Bram's Reviews > Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
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May 26, 10

bookshelves: 2010
Read from March 28 to May 21, 2010

What was once something I tossed off instinctively, an out-of-five star rating, has become a source of considerable consternation. I feel as if I need to qualify each rating with the not-too-fine print warning of: ‘this does not reflect my judgment of the literary worth of this novel; rather, it’s a simple reflection of how strongly I responded to the work as a whole.’ But isn’t this just what everyone does? I guess so. So maybe it isn’t necessary, and it’s just come to feel that way because I’ve stopped writing reviews; I’ve stopped explaining myself. So from here on maybe I’ll cease providing star ratings (unlikely), or I’ll start writing reviews regularly again (more unlikely), or I’ll simply have to endure the faux/semi-faux/real outrage of my fellow Goodreaders (bring it, Harrison!). Incidentally, I think I’ve enough friends now that inciting somebody is inevitable by bestowing even four stars on a well-loved book. Three? Three is right out.

And three is what we have here. Much of the charm of Jane Eyre is found in what, for me, kept this book from resonating significantly at this particular point in my life, one where I respond more strongly to the moral ambiguities and realities of the types presented in The Portrait of a Lady, Middlemarch, or The Kreutzer Sonata. Jane Eyre is a fairytale; it has a good deal of nobility on display in word and deed, and anything that doesn’t fall into this description is roundly labeled as vice and deplored appropriately. I’ve been made aware that, for its time, this novel takes some pretty bold risks in terms of social exploration. But for a reader who’s only mildly concerned with historical context this can feel like pretty cheap consolation, and I often yearned for Jane to expose a thought that fell outside of respectability, one that suggested she might be a human being.

But Jane Eyre is a fairytale, one that perhaps commonly avoids this label due to a single deviation: no magic. (Actually, there is a rather literal deus ex machina near the end, but this is a conspicuous exception.) Besides this near total lack of physical violations, however, the book reads like a fleshed out fable with hints of everything from Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast. And this is, of course, intentional. It may also explain why this novel is often assigned or suggested to pre-adults. Brontë frequently makes allusions to folk and fairy stories, and her characters, particularly Rochester, often refer to each other as magical beings (e.g. elves, spirits) to key us in to the nature of the story as well as to help explain the mysterious, ethereal power one person can have over another.

But while I can remain endlessly entertained by exploring the thoughts and emotions of real, human characters, I have a harder time these days remaining engaged in a more ethically simplistic world. To be honest, Jane Eyre came closest to being my first abandoned novel since I joined Goodreads. I rarely reached for it on the bedside table; it never seemed to make the travel cut when I was packing my suitcase. It was a form of escapism I didn’t feel like delving into. So perhaps, when conjoined with this background, my star rating makes more sense; it might even appear generous.

The last 200 pages of the book do mostly redeem it. The plot starts to unfold with well-paced precision after having spent a good bit of time wandering between tedium and unconvincing melodrama, and I found myself genuinely wanting to continue, to see how this story would play out. So the book finished on a high note, and I feel no dishonesty in claiming, with a three-star click, that ‘I liked it.’

But upon some reflection and after receiving some welcome comments asking for further explanation, I realized that, apart from my issues with the characters, dialogue, and pacing early on, I had some fundamental problems with the story being told here. In particular, I have issues with the Jane-Rochester love affair and its resolution. Jane and Rochester can’t be together due to a technicality, but one that has tremendous potency in this early 19th century setting. Because it’s a technicality all the same, readers recognize it for what it is: a gross injustice. Rochester, in his fiery passion, wishes to transgress this infuriating obstacle and presents Jane with her first significant temptation—to be or not to be the mistress of the man she loves. Jane has already learned of his past dalliances, however, and she suspects that giving in to him will lead to short-term bliss and long-term misery. Only through marriage to Rochester, which is impossible, would she be able to achieve long-term happiness. If we take this at fairytale face value, it makes sense: marriage = happily ever after—50 years of marriage and no strife; mistressness = 1 month of happiness, a few months of strife, and eternal solitude thereafter.

