In the public eye, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has been reduced to a romance novel. After all, all the elements are present: a plain heroine, a dashing love interest with a mysterious past, a barrier keeping them from their love, and much more. However, to reduce the novel to a story about a madwoman in an attic would be to disregard much of Brontë’s purpose in writing it.
The time Jane Eyre spends in Thornfield with Edward Rochester, the love interest in question, amounts to no more than one third of the book. After all, people do not just appear fully formed out of nowhere – they have a background, and Jane is no exception. Brontë masterfully details Jane’s childhood with her neglectful and abusive relatives at Gateshead, and the positive influence her first friend had on her at the Lowood Institution for Girls. In these parts of the novel, we see Jane growing up and growing into the strong, fierce personality Brontë makes it clear that her protagonist has – a first for female characters at the time.
Moreover, we continue to see Jane becoming her true self in the latter sections of the novel. Although she is finally reunited with part of her family, she does not let her attempts to fit in with them alter who she is and what she believes in. This can be seen when she rejects St. John’s proposal to marriage because she knows he loves another and only wants to marry Jane because she would make a good missionary’s wife. Despite internal and external pressures, she stays true to herself and eventually goes back to Rochester.
Jane Eyre is a bit of a dense read, but it will be time well spent. It covers a variety of topics and themes that allow the modern reader a glimpse into the nineteenth century, while also, of course, noting the forbidden yet passionate romance between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester.
– Mahak M.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.
Thank you for the review. This seems like a great book.