Book Week: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte



The Writing Style

   I first tried to read Jane Eyre a couple years ago... I couldn't do it. I struggled to understand what everyone said/what the words meant in context to the time, situation, people... This time it felt more like poetry. Why it was easier and more understandable to me now is hard to explain. Probably because I wasn't mature enough the first time. That isn't to say that this book is scandalous for younger readers. Charlotte Bronte's writing style, to me, seemed more like a conversation. Now, all books can be considered a conversation between writer and reader, but I felt more responsibility in "conversing" and thinking than any other book I have read. Even the way she bluntly addresses the reader makes you feel like you are listening to a woman telling her ridiculous and amazing life story. You have to listen to her. You have to not only follow the story, but participate in evaluating your own opinion and understanding the main characters train of thought.


"A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play; and when I draw up the curtain this time, reader, you must fancy you see a room in the George Inn at Millcote...."
First line of Chapter Eleven

"I was excited more than I had ever been; and whether what followed was the effect of excitement, the reader shall judge."
Page 431. Chapter Thirty-Five

The Use of Analyzing.

   Some people might get beat up by all the descriptions, but for me that was probably the most interesting aspect of the writing style. The reader knows practically every thought Jane has. And that's awesome because she's smart. She breaks people down in her mind with impeccable clarity. I wish people would take time to understand others like Jane did. It was like she described a paused moment in a movie. She was careful to understand them through the information they readily presented. Through her descriptions I was able to see secrets in someones eyes. I was able to know from description that an older woman was simple minded, yet caring. I knew these people. Not because they all told long and boring stories about their life, but because it was apparent in their manner and voice and eyes. I don't think that Jane was being imaginative and superfluous in her description. I think all the information she was able to gain was from pure observation. Information that any of us could gain by, I don't know, not thinking about ourselves for a good five minutes. Jane thought critically and observed critically. That is how she knew. That is how any of us could better understand each other. (Hello- new goal in life.)

"I imagine he did not think I was a beggar, but only an eccentric sort of lady, who had taken a fancy of his brown loaf."
Page 337. Chapter twenty eight

The Upholding of Principles

   This is the part when you want to shout, "GO GIRL. BE AMAZIN. YOU DON'T NEED A MAN." But, it's really more complicated than that. Jane is caught between a true love and personal principle. I don't want any spoilers so here's a simplified example:
You have two options: R and J. The option R is the one you most desire, but you also know that if you choose this option a personal principle will have to be forsaken. Then you have option J. Option J is abandoning option R completely for "the high road" and leaving behind what you most yearn for.  
So, which road does Jane take? Option J. It is the hardest thing she has ever faced, but she would rather do the hardest thing than sacrifice her dignity. Let me just pause for a second while you applaud this young woman. You know, because she's only eighteen. Seriously though, this action inspired me. It made me realize that my personal ethics shouldn't be easily thrown away. I should feel so strongly about them that I would uphold them at any cost.

"Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? "
Page 325. Chapter Twenty-Seven

"Then he would draw me to him: no."
Page 310. Chapter Twenty-Seven

"To have yielded then would have been would have been an error of principle; to have yielded now would have been an error of judgement."
Page 430. Chapter Thirty-Five

The Conclusion (lot's of spoilers):

   I didn't understand the conclusion when I first read it. I have gone back to re-read the last page and it still stumps me. Why is St. John the last to speak? One interpretation I read is that St. John, along with all the other characters, is getting his happy ending. His happy ending is going to Heaven after toiling doing the Lord's work. I understand why this is his happy ending, I just don't understand it's placement. I would have better liked the chapter before, thirty-seven, to be the last chapter. Sure, it would have left unanswered questions, but I would find more comfort in curiosity than satisfaction. What I mean is, the ending is so thorough that I'm left with zero room to even dream of what is going to happen next. I finish the book and the story is dead. Maybe it supplements the finality of the story with "food for thought". I was left thinking about my personal principles, their importance, and understanding the importance of religion versus the importance of human love. 
Bonus quote about the overall meaning:
"Those critics who have suggested that Miss Brontë has dodged the real issue of the novel by having Jane leave Rochester until his first wife is dead have neglected the careful structure of the plot up to this point. The issue is never whether Jane should become Rochester's mistress. To settle for nothing less than the best is not to be narrow; the test is to become worthy of love, not to take it on any terms but to deserve it: not to violate one's own nature and morality but so to expand that nature that it deserves reward. Jane and Rochester, learning to respect the inviolability of the soul as much as earthly delights, become a microcosm of man's striving for Christian reward" - R. B. Martin


Miscellaneous Observations

-I was doing further research on Charlotte Bronte (which will be featured later this week) when I found these reviews. One written by Eliza Rigby for the Quarterly Review especially struck me. In it she writes, "It is true Jane does right, and exerts great moral strength, but it is the strength of a mere heathen mind which is a law unto itself. No Christian grace is perceptible upon her." This made me heave a big sigh. This review, and obviously the book, were both written in a different time. I acknowledge that, but... really? I thought Jane's moral courage was outmatched to practically every other individual she encountered! If she has a "heathen mind" then what of Mr. Rochester? Below the quote, a paragraph is written suggesting that the review was written so jeeringly to try and diffuse rebellion. Soon Mrs. Rigby would realize that rebellion cannot be diffused by any means. A year after the review was written (1848) "political protest erupted in so many revolutions on the Continent that historians call it the Year of Revolutions."

-Often while reading more about the interpretation of Jane Eyre I found words and phrases like "passion", "emotional intensity", and "openness". In my mind, for some reason, I took these as terms of insult rather than terms of endearment. When I imagine a girl described as having "emotional intensity", I imagine a fourteen year old crying over a break up from a boyfriend of three days or, in simplified terms, a drama queen. Jane, to me, is nothing like that. But first, I have to understand what I'm comparing her to versus what people "back in the day" would compare her to. To me, she's incredibly well rounded, and I would go so far as to say that every girl should read Jane Eyre in an effort to understand the importance of personal values. However, if I grew up in the 1800's and had read this book, I would probably have found it to be scandalous (especially if I were a conservative older man) because girls are supposed to submit. In fact, here is a very popular poem published in 1854 that addresses the submissive role of a woman. The point is, she was probably seen as rebellious because when she was treated poorly, she addressed it instead of accepting it outright because she was female. Now, perhaps, this wasn't the best technique through every situation, but she had several guides along the way.

-I haven't focused on most of the negative parts of the novel. Their is some hypocrisy and there is lack of equality between different races and genders. I had to acknowledge that it was a different time.


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