I have an important announcement to make:
I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED READING JANE EYRE.
This, for all of you well-seasoned readers and lovers of classic literature, might not seem as a large endeavor. Elementary, you might say. But for me, this is a huge accomplishment.
But wait, Emily, you might say, I thought you were an English major!
This, my lovely readers, is true. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English, yet I was never required to read Jane Eyre at any point during my education. I was required to read the other two Bronte’s–Agnes Grey by Anne and Wuthering Heights by Emily, but never Charlotte. I expect this is because they assumed most of us had read it already.
This is why I set out to read it last year. I felt like an English-major fraud.
So what did I think of it?
Well, first off: it took me nearly three months to finish the book.
This was partly because I’ve been really busy, partly because I generally don’t like classic literature, partly because I did not have a deadline because it was not for school, and partly because I simply found a lot of it dull and uninteresting.
For comparison, I read Wuthering Heights in a little over a week because it was required reading.
I read both of these on my Kindle, which generally takes me more time than printed books.
It is also important to note that I went into this novel not ever seeing any of the film adaptations and knowing very, very little about the plot.
My general consensus: I liked it about as much as I expected I would. The language was absolutely beautiful–Charlotte Bronte writes at a level that I can only dream of ever achieving. It’s breathtaking.
As for the story, I felt it was a bit predictable. There was only one instance when I was generally surprised about something, which was the condition of Mr. Rochester at the end. My biggest qualm was how long and unnecessary the first half of the book seemed to be. Jane’s childhood seemed to last forever and I’m not entirely sure what the point of it all was. I know it mirrored the author’s life and gave the readers some background over Jane’s character, but I ultimately felt that it was too much. The second half, however, was great. It didn’t seem like much a struggle to get through it and I was pretty interested in the story from then on. It was a rough start, though.
Now, I might have liked the book more if I had read it in the classroom setting and was able to discuss some of the points with other people and pick up on things that I had missed. That’s why I love going to Shmoop’s website. They do a great job at explaining things and pointing out literary elements that I probably missed, which makes me appreciate the story a lot more.
Personally, I’ve been thinking about the lady in the attic a lot over the past few days. A lot of people feel sorry for Mr. Rochester…but I’m not sure I do. His wife had a mental illness. Sure, he made sure she was taken care of, but she was locked away and hidden from the rest of the world. If this were to happen today, there would be an outrage. Mr. Rochester would probably be arrested for abuse. Then, I thought to thinking about how Jane was locked in the red room at the beginning and pretty much had a mental breakdown–is that some kind of symbolism? Would Bertha’s mental state have been better if she had been treated like an actual human being, instead of being locked in a room?
And I absolutely hate that the happy ending only came as a result of her suicide. It’s like everyone wanted her to just kill herself because it would solve their own problems. Jane and Rochester could get married, no problem. Nobody actually loved Bertha, so it wasn’t a big deal. They obviously couldn’t kill her themselves, so suicide was the only way everyone could win. Right?
That’s just a sickening resolution.
How would I compare it to my other Bronte reads? I think I liked it more than Wuthering Heights, but maybe not more than Agnes Grey. If it was shorter like Agnes Grey, I think I would like it more, but it just took so much time to get interesting.
Overall, I would give it a solid 3.5 stars.
So…my next question. I haven’t seen any of the film adaptations and I know that there are SO MANY OF THEM. Do you guys have any that you prefer? Some are available on Netflix and I’m thinking I’ll watch the 2011 version, but I want to know what the best of the best is. Let me know in the comments.
Have a lovely week!
P.S. Next up on my reading list:
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
currently listening to: Josh McBride by The Head and the Heart