Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
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it was amazing
bookshelves: english-literature, gothic, victorian

“‘Jane, be still; don't struggle so like a wild, frantic bird, that is rending its own plumage in its desperation.’

‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.’”


I am glad that in 1847 Charlotte Bronte made the decision to publish her novel under a male pseudonym. Currer Bell had a much better chance of being published than Charlotte Bronte and, with reviewers and readers assuming that she was in fact a male writer, allowed the novel a chance to be weighed properly without prejudice. Jane Eyre became a bestseller. The question is, of course, would the novel have been so successful or even published at all if CHARLOTTE BRONTE had been emblazoned on the cover? I like to think that some editor would have realized the bloody brilliance of the story and would have published it anyway, even if they didn’t spend any money on promoting it. Would readers have bought it? Hopefully, word would have trickled out about how compelling the plot was, and people would have overcome their natural prejudice for reading a novel by a woman.

So isn’t it fun that Charlotte tricked everyone, including her own father? She did not confess her efforts to him until she had become successful. Even writing these words, I have a smile on my face thinking of this successful bamboozlement of publishers, editors, and readers.

The story, of course, is larger than the book. Most people with any kind of inquisitive nature have been exposed to the bare bones of this novel without ever reading the book. Maybe they watched a movie based on the book, or maybe they have heard it referenced. Once read, it is impossible for people not to use aspects of this novel as common reference points for other readers.

Take Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester himself, the master of Thornfield Hall. He is a brooding, complicated, dark, and intelligent creature. He is a force of nature who conforms the world around him with every stride he takes or every word that drops from his lips. He is the embodiment of the Lord Byron character. It doesn’t matter that he is not handsome. He is powerful. Women swoon in his presence and, after a carefully administered smelling salt, might start calculating what he is worth a year.

Rochester is completely taken by Jane Eyre, practically from the moment they meet. The drama of their meeting is one of those great cinematic scenes in the history of literature. Bronte incorporates many scenes into the novel that are, frankly, gifts to future movie renditions. Rochester has never met anyone quite like her. He is not alone. Everyone who comes into contact with Jane Eyre knows they have met a unique person. She is a kind and pleasant person, but she will not brook any discriminations against her character.

Mrs. Reed (her aunt), Mr. Brocklehurst (director of Lowood School attended by Jane), Mr. St John Eyre Rivers (minister who asks to marry her), and even Mr. Rochester, all attempt to conform Jane to the acceptable, deferring Victorian woman of the time. To call this a feminist novel does put it in a box which constrains it too tightly. Jane or Charlotte, either one, would loosen those bindings and let it breath as Charlotte’s intentions with this novel go well beyond the confines of any specific genre. I found her ideas of female equality, embodied so wonderfully in the character of Jane, inspiring. ”Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their effort, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer, and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”

I hear you, Charlotte.

Can you imagine the impact of such words on your typical, Victorian housewife? A woman who has lived her whole life being the daughter of her father, the wife of her husband, the mother of her sons. She has been passed from the care of one man after another. If she were fortunate enough to be born pretty, she has that brief moment of power when suiters contend for her hand, but probably, ultimately, her father would decide who was best for her to marry. How about the impact of reading this novel on the typical, Victorian man? Did he look up from this book and peer over at his wife, she looking rosy in the firelight, knitting away at some frivolous thing, and think...does she want more? Or maybe he sees his pretty daughter enter the room on the verge of womanhood, and does he consider the possibility that she wants or deserves more?

There is no spark of revolution inspired by this book, but I do hope that this book may have chipped away at some of the archaic ideas of inequality. Maybe a few women readers realized that some of those secret desires they have harbored their whole life were not such strange concepts. When Jane stands up to the conformists she encounters, she is willing to take the punishment because she knows in her soul that what she believes about herself is incontestable.

This is no better illustrated than in her interactions with (I’m sorry to say this because it isn’t completely fair) the odious St. John Eyre Rivers. He wants to marry her but only for the sake that he believes she will make a wonderful, useful, missionary wife. He doesn’t love her. She is willing to go, but only as a “sister,” not as a wife. Jane refuses to compromise, but there is this moment where she is teetering in the balance. I’m mentally screaming to her at this point. ”I shuddered as he spoke: I felt his influence in my marrow--his hold on my limbs.” He is a cold man who would have gladly marched OUR Jane off to some godforsaken part of the world to die some horrible death from disease or from simple neglect.