But Brontë seems aware that this fairytale situation is unbelievable. Rochester is, supposedly, an actual person whose feelings are not dictated entirely by a marriage slip. If he truly loves Jane but will lose interest at some point if they remain unmarried, then it follows that he will also lose interest if they’re married. He may not be able to leave her in that case, but this restriction would surely lead to even greater marital suffering and enmity. So the question is: how can we get to a situation that allows for a happy marriage given Rochester’s recurring profligacy? There’s a power differential here, of course, due to a number of factors: 1) inequality of sex; 2) inequality of social standing/money; 3) inequality of age. Mrs. Fairfax, the kind, old housekeeper, believes that these differences (that is, the second two) will lead to an unhappy marriage. And she’s uneasy about it before she learns of the technicality that inhibits the marriage. She recognizes that this is not a fairytale; this is marriage.

So even when/if the technicality is removed, we still have this whole inequality thing to get around that’s brought up through Mrs. Fairfax. Again: how does Brontë fix all of this into a believable, acceptable marriage? How can she tame the wild, passionate, and superior Rochester and deliver him into a believably-permanent union? Aha! She mutilates him—physically. And the injury comes while he’s acting the hero, naturally. This is genius: it evens out Rochester’s intrinsic advantages, supplying him with a new neediness and permanent social scar, and it provides the bonus of boosting Jane’s already unbesmirchable character. Furthermore, while Rochester’s off nursing his newly reduced status, Jane’s busy inheriting money and making connections with her newfound cousins. The once unthinkable match has become exceptionally acceptable. Victory: status quo.

Kelly and Moira have already addressed my criticisms in the comments below, and since there are multiple angles from which you can view this issue, you can certainly draw your own conclusions. Would I have felt more generous in my appraisal of the love affair if I’d responded more positively to this book on a gut level? Probably. But I can’t help feeling that even while she pushes the envelope in certain ways (e.g. critiquing extreme religious fervor), Brontë ultimately reinforces many inequalities that were, to be fair, endemic to her culture. Even so, I think I’d be more sympathetic to this point if the Jane-Rochester pairing didn’t feel like a regression from some of Jane Austen’s romantic set-ups.

In the end, I think Jane Eyre was a case of the wrong book at the wrong time. The themes didn’t resonate like they could have, and I was overly-hesitant to let myself get swept up in Brontë’s mystical world, one that’s perhaps meant to resemble ours only superficially. I came looking for a 21st century relationship in 19th century England; I came looking for emotional depth and found simple forbearance; I came looking for ambiguity and found clarity; I came looking for real people and found saints and monsters.
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Reading Progress

05/12/2010 page 248
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05/17/2010 page 290
54.41% "Engaged already?"

Comments (showing 51-75 of 75) (75 new)

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message 51: by Kelly (last edited May 21, 2010 12:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly As compared to Jane Austen, say, it felt rather unnatural

You know, it's funny, because I think that that was the gist of Bronte's complaint about Jane Austen! I certainly know what you mean, but it is amusing to hear that turned back around.

...and it felt almost trapped within its fairy tale universe

That's an interesting comment. Do you mean that it was so removed from reality you couldn't relate, or that it was predictable in some way?


message 52: by Bram (last edited May 21, 2010 12:59PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Well, maybe both. Although I don't think its predictability hurt the story at all--I mean, does anyone doubt how things will ultimately end up after Jane first falls in love with Rochester? But I do think the book was a little too removed or too simplified from reality, in terms of the characters and their motivations/depth. In the scale of delving deeply into real, honest human feelings, I'd put Virginia Woolf, for example, at the top with a select few others. George Eliot would be pretty close to that level. I felt like Jane Eyre just didn't go very deep. For example, do any readers really feel anything besides relief/happiness when they find out Bertha dies in the fire? And wouldn't we maybe sort of expect Jane to feel similarly, even if we expect her feelings on the matter to be thoroughly and appropriately complex? We get none of that. This is just one example, but I feel like it really gets at what I think was lacking in terms of emotional honesty, especially since we get such drawn-out descriptions of other, mundane things. I know that this might be expecting too much from a novel from this time period, but I don't think that fully explains it.


