Sunday, October 2, 2011

Jane Eyre

I am not a romantic - forget flowers and candlelight, I'd rather have a guy who will have long conversations with me, quote Monty Python, and play backgammon - so it's no surprise that I don't find Edward Rochester to be a great romantic figure. In fact, I think he's a manipulative jerk. While I do have some sympathy for his being tricked into a marriage with an apparently insane and violent woman, that does not excuse his keeping her prisoner in the attic and pretending that she does not exist. He does not redeem himself by the way he flirts with Blanche Ingram and makes Jane believe he's going to marry Blanche before his improbable proposal to his ward's governess or with he ignores Jane's requests and showers her with unwanted gifts in the days leading up to their planned marriage.

Jane, on the other hand...well Jane's got spunk. She's got a moral compass without being a boring prig like Fanny Price. It gets her in trouble at home, where her refusal to tolerate abuse by her aunt and cousins gets her sent away to a particularly harsh boarding school, but it's also what drives her to escape Thornfield on what would have been her wedding night and eventually find a new life under an assumed name as a teacher in a charity school. The final chapters of the novel, with their Victorian over-reliance on coincidence, felt like a bit of a let down to me, but I enjoyed Jane Eyre more than I thought I would. Charlotte Bronte had a clear, descriptive writing voice, and while parts were a bit dry for my taste (I can just imagine how acidly Jane Austen would have described the benefactors' visit to Lowood), I could both like and admire it.

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