Jane Eyre has to be one of my all time favourite novels.
I first read it when I was studying for my A-levels; the course was based upon Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and we were encouraged to read similar literature in order to compare the style of writing, themes, characters etc. I didn’t really know what the plot of the book was, I just knew that it was a Victorian Gothic romance and written by the sister of Emily Bronte, Charlotte.
At first I found it really hard to get into. I think the biggest challenge is getting your head around the language used as well as the dialect of the characters. You’re not only reading a Victorian novel, but you’re reading a Victorian novel set in Georgian Northern England, which brings its own sayings and phrases. Don’t let this put you off! Just stick at it and keep on reading – there’s always trusty Google to help with words you have no clue about!
The novel follows Jane through her early life, starting with her childhood as an orphan who is abused by her remaining family. The story then follows Jane from her schooling to her employment as a governess at Thornfield Hall and her subsequent relationship with the master of the house Edward Rochester. It is the relationship between Rochester and Jane which got me hooked.
Rochester, a brooding, straight-talking man (he has been described as a Byronic hero), meets his match with Jane, who stands up to him and is not afraid to voice her opinion. Class boundaries clearly separate the pair, and at first it is evident that Rochester wants her to know it, but eventually his guard drops and he realises he has fallen in love with her. By the end there is role reversal, as it is Jane who emerges as the stronger character and morally guides Rochester; something which was not regularly portrayed at the time.
My favourite scene has to be the proposal. Jane has kept her guard up for so long in order not to be hurt again that she does not realise what’s right in front of her. When Rochester declares his love for her and asks her to marry him, she thinks he is mocking her and tries to leave. When Rochester compares her to a frantic bird, Jane declares:
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me;
I am a free human being with an independent will.”
This quote has stuck with me ever since I read it for the first time. I think it is adaptable to anyone of any age in any period. No one should be trapped by anything or anyone; we should all be able to express our independence and do what we want to in life. I often remind myself of this quote when I’m struggling with something or feel anxious.
Then you have the twists and turns throughout the rest of the book, from Pyromaniac Bertha hanging out in the attic, St John who wants to drag Jane along to India and the windfall which finally sets Jane free.
At no point did I get bored with the story, I just wanted to find out where Jane ended up and if she could finally find true happiness. And reader, let me tell you, you will not be disappointed!
As well as the book, I love the film adaption of Jane Eyre with Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska. Check out the proposal scene here:
I hope this post has either made you want to read the book if you haven’t already, revisit it if you have, or even watch the film.
Let me know what your favourite part is, and I hope you love it as much as I do!