I know the plot; and yet, I’m still completely invested in every scene. There is always the possibility that I’ve fallen into an alternative universe and I am reading some other version of Jane Eyre with a completely different ending. I can assure everyone this did not happen.

When Jane is residing with Mrs. Read, she describes her place to sleep as a “small closet.” I can’t help but think of the closet under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive. Like Harry Potter, she is also an orphan but still with a rebellious streak because she is also sure that she is supposed to be someone other than who she is currently perceived to be. The relief she experiences when she learns she is getting away from the condescending attitude of the Read house and going away to school at Lowood also reminds me of Harry’s relief to discover he, too, is escaping to Hogwarts. Though I must say Harry, despite the trials and tribulations he experiences, draws a better straw than Miss Jane.

I really enjoyed the gothic elements; those were, to a degree, completely unexpected. ”’Oh sir, I never saw a face like it! It was a discoloured face--it was a savage face. I wish I could forget the roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments!’

‘Ghost are usually pale, Jane.’

‘This, sir, was purple: the lips were swelled and dark; the brow furrowed: the black eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes. Shall I tell you of what it reminded me?’

‘You may.’

‘Of the foul German spectre--the Vampyre.’”


There are noises in the night at Thornfield Hall. There is an unknown tenant locked away in the rafters of the house. There are secrets. There are unexpected fires. There are scandals waiting to be known. In fact, the twists of the plot were considered so outrageous for the time that the book acquired a reputation for being “improper.” This helped to boost sales further.

The Bronte family was very close. They grew up conceiving their own stories and fantasies and acting them out in impromptu plays. All three girls and the brother, Branwell, were writers. Tragically, they all died young. Charlotte outlived them all, dying in 1855 at the age of 38 with her unborn child. Branwell (31) and Emily (30) both passed away in 1848, and Anne died the following year at the age of 29. Can you imagine having to bury all your siblings? It must have felt like the spectre of death was stalking nothing but Brontes.

What makes Rochester unique is that he does eventually see Jane the way she sees herself. ”Fair as a lily, and not only the pride of his life, but the desire of his eyes.” I will remember that line ”desire of his eyes” for a long time. She is a hidden gem in rooms full of people. Charlotte Bronte makes some good points through Jane’s eyes at how unaware wealthy people are of the true natures of those who serve them.

I would talk about the love story, but what is there to say. It is one for the ages. I would say that Charlotte Bronte never found her Rochester in real life, but some letters have come to light, written to a man named Constantin Héger, that suggests that maybe she did. He was married to someone else, and when Elizabeth Gaskell wrote the biography of her friend, she carefully edited out those very revealing letters of a love that could never be.

Jane Eyre, may you always find the readers you deserve.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Reading Progress

June 3, 2017 – Started Reading
June 3, 2017 – Shelved
June 3, 2017 – Shelved as: english-literature
June 17, 2017 – Shelved as: gothic
June 17, 2017 – Finished Reading
June 18, 2017 – Shelved as: victorian

Comments Showing 1-50 of 65 (65 new)


Helle One of my favourite novels.


Jeffrey Keeten Helle wrote: "One of my favourite novels."

I hear that a lot from people. I'm way overdue to read it.


✨    jamieson   ✨ I love it too!


message 4: by Cheri (new) - added it

Cheri Looking forward to your review, Jeffrey, I have not read this!


Rachel Aranda I'm probably one of the few people who just found the book okay. I liked it but I'll be honest about loving the 1943 version staying Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.


message 6: by Grace Rorwick (new)

Grace Rorwick Read it it is a timeless love story. Considering where the Bronte sisters grew up it explains where they got ideas for their novels. Great writing the story is exquisete


Sarah Millward Studied it at school and subsequently fell in love with Brontë literature. I love this book!


Jeffrey Keeten ✨ jamieson ✨ wrote: "I love it too!"

