Back in high school, there were people reading this thick tome of a book called Jane Eyre that I saw being carried around even to P.E. classes. I wasnBack in high school, there were people reading this thick tome of a book called Jane Eyre that I saw being carried around even to P.E. classes. I wasn't in the class assigning this book, but I wondered just what could be in that book that it would need to be 500+ pages. This was a time before I found out that even long books, like Battle Royale, could actually be enjoyable and awesome and solid enough that the pages could just go WOOSH! because you are just that engrossed in the story.
I asked a person about Jane Eyre. I got: "You don't want to read it. It is boring." Or at least paraphrasing what I think someone said back then, minus any form of cussing and moaning and groaning.
Don't get me wrong. I would like to jump into a book with little to no prejudice. I am, however, but human and have kept this mind even when in college, taking a British Novel course, and seeing this is on the syllabus along with other great books like Pride and Prejudice and Dracula (of this we are reading currently as of this date).
A little context may help explaining this novel: the Brontë sisters were very learned women--but this was, of course, in a time of England where women writers were thought of as ridiculous or uneducated. Women at this time, should they have been writers, were more than likely to have a male friend or family member help them get their books published. Perhaps they would have to take on a male-sounding pseudonym as well (think George Eliot). This was no different from the Brontë sisters as well, but having best-sellers be about women and their emotional/psychological journeys, like in Jane Eyre, would be shocking to know that it was actually written by a woman.
Especially Jane Eyre. I can't say that it was the first book written focusing mostly on a woman growing up, but it is cited amongst my classmates that it was a big influence for finally presenting a woman as an independent being. Think what you will but Jane does make her own decisions in the novel--even if, arguably, stupid ones. And with our modern shades put on, sometimes we might see something that would suggest that Jane is NOT as independent as others present her as, considering some of her later choices (view spoiler)[particularly towards Rochester and St. John, where she appears to be more like their plaything at times rather than a woman of equal standing to them; and, even by the novel's end, can we really say she is equal to Rochester when to make him equal to her he had to be crippled pretty much? (hide spoiler)].
I'm very mixed when it comes to what I said last. Perhaps it's the times I live in. Maybe this book would have been said as presenting an independent woman back in Brontë's time, but this statement doesn't resonate with me 100+ years after its first publication.
Admittedly, I am not a fan of purely literary works most times. They have a tendency to be plotless or having little exciting events (think Catcher in the Rye) and may be beating me in with their message (think Great Expectations). I would rather have a book that merges genre with literary elements. Jane Eyre is definitely more on the literary side, but it's done in a way where it is mostly descriptive of either the environment, Jane's thoughts, or her emotions. There is trust exercised that the reader will sympathize, empathize, and understand Jane's plight as the reader is chained inside Jane's head through first-person. If you don't like Jane, you have to try to find something to like in order to proceed through Jane Eyre. That or continue reading because you want to see how Jane turns out in the end, from possibly being someone you didn't like to someone you can understand later.
I think this is my problem. I have a hard time getting into first-person narratives because there is that reliance on the reader. I don't want to be stuck in the head of someone I don't like or have no interest in, personally. Then again, there are two Jane's presented in the novel: a child Jane, where she is indignant and craves justice, and adult Jane, who seems more beaten and emotionless.
Honestly, I'd rather have been with child Jane. At least I got a sense of what she felt for having injustice done to her. Also, she was more outspoken. Not to say that active women are always superior to passive ones, but I am of the opinion that active people are more exciting to read. (view spoiler)[Earlier in the book, Jane notes how she is so plain and ugly compared to other girls. A good fault, considering that people in novels tend to be portrayed as either average, above average, or beautiful. This kind of loses its value when we get adult Jane, as far as I recall. Yeah, people do think sometimes that she looks appropriate as a beggar, if I remember right, but it's not so much of a problem for the people that matter (Rochester, St. John, St. John's sisters). When she was a kid, this fault was played up more since she was more concerned about how others viewed her. (hide spoiler)]
And all this description, it's so... descriptive. I do know that Brontë was responding to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, where she basically said that how could that book be so good when there was LITTLE DESCRIPTION. Yes, Pride and Prejudie had little description that left somewhat of a lacking taste in my mouth, but I thought it appropriate for the messages that book carried (view spoiler)[(I don't know how Darcy or Elizabeth, for example, are handsome, but should it really matter? When people read books, they can take "handsome" or "beautiful" and make it their own thing. It's not descriptive enough really, but readers do it too. The whole point of that novel is that descriptors like this are NOT ENOUGH to judge a person's character. (hide spoiler)]. Brontë wanted to remedy this in her book and, hence, it's now 500+ pages. Good grief. It really doesn't help that I'm getting explanations of Jane's thoughts and feelings with this description as well. It all adds up.
Frankly, I could have done for less pages. Succinct. To the point.