message 53: by Bram (last edited May 21, 2010 01:17PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram I also have some issues with the whole Jane/Rochester love angle. Given Jane's rebelliousness and apparent irreligiousness (at least until late in the book), her view of the technicality of Rochester's marriage status is rather extreme. I understand the limitations of the time period, but her push-back is still unexpectedly strong here. Bronte, seeming to realize this, adds in the (correct for all we know) notion (in Jane's mind) that Rochester will tire of her soon like all his other mistresses. Why this would be less likely to happen if they were married, we can only guess. A step ahead of us, Bronte avoids leaving Jane to an inevitably doomed marriage, one where the nobler, wilder man will eventually move on, by...mutilating Rochester. He's cut down to a level where he and Jane can live happily ever after. This sort of bugs me, NOT because Bronte recognizes the difficulty of sustaining a long-term happy relationship, particularly when there are differences in 'station', age, etc., but because of the method she uses to tame/control the man. Jane doesn't mind waiting on her crippled husband, of course, but he could never have been expected to dote on her for any extended period of time unless he was brought low in some way. See what I mean? This is pretty troubling.


message 54: by Kelly (last edited May 21, 2010 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly Why this would be less likely to happen if they were married, we can only guess.

Well, A) I don't think that it's necessarily less likely, it's just that she'd be safe from being left abandoned, ruined, possibly pregnant, if he really did throw her over (I can definitely imagine insecure Jane imagining the worst possible scenario- remember how she acted during the courtship?). Practically speaking, he'd have to support her in the eyes of the world and the law and B) A woman's worth was so attached to her "moral" status- if she lost her virginity without marriage, she probably would've considered herself as having even less to offer him. One of the things he likes about her, remember, is that she seems so pure, so morally clean and removed from his sordid past. Would he like her as much if she didn't represent that to him anymore?


Jane doesn't mind waiting on her crippled husband, of course, but he could never have been expected to dote on her for any extended period of time unless he was brought low in some way. See what I mean? This is pretty troubling.

I've heard that complaint several times before- understandably so, really. It is sort of fucked up. I don't really interpret it in a Freudian sort of way like a lot of people do, though. I think Bronte was looking for some way to make JE the hero, not merely the secret princess being saved by the Prince, bringing him "merely" happiness and her smile. I think she wanted her to be seen to be making a substantial contribution to the marriage- in the 19th century, nursing the sick and bring money into a marriage were two solidly real-world things that a woman could give without censure. (And however rebellious JE is, she spends a lot of time judging herself to be lacking by the world's perceived standards, and it does matter to her.) Consistently throughout the story, JE enjoys being useful to Rochester. She reminds me of Dorothea from Middlemarch, actually, in that way- in that she wants to be really taken seriously. It's a measure of how much life sucked for women in the 19th century that this was how she could show her heroine to be truly worthy. It's still fucked up, I agree.


Kelly As far as the book being too black and white, not emotionally complex enough, I think that's fair enough. However, I've always thought that this novel was a direct challenge of a lot of feelings that people were conventionally supposed to have and as such, stays pretty en pointe in challenging very specific things with their inversion. Like an angry chick teenage rock band (albeit one with a very talented voice, political awareness, and frequently fabulously accurately true observations). Sometimes that doesn't leave a lot of room for cruising back and forth over the ocean of feelings in the way that some of us would like.

PS- Your opinion on that convinces me even more you need to meet Lucy in Villette. You can't accuse that chick of a black and white emotional life. Holy hell you cannot.


message 56: by Ben (new) - added it

Ben I was going to read this book real soon, but now I'm not so sure. Then again, this dipshit only gave The Brothers Karamazov 4 stars.

; )


message 57: by Kelly (last edited May 21, 2010 06:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly Dude, I want to give the Bros K 5 stars, but I can't finish it. I've tried twice now. And I actually really like it! Bogged down in the midst of one of the 60 page speeches right in the middle both times. I can see docking a star for that!


message 58: by Bram (last edited May 21, 2010 08:29PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Haha, don't let me and my questionable taste stop you, Ben.

I can see you having a serious thing for Rochester...that athletic body, the stormy visage, the ugly yet uber-masculine face. You will crave his yearning touch, his fiery passions. You will call him Master and tease him with sharp retorts, ultimately intensifying his love with your flirtation. It is your destiny.

