters (sound familiar?) who happen to be her aunt and cousins. Though many themes and plot lines and character roles crash through the trajectory of this novel as with any good novel, it must, ultimately, be about how the underdog, whimpering and with no hope, came out on top.
Yet it is far more complex than merely a “rags to riches” story. Jane’s sacrifice at the end of the novel ties her to a crippled and sightless man who cannot gaze upon her beauty or provide any sort of physical security for her. This sacrifice displays a rich portrayal of characterization by Brontë. As an adopted orphan, we are introduced to what I would label “the modern American teenage” Jane Eyre. Constantly looking to justify herself, she lashes out on her persecutors only making the situation much worse. It is a very “me against the world” type of demeanor she carries around with her. This epidemic, unfortunately, has plagued America, reader, an I am not immune. How often when “persecuted,” criticized, contradicted, judged, put-down, deceived, framed, rebuked, and rebutted do we insist to see the speck in our brother’s eye but do not consider the log in our own? Is it possible that, though the world snubs, scoffs, sneers, scorns, shames, shuns, slaps, scratches, sneezes on, and swanks us, our accusers are pointing to a major character flaw and not merely trying to be priggish? Perhaps, and indeed so, a good portion of this mindset to exonerate ourselves comes from many ignorant men on television and in movies telling us to fight the man. However, the majority of it comes from our wicked heart.
Nevertheless, Miss Eyre grows up, and her maturity is no doubt owed to her relationship with Helen Burns who, in short, teaches her the entirety of the book of 1 Peter via example. “For it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” And Helen Burns no doubt suffers. From Jane’s point of view, it is perceived as certainly unjust punishment for possibly the brightest girl in the class. However, Helen sees it from a much different angle pointing out that there are many tasks which she struggles at and needs to improve upon. It is her death, I argue, that forever changes Jane’s outlook on her situation. Still very much obliged to speak her mind and still the whimpering dog who like Oliver Twist is rash enough to ask for what she wants, she begins to advance herself, and as the story goes eventually becomes independent. Her emancipation, reader, I do not even know I can qualify as the climax. There seems to be three major needs for our character: independence, love, and a family. We could even put love and family together I suppose. I believe the climax comes around when she earns her independence only because she splits it with her new family members. The act of giving displays the true climax. She has a family (much different than her former) and has not a shred of selfishness like she had in the past. This self-sacrificing spirit, displayed best in her final act of devotion to Rochester, is a poignant picture of her character in full bloom.
In summation, Jane Eyre is a multifaceted novel that one could never stop analyzing. I strongly recommend it along with its oddities (of which I spoke on far less than originally planned). I trust this post was not nearly as foggy as the inside of my head at the moment, or I am certain I will gander on it again when I am well and bury myself in shame. Reader, know that perception is not everything for that is the perspective this novel taught me among others.
Soli Deo Gloria!