Goodreads (April) Monthly Challenge: Classic English Literature

Classic English Literature

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For the month of April 2011, I pledgedto read one title of Classic English Literature that was published prior to 1945. Although I am a day late at getting this review up, I did manage to scrape through just in time to read Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Having read the novel, I am very intrigued by the movie that will be released based on this story.

Synopsis: Charlotte Bronte’s impassioned novel is the love story of Jane Eyre, a plain yet spirited governess, and her arrogant, brooding Mr. Rochester. Published in 1847, under the pseudonym of Currer Bell, the book heralded a new kind of heroine–one whose virtuous integrity, keen intellect and tireless perseverance broke through class barriers to win equal stature with the man she loved. Hailed by William Makepeace Thackeray as “the masterwork of great genius,” Jane Eyre is still regarded, over a century later, as one of the finest novels in English literature. *From Goodreads

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 Review: This (ashamedly) is my first encounter with a Bronte novel. For this challenge I decided to pick up a hardcover Jane Eyre novel that has been gathering dust on my to- read pile for quite some time.

Firstly, it was a lot darker than I had expected. Jane, as a young girl is orphaned and then taken into a home where she is not wanted nor loved. At about age 10 she is sent off to a boarding home where attains an education for eight years before she applies and is offered a governess role at Thornfield, where Mr Rochester is Master.

My feelings on her relationship with Mr Rochester are mixed. I know that things were different in those times and age differences of 10 and 20 years were not too looked down upon as they may be nowadays. Perhaps my professional background left me a little suspicious of this character throughout most of the story. It is not uncommon for a young woman of a neglected background to seek out an older, stable man when she has had no such father-figure before. Jane does not seem the slight worried about the 20 year age difference between the two.

She has been deprived of kindness and warmth and feels drawn to a character whom is consistent with this nature. She indicates many times that if he were to flatter or be kind to her then she would withdraw or feel unease. The power imbalance in this developing relationship is evident as he is her Master and she is the governess. He is in a position of authority, much older and very much in a position of influence. But I also see that Jane is very intelligent and strong willed and that it is she who first announces her feelings, not him.

It is no wonder that a woman of her emotionally deprived background would be drawn to someone who (although he is not cruel) is stern and authoritative. She would not know how to relate if he were kind and soft due to her innate suspicious nature. I relate this to what we see nowadays in abusive relationships, such as those where there is domestic balance. It’s a combination of early experiences, unhealthy relationships and being drawn to a strong, fatherly figure where the power imbalance can be taken advantage of.

In saying that I don’t think Jane was taken advantage of, she very well made up her own mind and in the end I think Mr Rochester became weak and desperate which in turn lifted Jane’s position as very much in charge. I just find it interesting to draw parallels in Bronte’s writing to what I have seen in modern day.

Overall, it took me awhile- a good 100 pages or so- to get into this story but once I was underway I found it quite enjoyable. Bronte tells a story that I very much felt a part of and I felt I could visualise everything from the residence to the countryside and each of the characters in my mind.

3/5 rating
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5 comments

  1. I beg you to check out an earlier movie of Jane Eyre, currently on DVD, before you watch a new release of an old movie

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  2. Jane Eyre is my favourite ‘classic’ book (along with Jane Austen’s Emma). I too am looking forward to see the newer interpretation in a movie, the original movie is quite plodding really.

    Shelleyrae

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    • I’ve been working through all the film/series interpretations of the Jane Austen novels so now that i’ve finally read a Bronte classic I will move on to these films. So I guess there is already a standard that these classics need to meet when up against films that are already out there. Looking forward to it, although I can’t imagine how much they will need to cut out of the 500+ Jane Eyre novel to fit it into movie-length!
      Jayne

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