Yeah, can't blame you there, Kelly--much of the The Brother Karamazov seems to be made up of philosophical/theoretical speeches. Dostoevsky knows drama, but his characters and settings come across more as fever dreams than real representations. Not necessarily a bad thing though.


message 59: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Bram wrote: "Given Jane's rebelliousness and apparent irreligiousness (at least until late in the book), her view of the technicality of Rochester's marriage status is rather extreme. I understand the limitations of the time period, but her push-back is still unexpectedly strong here. Bronte, seeming to realize this, adds in the (correct for all we know) notion (in Jane's mind) that Rochester will tire of her soon like all his other mistresses"

I agree that to a modern reader, Jane rejecting Rochester can seem baffling (when I first read the book at about ten, my main reaction was 'But why can't Jane just go off with him to Italy?). Part of it is due to Bronte's personal circumstances as a Victorian Protestant, sure, and, as some critics have pointed out, in terms of the narrative it's an extension of the self-denial and -punishment Jane learned very young at Lowood. But she always won me over with one bit:

“Think of his misery; think of his danger—look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature; consider the recklessness following on despair—soothe him; save him; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?”

Still indomitable was the reply—“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth—so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane—quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”


It's not just that Jane is following the moral code of her day; it's the highest form of individual morality open to her, and she stands by it rather than be consumed in passion. She doesn't marry Mr R (the first time) and she doesn't marry St John for the same reason: she wants to preserve herself, on her own terms. That was very radical for the day, and still is.

(I don't really think Jane is irreligious - she is as a young child, and she's singular and passionate as an adult - but she's not an atheist or agnostic.)

Bronte avoids leaving Jane to an inevitably doomed marriage, one where the nobler, wilder man will eventually move on, by...mutilating Rochester. He's cut down to a level where he and Jane can live happily ever after.

WRT Rochester - I don't think it's so much that he'll really run off on Jane if she becomes his mistress (after all, he does truly love her) but that it would be, again, a giving-in to passion, a total overthrow of her self, her independence and her morality. The Victorian mores of the day often depended on either giving in or denying passion - being swept off your feet so you couldn't help it (particularly if you were a woman) or denying passion utterly for fear of sin. Again, what makes Bronte so radical is that Jane does neither. She listens quietly to Rochester's tale of debauchery (altho Bronte calls it 'dissipation,' heh) with several European women, which really shocked the critics of the time, without judging him or running off, but she also parts from him with great agony, mental and spiritual. (Cunningly Bronte presents marriage with St John, who in another novel would be the hero, as the true temptation to be withstood.) It's not that if Jane gives in she thinks she'll just be another in a long line, quickly and easily discarded. Even after she's escaped she thinks:

Which is better?—To have surrendered to temptation; listened to passion; made no painful effort—no struggle;—but to have sunk down in the silken snare; fallen asleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southern clime, amongst the luxuries of a pleasure villa: to have been now living in France, Mr. Rochester’s mistress; delirious with his love half my time—for he would—oh, yes, he would have loved me well for a while. He did love me—no one will ever love me so again. I shall never more know the sweet homage given to beauty, youth, and grace—for never to any one else shall I seem to possess these charms. He was fond and proud of me—it is what no man besides will ever be.—But where am I wandering, and what am I saying, and above all, feeling? Whether is it better, I ask, to be a slave in a fool’s paradise at Marseilles—fevered with delusive bliss one hour—suffocating with the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next—or to be a village-schoolmistress, free and honest, in a breezy mountain nook in the healthy heart of England?

I think her use of the word 'slave' here is very telling. The word occurs at intervals but with great emphasis in the book: when she is at John Reed's mercy, when Helen Burns is being martyred at Lowood, but most frequently right after Jane agrees to marry Mr R and he wants to take control of her: buy her clothes and jewels she doesn't want, make her give up governessing, send Adele away. Mr R spells it out: 'Hiring a mistress is the next worse thing to buying a slave: both are often by nature, and always by position, inferior: and to live familiarly with inferiors is degrading.'

