I decided to start out my month of classics with Jane Eyre because it was the one classic I’ve heard of so many times, yet I still hadn’t managed to read it. I finally bought myself a copy of the book about six months ago, and then I got lazy and decided to listen to an audiobook instead. Truthfully, sometimes I get bogged down in traditional classic diction (re: fancy old words) and that really kills my reading motivation, and I wanted to start this month off right!
This classic starts off introducing young Jane Eyre, who until age ten was a ward of her aunt, Mrs. Reed, at Gateshead Hall. After being dubbed too passionate for standing up for herself against the emotional and physical abuse from her aunt and cousins, she was sent off to Lowood School, a boarding school specifically for wards and orphans. The school was run with ship-like precision, but Jane adapted well and enjoyed learning, even making friends. Unfortunately a serious case of Typhoid spread throughout the school, and Jane loses one of her closest friends, Helen. When she reached age eighteen, she grew listless and decided to advertise as a governess, in the hopes of travel and new introductions.
A woman named Mrs. Fairfax answered her ad, and she journeyed to Thornfield Hall to become the governess of Adèle Varens, a young French girl. Jane assumes that Mrs. Fairfax is the lady of Thornfield, and that Adèle is her daughter, but is quickly corrected. Mrs. Fairfax is also an employee of Mr. Rochester, the master of the hall. Adèle is not hers or Mr. Rochester’s, but a ward taken in as Adèle’s mother thought that she was indeed Mr. Rochester’s child. Once Jane understands, she contently takes up her position and enjoys being at Thornfield, where comfort is plentiful. As Jane gets to know Mr. Rochester, she finds she is starting to fall in love with him. However, there are secrets in Thornfield that prevent them from getting too close.
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As Bronte reveals the secrets of Mr. Rochester’s past from Jane’s point of view, I couldn’t help but imagine what an old time soap opera this novel is- and how much I hung on every word! Listening to the audiobook, I was transported into the soothing accented narration, recounting Jane’s story, written as the main character journals. The stunning imagery, the poetic language from the Victorian era, and the intellectual societal conversation have proven to entrance centennials of readers. To me, that’s enough of a reason to recommend the novel- or the 24 plus hours of audio- to anyone. However, for those of you who really want to know, I’ll answer the most obvious question about this book.
Why is it a classic novel?
Jane Eyre was a strong, feminist female leading character before her time. Despite being an orphan, raised in an unloving home and abused, she rose above, determined to make a better life for herself. She got an education, pursued employment, and refused to marry for money or status. She stuck to her morals and the belief that women should be treated equally as men. She was not submissive, and fiercely independent. She only wished to be happy, and to love, and to be loved in return. This sort of woman was considered very modern, and the novel went against the social norms of Bronte’s time period. The themes of the novel and Jane’s character have stood the test of time in it’s ability to relate to the readers.