Alright! :-)


Jeffrey Keeten Rachel wrote: "I'm probably one of the few people who just found the book okay. I liked it but I'll be honest about loving the 1943 version staying Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine."

Well Rachel, you might have to read this one again when you get a tad older. There are so many great elements that were fairly new to most readers at the time. What I really liked were the gothic elements. This is a perfect example of Victorian literature.


Jeffrey Keeten Grace Rorwick wrote: "Read it it is a timeless love story. Considering where the Bronte sisters grew up it explains where they got ideas for their novels. Great writing the story is exquisete"

The back story on the sisters and their brother is frankly fascinating, but unfortunately most readers do not research a writer before they read a book. When she finds the Rivers family for example it was her way of bringing her own family into the book.


Jeffrey Keeten Sarah wrote: "Studied it at school and subsequently fell in love with Brontë literature. I love this book!"

Awesome! Every time I read a Bronte book I'm pleasantly surprised by something unexpected.


Gennifer  Broadbelt One of the worst book


Jeffrey Keeten Gennifer Broadbelt wrote: "One of the worst book"

Hmmm I epically disagree.


message 14: by Vickilynn76 (new)

Vickilynn76 does anyone know the name of the twelth book in the series with louis kincaid. author is pj parrish. if you know thank you so much for sharing. Vicki Fleming


Jeffrey Keeten Anzo*ExtremeTalkerReaderCommenter*🦄😘 wrote: "Glad we both loved this one!"

Indeed! Yes!


message 16: by Theresa (new)

Theresa Excellent review! My interest is renewed in reading this classic for the first time! (as embarrassing as that is to admit.)


Violet wells Bellissima Jeffrey!


Jeffrey Keeten Theresa wrote: "Excellent review! My interest is renewed in reading this classic for the first time! (as embarrassing as that is to admit.)"

Thank you! Easily rectified Theresa! You will not regret it!


Jeffrey Keeten Violet wrote: "Bellissima Jeffrey!"

Thank you Violet! As I was reading this book I kept thinking about how Victorians would have reacted to this book. What an important, progressive book this was.


message 20: by Vessey (last edited Jun 20, 2017 06:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Vessey OMG! I know it sounds scary, but I want to see you reading nothing but gothic Victorian romances for the rest of your life. :) Yep. This is how much I loved this review. You bloody man! Check out my favourite part:

Can you imagine the impact of such words on your typical, Victorian housewife? A woman who has lived her whole life being the daughter of her father, the wife of her husband, the mother of her sons. She has been passed from the care of one man after another. If she were fortunate enough to be born pretty, she has that brief moment of power when suiters contend for her hand, but probably, ultimately, her father would decide who was best for her to marry. How about the impact of reading this novel on the typical, Victorian man? Did he look up from this book and peer over at his wife, she looking rosy in the firelight, knitting away at some frivolous thing, and think...does she want more? Or maybe he sees his pretty daughter enter the room on the verge of womanhood, and does he consider the possibility that she wants or deserves more?

Unfortunately, we don’t know much about Charlotte Bronte’s life. We know facts about her, but we know nothing about the inner workings of that marvelous soul of hers. At least not from first hand. I wish we had more letters and not censored ones. The only thing we have is an indirect touch through the gorgeous Jane Eyre. You say that this novel doesn’t feel like a revolutionary one. And I am wondering if this was how she saw herself. As a revolutionist. You are right that labeling this as a feminist novel would be inaccurate. It goes beyond gender issues. You are so right that the story is larger than the book. It has such a big scope. You only need to have the eyes to see it. I can't agree with those who say that it is “just the typical romance” or “a fairy tale for adults’. They say it wouldn’t have made such a big impact today and maybe it wouldn’t have, but it would have on ME. I wonder how it would make feel all those women that are still entrapped, even now, whether it would make them sadder, showing them what they could never have, or quite the opposite, it would make them think “There is someone who understands” and give them hope. If not for themselves, at least for those that would come after them. What you have written here instantly brought to my mind the absolutely stunning conclusion of your review of “Finding Nouf”

She let me see the longing in the eyes peering from behind the veils. They are beautiful caged birds...let them sing.

