Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This is the next book in my reading list. It took some time to read since I had to divide my reading time with other things. Most of my reading is done during breakfast at the factory. I usually take an empty table, set up my phone on the tray (it tilts the phone up just enough for easy reading) and turn the pages in between mouthfuls. I also try to squeeze in several minutes before sleeping. I used to read books from cover to cover in one sitting but I haven't done that in a long time.

Jane Eyre was written by Charlotte Bronte and published in 1847. This was her second book though it was her first published work. It is written in first person narrative, which means it's as if Jane Eyre herself was telling the story. There are numerous points in the book where Jane seems to be talking directly to the reader. I have not read many books written in this style and I must say it came out quite well.

The story runs like an autobiography of Jane's life from the time she was ten years old until she was around thirty. Most of the story comes from her years between eighteen and twenty. Mistreated as a child, she experiences friendships, education, and care which seems to remove any bitterness she had and develops into quite a proper woman. She is fortunate in that sense. How many penniless orphans do you know get an education and grow up to be intelligent, wise, and kind?

Jane's story is about herself and her experiences and central, I guess, is her love story with Edward Rochester of Thornfield Hall, her employer, whom she often refers to as "Sir" even after they confess their love for each other. It is a sad, happy story and, just as I did with the last book review (Ivanhoe), I will avoid telling the story too much.

Any difficulties?

Well, I kept wondering if people really spoke that way in Charlotte's days. Here's an excerpt from the part where Mr. Rochester deceives Jane into thinking that he was going to marry a rich and beautiful woman and Jane admits to having feelings for her master.

"I tell you I must go!" I retorted, roused to something like passion. "Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton? -- a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! -- I have as much soul as you, -- and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; -- it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal, -- as we are!"

Next, there are a number of coincidences in the story which I find a bit unlikely.

First, Jane meets her master after he meets an accident and helps him—completely unaware it was him. This is not very unusual as it has a higher probability of happening than the next ones.

Jane later discovers that she has a living relative, an uncle, whom she writes to, saying that she was soon going to marry Mr. Rochester. Her uncle happened to know a person in Mr. Rochester's life who spoils their marriage plans causing her to run away from Thornfield Hall.

After Jane runs from Thornfield Hall, and from Mr. Rochester, she comes upon a village and meets a family of two sisters and one brother who take her in. Amazingly, they turn out to be her cousins!

What I liked about the story:

Jane certainly lived an interesting life but I liked the way the story went from poverty and persecution for young Jane, to what seemed a good life for her around the middle of the story. Then comes a fall back to poverty and quickly to recovery. I'm a stickler for happy endings and Jane Eyre certainly has one.