Other than Jane, I didn't have much problems with the characters. Adult Jane, for me, just got... dull. She does make her own choices, which is a good thing, but her emotions seemed so downplayed. It's kind of hard to say, speaking as someone who wants to write novels one day. I have some proclivity to construct nearly-emotionless characters as well, but I like them to have either some pent-up rage or surprising elements of being loose once in the company of known people. Jane... just felt tight. I wasn't impressed. Sorry.
Jane Eyre also makes use of conventions to tell a story. Religious overtones abound. God controls nature to help Jane. God tells Jane what to do. (view spoiler)[God conveyed Jane and Rochester's messages to each other when Jane was being proposed to by St. John relentlessly. (hide spoiler)] And finally, (view spoiler)[God seems to either be glad or unhappy with St. John, for he takes St. John's life doing missionary work (hide spoiler)]. Not only this but (view spoiler)[after being blinded and permanently damaged by fire, Rochester miraculously gains his sight back and can happily have a child with Jane, yay! (hide spoiler)]. Being the drag of a book as it was, it suddenly gets this happy ending for Jane--but for no real explained reason. I'm not sure why God is okay with Jane that he'll do stuff for her, but okay. The ending kind of is rushed too.
Eh. I don't know. I recognize that this book has merit and was probably revolutionary of its own kind in Brontë's period, but I was not particularly a fan of it. The pacing and use of conventions killed the experience for me. Can say that I will most likely never read it again, outside of possibly being assigned it for another class....more
*This was read for British Novel II course. Also, trying to keep this relatively spoiler-free, so spoiler-tags abound.
Oh boy. Talk about a girl who ca*This was read for British Novel II course. Also, trying to keep this relatively spoiler-free, so spoiler-tags abound.
Oh boy. Talk about a girl who can't get a break. Her life is just a snowball that keeps getting bigger and bigger until it crashes against a tree.
Tess is probably the most unluckiest girl I have read in a while. Just take her into context: she participates in one single thing that, up until recently, the woman was always blamed for--even if against her will--and this basically follows her for the rest of her life. (Granted, some of this "following" is because she makes the poorest choices, but she means well in the end).
(view spoiler)[For those that read Adam Bede, this is Hardy's response to what happens to Hetty. In fact, I believe he wrote an article about his disgust towards females being treated as thus, and while he approved of George Eliot, he was disappointed that even she was susceptible to this thinking apparently by her representation of Hetty. (hide spoiler)]
So now actually talking about the book. Thomas Hardy does not deprive the book of description. He gives pretty rich visualizations of his world. I skimmed through sections of them only because I was reading for a class, but I would say that I don't think they were so long and boring that one is prone to skip them, but the descriptions do give a sense of how the world works in the book and can be reflective of the characters without affecting the characters' lives.
Sometimes the pacing dragged a little but this may be because the books has BAM! moments and then it takes its sweet time to digest and explain how characters react to those events. The whole premise of the book even hinges on a moment that one would expect much later for a protagonist for its time: (view spoiler)[following the classic "fallen woman" formula of the time, Tess should have had her sexual encounter near the end, then to try to redeem herself only to die later. Nope. Hardy said fuck that. His intro even states that, yes, he definitely wanted to start the book with her getting raped and its important that it needed to be done earlier. (hide spoiler)] Also, the book has it out for Tess and it revels in it.
I could actually believe in the characters even if they were completely frustrating me at times. They're fallible; they make extremely bad mistakes; they have regrets. They're definitely not caricature-like as Charles Dickens' characters can be. Tess was someone I could gather sympathy for (and this tends to be rare, I believe, on my account) (view spoiler)[though I wasn't exactly heartbroken that Tess dies in the end, as, yes, she did bring it upon herself for murdering Alec--even if many would say that that piece-of-shit deserved it. The court of law is not a kind society (hide spoiler)]. What makes the three major characters frustrating is because the they and the plot have to focus on the double standard set up by society and giving more privilege to males for the same actions that women do but--oh no!--it only is considered bad if a woman does it, since, you know, babies.
My Medieval Literature class has taught me that marriage was essential and women expected to be virgins/have sex only after marriage and only to their husbands because of inheriting. No such things as genetic testing back then, after all. Passing down lands is much easier if the husband knew that the wife only had sex with him and was married to him. This is not to say that men couldn't break the law by having sex with other women (I believe there was a law made for the man to pay should have sex with a married man's wife), though this is still kind of a double standard in a way. I don't think the men were shamed as much as women were, but eh.
The narrative style does have times where the narrator does give his/her own opinion on the matter, especially later in the novel. I feel like Hardy does have a way with words; I didn't feel particularly bored when he wasn't describing something, and he can pretty much pinpoint the exact words necessarily to instill thinking for the characters' actions. This person is insightful but also can be subtle enough to make one think about what the narrator means or hides in the text.
I would just feel bad that the narrator, whoever this person is, has to watch over this unlucky woman who basically got screwed over because of her appearance and ancestry.
Of interest: the full title of the book is Tess of the D'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.
Hardy, you are killing me. Also, you have some balls. Some major balls to write such a depressing book that probably made people think about the double standards they set on others.