In the last few days I reread Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This was after I read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (my review will be on my blog on Thursday) which is an inspired prequel to Jane Eyre. I was going to do a standard review on Jane Eyre, like I have done for other books, but instead I’d like to start a kind of discussion on it. Instead of just having my opinions on this book, I’d like it to be a discussion of many people’s favourite characters, quotes, sections of the book and adaptations.
Well, me first!
Obviously my favourite character is without a doubt, Jane Eyre. She’s strong and very independently minded without being proud and stubborn. She faces a lot of challenges due to her youth, ‘plainness’ and financial situation but she doesn’t let any of it stop her. Many people think this book is solely a love story but it isn’t. In fact, Jane doesn’t meet Mr Rochester until at least 100 pages in and spends more time than that away from him after. This book is about Jane finding herself and being comfortable in who she is. It’s refreshing that a classic book in the point of view of a woman deals with a lot more than just love and marriage, although they are major themes.
My absolute favourite quote is ‘Reader, I married him’. This is probably the most famous Bronte quote and one of the most famous in general classic fiction. It speaks volumes. It is not Reader, he married me, it’s ‘Reader, I married him’. It shows Jane is in control; this isn’t a passive event, it is her event. For a relationship in the 19th century, Jane and Rochester’s is very unique. They both see each other as equals despite big differences in age and pay and this is reflected in how outspoken Jane is towards him. She certainly isn’t afraid to challenge him.
I also really like this quote from Mr Rochester: ‘As if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you. And if you were to leave I’m afraid that cord of communion would snap. And I have a notion that I’d take to bleeding inwardly’. It’s beautiful and quite poetic for a character who at first seems so harsh and stubborn.
Another favourite quote is ‘I am no bird and no net ensnares me’. This quote is also from Jane and really sums up her character. Despite being poor and financially dependent on others, she wishes to make it known that she doesn’t want to be trapped anywhere against her will. I have so many other favourite quotes from Jane Eyre but I don’t have time to name them all!
I don’t wish to give too much away of the plot details but I do wish to mention my favourite sections of the book. My favourite section of all has to be the proposal. The way Jane expresses her feelings so openly just proves how strong a character she is. The twists and turns in such a small section required me, on first reading, to read over a couple of pages a few times to fully appreciate how clever Bronte’s writing is.
Another important section – although a horrible one – is the reflection of Jane’s childhood, both in the care of her nasty Aunt and her 8 years at Lowood Institute. Bronte cleverly shapes Jane’s character around these terrible moments in her past. Jane’s school is even inspired by the one the Bronte sisters had to attend. This horrible past allows Jane to appreciate everything around her and is the reason she feels so close to Mr Rochester as he is one of her first friends. Jane Eyre shows us that we cannot judge people by their circumstances but should consider their heart and soul.
My favourite adaptation is the 2011 film featuring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. To me, of all the ones I’ve watched it seems most faithful to the book. Mia Wasikowska’s Jane Eyre is as strong and intelligent as she is in the book. She is not afraid to stand up for herself, even in front of those who are richer than her. I like the way the characters all have Yorkshire accents as that is where the book is set. My main problem with it was that it missed a lot of build up that’s important for the pacing of the events, but it is hard to pack a 500 page novel in a 2 hour film!
I also enjoyed the 2006 BBC series as it covered more of the book. For a more unusual adaptation of Jane Eyre I would recommend The Autobiography of Jane Eyre. It is a YouTube series which creates a modern version told through ‘vlogs’ by Jane as she becomes a tutor paid by the CEO of Thornfield Exports, Edward Rochester. As it is a modern adaptation it approaches some of the events differently but in a way that still very much respects the original story. It’s really worth a watch.
I hope this structure and content for a blog post is interesting. I would love to know if anyone else has read Jane Eyre and what other people think of this book. It’s my favourite book of all time and I really hope others enjoy it as much as I do.
Feel free to comment any thoughts on my post or on Jane Eyre itself.