Which brings us to Mr R's mutilation and dependence. His punishment is quite clearly a Biblical allusion - 'And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire'; and I think the power balance between them before his ruin is completely unequal just based on the society of the times. (It's really intriguing to me that Charlotte began the novel right after her father had a grueling operation for cataracts - which he required her to witness - after which he had to stay still in a dark room for weeks.)

I don't think the novel is flat or black and white - on the contrary, it's very vivid, highly coloured, and almost reminds me of a tapestry or painting. It's not richly ambiguous; as Kelly says you have to go to Villette for that. It's like a long spellbinding dream. I mean, I don't think you're wrong in saying the action is more fast-paced and the character development less elaborate than you would find in modern novels, but I don't think that those are necessarily bad things. It's like criticizing Dickens (whom Bronte didn't like, heh) for not being E.M. Forster.


message 60: by Bram (last edited May 21, 2010 08:36PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Great, great comments Kelly and Moira. I have to get to bed and go out of town for the weekend early tomorrow, but hopefully we can continue the discussion later date. You guys are brilliant.


message 61: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Kelly wrote: "Your opinion on that convinces me even more you need to meet Lucy in Villette. You can't accuse that chick of a black and white emotional life. Holy hell you cannot. "

Oh HELL yes. Lucy <3.


message 62: by David (new)

David Bram Wispelwey, if you were a fine sexy mama, I would be hopelessly, irretrievably, dangerously, obsessively in love with you. I'm not kidding. (You aren't a fine sexy mama, are you?)


Kelly Hey, he did a review! Well done ladies, peer pressure FTW! :)

This was an excellent defense and explanation of your reading. Will be back soon to address actual thoughts on this...


message 64: by Bram (last edited May 24, 2010 12:09PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram I could be, Kowalski...I could be. If Charlotte Bronte were writing a novel about us, I know that Charlotte God would see the justice in our being together.

Thanks, Kelly! Go easy on me. I forget some of what you guys wrote last Friday and I'm afraid to check again, heh.


message 65: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram One-handed typing? Ouch...do I want to know why?

I think I'm ready for Tender is the Night--I could use a good, concise novel right about now.


message 66: by Kelly (last edited May 24, 2010 12:58PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly Haha, don't be afraid. As far as I recall the carnage was limited- I will take a line from your review and say that I do respond to this on a gut level, so, it makes me jump to fightin' words too soon sometimes. :)

Okay, so to the review:

I’ve been made aware that, for its time, this novel takes some pretty bold risks in terms of social exploration. But for a reader who’s only mildly concerned with historical context this can feel like pretty cheap consolation,

So this seems to get into the question of what is a Classic. It seems to me that you don't agree that this book is one- that it is too bound by it's time and place to transcend it on the same level as it would have been experienced at the time, that it is devalued by the fact that we've moved on as a culture. I know a lot of what you're saying has to do with personal needs, too, but that seemed to be implicit.

Exhibit A: I often yearned for Jane to expose a thought that fell outside of respectability, one that suggested she might be a human being...

I disagree with this. Jane has a lot of thoughts that are not at all pure. Her behavior during the courtship for one- the way she behaves to Rochester is the opposite of noble or trusting. She's treating him like crap, essentially, and you could see that in a number of ways, such as: her testing him, just as he did her with his plot to make her jealous (which is also the opposite of noble, and by the way, gets him exactly what he wants, so not everything that isn't noble gets treated as vice)- a revenge of sorts, or her own inability to think highly of herself (in that she's deeply uncomfortable with conventional signs of love and prefers grumpiness and harshness from her beloved- there's a definite non fairy tale trait for you). That's one example, but there's also her raging jealousy of Blanche, the way she flips out at Rochester for (she believes) totally taking her for granted- that assertion of herself- very powerful statement of Self. As for Rochester, he's manipulative, cruel, harsh, and a lying liar who lies- Not a noble person at all! And he's supposedly the hero! (Though I still think JE is, not him.)

Besides this near total lack of physical violations, however, the book reads like a fleshed out fable with hints of everything from Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast. And this is, of course, intentional...Brontë frequently makes allusions to folk and fairy stories, and her characters, particularly Rochester, often refer to each other as magical beings (e.g. elves, spirits) to key us in to the nature of the story as well as to help explain the mysterious, ethereal power one person can have over another.