Well, my heart is certainly singing now. Thank you SO much for reading this – you know for how long I have been wanting you to – and for writing this out of the world amazing review. I wish you could afford writing freely, with spoilers and everything. I can only imagine how much more you would have made out of it. Your mind has no limits. :) No need to say that it goes to the “My favourite Jeffrey reviews” shelf, which, btw, is becoming more and more bloated. A chubby child that has been eating nothing but strawberry ice cream and chocolate cake. I hope you realize you’re out of control. :) Jane would have had one look at you and swooned at your feet. :)

I love you <3


Michael This is one of my absolute favorite Gothic novels, and your extraordinary review has brought it to life all over again. Thank you!


Cherie Bravo, Jeffrey!


Jeffrey Keeten Vessey wrote: "OMG! I know it sounds scary, but I want to see you reading nothing but gothic Victorian romances for the rest of your life. :) Yep. This is how much I loved this review. You bloody man! Check out m..."

I think that is the hardest thing for readers today, to put books in the context of when they are written. I've had many people tell me that reading On the Road was no big deal now. Well only if you have read fifty knockoffs of the original before reading the original, but when you realize that it was the first of it's kind then the book takes on a bigger significance. This book was extremely edgy in the day, "improper" which I think is hilarious considering the five foot nothing woman who wrote it. I think her goal was to be published, but boy did she do a lot more than that. Women still have a lot of work to do, but ultimately equality will only be reached when more women decide to be more like Jane and accept nothing less than complete equality. I'm so glad you remembered the ending that I wrote to the Finding Nouf Review. I feel the most from Muslim women who are convinced from a very young age that they are somehow inferior because they were born female. Women can produce babies for goodness sake. They are so powerful! Maybe that is what those Muslim men fear?

Thank you Vessey! I'm glad you enjoyed this review. I know what this book means to you. I wanted to do a good job for you and all the fans of this book all over the world.


Jeffrey Keeten Michael wrote: "This is one of my absolute favorite Gothic novels, and your extraordinary review has brought it to life all over again. Thank you!"

Thank you Michael! I could have written, much, much more. I had notes enough to write a 5000 word review or more.


Jeffrey Keeten Cherie wrote: "Bravo, Jeffrey!"

Thank you Cherie!!


Carol (Bookaria) Great review, I love Jane Eyre


Jeffrey Keeten Carol (Bookaria) wrote: "Great review, I love Jane Eyre"

Thank you Carol! It is always good to meet another ardent fan of a book.


Carol (Bookaria) Jeffrey wrote: "Carol (Bookaria) wrote: "Great review, I love Jane Eyre"

Thank you Carol! It is always good to meet another ardent fan of a book."


Yes, it is always good!

You might enjoy this article from Bookriot Honest Plot Summaries of 19th-Century Novels :)


Jeffrey Keeten Carol (Bookaria) wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "Carol (Bookaria) wrote: "Great review, I love Jane Eyre"

Thank you Carol! It is always good to meet another ardent fan of a book."

Yes, it is always good!

You might enjoy this ar..."


Thanks! I will definitely check it out.


abhishek  Chakraborty Although personally I did not enjoy Jane Eyre at all, but I liked your review for making certain things clear for me, thanx. Do u think Emily Bronte is more subtle and artistic and articulate than Charlotte ?


Jeffrey Keeten abhishek wrote: "Although personally I did not enjoy Jane Eyre at all, but I liked your review for making certain things clear for me, thanx. Do u think Emily Bronte is more subtle and artistic and articulate than ..."

I found Charlotte to be artistic and articulate, certainly not subtle, but then if you think of this book as a gothic novel, gothic is not subtle. You may not be a good fit for the Bronte sisters, nothing wrong with that. I think if you can put these books in the context of when they were written and in the case of Jane Eyre consider the feminist ideas she was putting in front of a very non-feminist minded audience you can realize how remarkable a contribution to literature they have been. The fact that all their books are still read and revered today is a testimony to their enduring ideas.


message 32: by samantharalphs (new)

samantharalphs Have you just read it


Jeffrey Keeten samantharalphs wrote: "Have you just read it"

June 17th


Carolina Morales My heart warms up each time a man finishes AND praises any Brönte sisters' novel! So thank you!

