Classic Review: Jane Eyre

18 February 2016

By Lauren E. White

Regarded as one of literature’s best novels, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre still lives up to its reputation today.

The story begins with Jane as a young child in Gateshead living with her evil Aunt Reed. A book is thrown at her by Jack Reed and so young Miss Eyre fights fire with fire and is punished by being locked in the ‘red room’. Throughout her childhood, Jane is portrayed as as the orphan outcast by Brontë and the reader her only confidant.

Brontë’s poetic prose in Jane Eyre is just one of the reasons the novel is a true pleasure to read. However, when Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, we get to know her as an independent young woman. It is at Thornfield where Plain Jane falls in love with her master, Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester and the real story begins.

Edward and Jane (as said in the BBC’s adaptation of the novel) are not the platonic sort. Their relationship is, at first, solely on an intellectual level on which they immediately connect with each other. Rochester values Jane – a female in the Victorian era – as an intelligent, bright woman and does not base his love for her on her physical appearance immediately. Because of this, you grow to love Rochester almost as well as Jane, despite his baggage and his past.

Brontë presents their relationship as star-crossed; they are meant for each other. Social conventions and even Rochester’s mentally ill wife in the attic cannot stop them from being together in the end.

Undoubtedly, one of the reasons Jane Eyre is so universally loved is because of its extremely strong female protagonist who is able to make her own way in the world despite having no money, no family and no friends. When Jane leaves Rochester (don’t worry, she returns in the end), Charlotte Brontë breaks your heart but is able to make your love for her protagonist grow stronger as you watch Jane make her own living based upon her own morals. At the time it was published in 1847, the novel was revolutionary and in 2016, it is just as moving and inspirational.

Jane Eyre has been labelled by some as ‘melodramatic’ and been branded ‘boring’ and ‘over the top’. I could not disagree more. Charlotte Brontë’s passionate novel explores love and romance and riches and poverty – all while maintaining a loveable, identifiable, feisty protagonist. One of the things that today’s generation can take from the novel is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Another thing is that true love never fades. Jane Eyre is a novel of a lifetime.

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