I agree the fairy tale element is intentional, but I think we're disagreeing as to why it is there. From my perspective, Jane wants truth, at all times. Both of them might spend a lot of time speaking in fairy tale images, but we see how much the truth matters to each of them much more strongly, how weak fairy tales are. Each fairy tale falls the fuck apart by the end of the novel (Jane as a magical sprite, the mystery of the laughter in the house, Rochester's relationship with Adele's mother, Jane and Rochester's first attempt at marriage, St. John's religious kindness)- their ending is not happy, it's doing the best they can with what pieces are left to them.

The once unthinkable match has become exceptionally acceptable. Victory: status quo.

I think this story is about shucking the fairy tale and the status quo, not supporting it. The very compromises that had to be made to get people to the "happy ending" of the marriage plot are, I think, a radical critique of the idea that two individual people can find a way to both live together and remain whole at the end of the day. It's like those people that think Pygmalion has a happy ending. Shaw himself said: "I cannot conceive a less happy ending to the story of 'Pygmalion' than a love affair between the middle-aged, middle-class professor, a confirmed old bachelor with a mother-fixation, and a flower girl of 18." People have some pretty scary needs, and demand a whole lot of each other- I think JE demonstrates that sometimes it's maybe too much. That is definitely still a relevant idea to discuss.

Disclaimer: Again, I do respond to this on a gut level every time I read it, so I'm perfectly willing to admit that this colors my view. I'm also getting married later this year, and ideas about what it takes to make a marriage work are definitely on the brain. Willing to admit it might be a right time for me, wrong time for you thing.


Kelly Also, Elizabeth, are you okay??


message 68: by Bram (last edited May 24, 2010 01:19PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Great rejoinders, Kelly, and now I remember why I wanted to include that next-to-last paragraph about coming to different conclusions. A lot of what you say I don't disagree with at all. It makes sense to me--it really is a matter of looking at it in a different light/from a different angle.

Regarding some of Jane's behavior, though, I'm hesitant to call any of it impure or ignoble. Her treatment of Rochester--the teasing and stuff--seemed to be a sort of high-minded flirtation, a way of maintaining propriety while piquing his interest. Now that you bring this up, her behavior actually reminds me of Much Ado's Beatrice, although seriously attenuated. I liked this side of Jane, but I felt it was often just a way for her to remain blameless/pure in the face of Rochester's advances (once they were engaged) or to maintain the proper master/servant relationship beforehand.

Oh, and now that I think about it--you're right about her feelings toward Blanche. I'm not sure if it was Jane (in-story) or the narrator (old Jane/Bronte), but Blanche was painted in a ridiculously bad light. She was made to seem so terrible that I had a hard time taking that side plot seriously. I just wanted a little grayness there...but if it was Jane just being a biased narrator, I guess that at least gives her a new edge. I'm not sure if I'd be willing to grant that though.

Re: the ending, I'd disagree pretty strongly that this is not a happy ending. Like I argued in the review, I think this is the only happy ending available to them, given their differing stations and ages--Bronte gives some serious hints that they would not have had a successful marriage had they been able to go through with it as originally planned. What looks like a picking up of the pieces after disappointment/disaster to you seems to me like a putting together of the plot pieces in a way that allows for equality, long-term happiness, and an upholding of the 'right' kind of marriage.

Oh, and congrats! I'm fairly newlywed myself, although I hope I haven't become such a jaded cynic already that I can't enjoy a good love story! :)


message 69: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Jon wrote: "Wait.
Is this the one where she had a dick at the end?"


And here I've been trying to keep this review/thread spoiler-free. Ass.


message 70: by Kelly (last edited May 24, 2010 01:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly I also think the way you see things is valid and very interesting, and I'm inclined to agree with you about some of it to a certain degree. Perception is all!

Her treatment of Rochester--the teasing and stuff--seemed to be a sort of high-minded flirtation, a way of maintaining propriety while piquing his interest. Now that you bring this up, her behavior actually reminds me of Much Ado's Beatrice, although seriously attenuated. I liked this side of Jane, but I felt it was often just a way for her to remain blameless/pure in the face of Rochester's advances (once they were engaged) or to maintain the proper master/servant relationship beforehand.

