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BOOK REVIEW―CLASSICS: JANE EYRE

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte, one of the three Bronte author sisters, was published in 1847. It is still a fascinating story as it probably was at that time since it was very successful and well-reviewed. Classified as a Victorian novel, it provides excellent insight into life during the Victorian era. In addition, it is also a faux-autobiography written in the first-person; it is a Gothic and a coming of age novel.

The story begins with Jane as the suffering child, orphaned, and being badly treated by Mrs. Reed, her deceased uncle’s wife―conjures up memories of Cinderella. Mrs. Reed punishes Jane for defending herself against James, her brutish cousin, and locks her up in the red room, the place where her uncle breathed his last breath, the place Jane describes as “Here he lay in state.” It is a room that Jane abhors, and locking her in such a room is the last straw. “I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I uttered a wild, involuntary cry,” Jane confesses. She makes up her mind that day that she can no longer live under the roof of Mrs. Reed with her spoilt children.

Jane is sent away to Lowood boarding school shortly after this incident, but it appears she has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire! Poorly fed, poorly dressed, treated terribly, and humiliated by Mr. Brocklehurst, the school’s supervisor, Jane eventually befriends Helen Burns. Helen is a foil to Jane, a student one could refer to as the child-martyr who practices the “doctrine of endurance.” Jane states unequivocally, that she is no Helen Burns.

In spite of the hardships Jane endures at Lowood, she survives with a determination to earn a living of her own and be her own woman―contrary to the role of women in the Victorian era. When she completes her studies after ten years, she applies for a job as a governess. The job brings her to Thornfield Hall, and here the story moves toward the Gothic.

Tucked away miles from any other structure, the manor at Thornfield Hall is large and isolated. Jane describes the view of the property from the roof this way, “Leaning over the battlements and looking far down, I surveyed the grounds laid out like a map; the bright and velvet lawn closely girdling the gray base of the mansion; wood, dun and sere, divided by a path visibly overgrown. . .” Jane hears eerie sounds and mirthless laughter, meets weird characters, observes prohibited spaces, and discovers there is a demon in the house. Four months after reporting for the job as a governess she meets the owner and her boss, Mr. Edward Rochester, an eccentric, wealthy, older man.

Jane’s life at Thornfield has its challenges, and readers obtain a good insight into the lives of governesses. Yet, life is certainly far better than anywhere else Jane has lived. . . until she agrees to marry. During the wedding ceremony, she is shockingly informed that her husband-to-be is married with a living wife! Jane runs away, and life becomes as tough and unbearable as it was at the boarding school.

After many twists and turns, and ups and downs, and Jane eventually inherits a fortune from a childless uncle, and does the unexpected. She follows her heart and returns to Thornfield where she marries the very man she had run away from, a man who is now a widow, blind, and has only one arm. Jane Eyre is indeed a fascinating story infused with several themes, morals, and excellent internal dialogue. It is a memorable classic.

Nosey Charlie Comes To Town and other books in the Nosey Charlie Adventure series are ideal for stocking stuffers.

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