May I recommend you another fantastic read? Villette is as charming as Jane Eyre but the plot is a bit more 'thick'. Its Gothic elements are even more scary, if you ask my opinion. Thank you again and good luck!


message 35: by Aiyah (new) - rated it 1 star

Aiyah This book was not for me, sadly it was very boring.


Hanneke What a beautiful review, Jeffrey. I re-read Jane Eyre a few years ago, having read it in my teens. I was amazed that I found it even more wonderful than I remembered. A classic that will be read for ever more, I would imagine, because Jane will remain a woman that you can relate to.


Jeffrey Keeten Carolina wrote: "My heart warms up each time a man finishes AND praises any Brönte sisters' novel! So thank you!

May I recommend you another fantastic read? Villette is as charming as Jane Eyre but the plot is a b..."


I loved Villette! I read it before I read Jane Eyre. My review of Villette is from several years ago, but hopefully it isn't too bad. :-) I do know I rated it five stars as well. I think the issue is just getting men to read these books in the first place. I know more men would like books like Jane Eyre and Villette if they would just pick them up and read them. I hope my reviews have encouraged more to do so. Thank you and you are most welcome.


Jeffrey Keeten Aiyah wrote: "This book was not for me, sadly it was very boring."

Actually this book is extremely compelling. I'm sorry you didn't like it and hope that at some point you pick the book up with fresh eyes and see how important this book is to English Literature.


Jeffrey Keeten Hanneke wrote: "What a beautiful review, Jeffrey. I re-read Jane Eyre a few years ago, having read it in my teens. I was amazed that I found it even more wonderful than I remembered. A classic that will be read fo..."

She is relatable regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. Certainly a book that is rereadable. I bought an Everyman edition to put in my personal library so Jane is always readily available. Thanks Hanneke! I'm so glad the reread was better than the original.


Hanneke She is standing proudly on my shelves as well, Jeffrey, and will remain there. I have a pretty looking hardbound copy from 1945 in blue linnen which I spotted in a secondhand bookstore.


message 41: by Ann Robson (new)

Ann Robson n


Chuck I really appreciate your great review.


Natalie Morton Reading your review brought back all of my intense feelings while reading this book, and how sad I was when it came to an end. I have not read as many books as you have, but of all the fictional books my eyes have taken in, never has there been one with a female character of such strong conviction and indomitable spirit, combined with a love that was so intensely soulful, that it pierced time and space and made my own heart ache for their reunion. And then there was all the intrigue on top of that! This book is a masterpiece. And it is so wonderful to see a man like yourself recognize it for all that it is, and hopefully inspire other men to give it a chance as well.
Thank you for such a wonderful review and for rekindling my great affection for this book. I may have to pull it off my shelf again. :)


Jeffrey Keeten Natalie wrote: "Reading your review brought back all of my intense feelings while reading this book, and how sad I was when it came to an end. I have not read as many books as you have, but of all the fictional bo..."

This is such an epic tale that it should transcend gender bias, but I know that the title alone is enough to keep most men from picking it up. It is a book that will reread well. I hope that you do get a chance to read it again. I have a feeling that your affection for the book will only deepen with each reread. You are most welcome and thank you for the kind words.


Beverly Thank you for the great review! I have read this book twice and if I had time I would read it again. It is one of my favorite novels.


Jeffrey Keeten You are most welcome Beverly! A deserted island choice!


Kokeshi Brilliant review. Thank you.


Jeffrey Keeten Thank you Kokeshi!


Bennett Lee This is the best review I have ever read on goodreads. Your ability to synthesize the historical significance of the novel with the significance of women’s growing desire for self-actualization is incredible. Thank you for this awesome review; I am inspired to read a book I would generally never consider.


Jeffrey Keeten Bennett wrote: "This is the best review I have ever read on goodreads. Your ability to synthesize the historical significance of the novel with the significance of women’s growing desire for self-actualization is ..."

Sometimes it is just so important to write a really good review for a book like this. I felt the responsibility to get it right. Thank you Bennett! I'm so glad that you enjoyed the review. I hope that you too will prove to be one of those readers that Jane Eyre deserves.


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