This is another way of seeing it, certainly. But that makes Jane a Tease! A Rules Girl who plays the marriage game to win! An ignoble accusation from a male dominated world if there ever was one- and here I refer to the 19th century world she lived in, not you. I give you the benefit of the doubt. :) I agree with you to a certain extent that Bronte does go out of her way to keep Jane sexually pure- I would argue that she needed to do that for her audience to listen to the more important things Jane was saying. She's already arguing to her readers that they should listen to plain people, servants, the religiously skeptical, and orphans- to add sluts to this already dubious roster of heroes too might've just been too much! While this might date the book to you again, I think that having Jane compromise on something so important to her might've felt wrong to me.

Also, isn't it possible that Jane, raised in a household where the only passion she got was anger, and then transferred to a severe religious school, might've been just a bit freaked about the possibility of sex? Propriety might've been useful to Jane right then as she tried to wrap her head around intimacy with a dude.

...but if it was Jane just being a biased narrator, I guess that at least gives her a new edge. I'm not sure if I'd be willing to grant that though.

Well, I do think that I can answer this- given that Bronte gives us possibly the most unreliable narrator ever in Lucy Snowe of Vilette, I'm willing to believe that she might've experimented with that a little bit here. JE and Villette have many things in common, especially the theme of the private inner world of a woman vs. the outer reality of her life. Jane proves herself way more willing to speak out loud than Lucy Snowe is, but certainly not always. I might be on shaky ground here, but Moira and Elizabeth (when you can type again!), my Bronte scholars around here- can you tell me whether you think I'm on the right track?

What looks like a picking up of the pieces after disappointment/disaster to you seems to me like a putting together of the plot pieces in a way that allows for equality, long-term happiness, and an upholding of the 'right' kind of marriage.

I agree with 2/3rds of that statement. My sticking point is "upholding of the 'right' kind of marriage. I think the right kind of marriage is proven to be the villain- not the two people involved with it, but certainly the institution.

I do think your idea that: "this is the only happy ending available to them, given their differing stations and ages", sort of speaks to what I'm trying to say- I think I'm just doing something different with that interpretation. I do love that idea a lot.

And thanks for the congrats! And honestly, despite you not liking this book, I think your interpretation makes you the opposite of a jaded cynic. :)


message 71: by Bram (last edited May 24, 2010 02:03PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram The volleyball gods have granted me a reprieve! Seriously though, I'm sorry to hear that you're injured, Elizabeth. I'm sure it happened while you mercilessly delivered the game-winning spike.

It was a moving screen, JB. That's illegal, you know. Especially in the vicinity of that queen cock-tease, Jane Eyre.

And Kelly, I'm really interested in this reliability-of-narrator angle--it wasn't something I really considered while reading the book. Trying to think back here...


message 72: by Kelly (last edited May 24, 2010 02:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly Hurt it at volleyball ysterday & seeing specialist to,morrow. So you must defend Jane for all of us!

I shall do my best in the absence of her customary champion! :) Seriously though, hope the specialist gets you feeling better soon!

Bram, I'm in the midst of a move, but if I can find my copy of Jane Eyre tonight, I'll go through it and pull out some examples that strike me- it's dog eared and underlined enough I'm sure I'll find something leaping off the page before very long!

Especially in the vicinity of that queen cock-tease, Jane Eyre.

The sad thing is you just know that someone somewhere has written that erotica fanfic piece.


message 73: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen I have to admit that I kind of liked the crazy woman in the attic...and that I did sort of wish that Jane had been in the bed while the woman raged.


Cecily This is a wonderful and thought-provoking review. (I hope you haven't stuck to your resolution to stop writing reviews. I love the debates that arise, even from people who disagree.)

Your fairy tale angle is novel, and you make a good case for it. However, fairy tales usually have everyone living happily ever after, which I doubt will be the case here, so I don't think I'm totally persuaded.

I also note you think that Mrs Fairfax doesn't realise the significance of Grace Pool. I remain unsure, and I rather like the tension of that doubt.

Thanks for so much to think about.


Khushboo Kumari I like you review so much


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