Our Jane Eyre read – along has come to end. What an insightful and fun event this was! I feel that, due to the exchange of ideas, I have reached a better understanding of this novel then almost any other piece of fiction that I have read.
I want to thank my co – host, Maria of A Night's Dream of Books for all the hard work that she put into the event as well as for some great insights and discussion of this novel. I also want to thank everyone who participated.
This post contains spoilers.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is the story, told in first person, of the title character. This novel is an impressive and important work of art that shines on many levels.
The narrative begins in Jane’s childhood. Jane is an orphan who is neglected and abused, first by her pernicious relatives, the Reeds, and later in the oppressive institution /school of Lowood.
Though not able to legally marry, Rochester begs Jane to run off with him to the continent and live as man and wife. Though very much in love with Rochester, Jane is unwilling to take this path. She flees alone into the world.
Jane’s character is a monumental artistic and aesthetic achievement. Many people who have read this book have expressed enormous admiration for her. I concur that there is much to admire, however I find that her determination sometimes has a high cost to both herself and to Rochester. Adding to Bronte’s wonderful creation is the fact that Jane’s psyche seems to me, to represent a view of the Universe that is thoughtful and sophisticated.
Jane is a unique literary creation. There are several key components to her makeup. As the book covers a good stretch of her life, the development of her persona is a wonder to read.
I think Bronte further establishes a mixed theology within the confines of these pages as Rochester and Jane refer to one another using such pagan imagery as elf, fairy and sprite. I would contend the psychic connection that reveals itself between Jane and Rochester indicates that these mythical elements are indeed in play in the real world.
Though never spelled out, Jane’s expression of faith seems to be an odd composite of a belief that is mostly Christian, but that embodies a kind of Feminine nature worship. I am not arguing that if Jane were asked what her views were that she would articulate that she believed in anything other then Christianity. Instead I think that, as I describe above, there is vague unexpressed undercurrent, both within her psyche, as well as within the Universe that governs the book, that there is also something else about. Something older, more feminine and more tied to nature, then the Christian God.
Jane’s powerful personality and determination is best exhibited when she chooses to leave Rochester. The two are love and came within a hair’s breath of marrying. When it is revealed that Rochester is married, but married in a mostly nominal way, he gives her what seems like a viable alternative to run away with him. Though she is temped to do so, she concludes that this choice violates her own morals and dignity. She makes an alternate choice that causes both Rochester and herself, terrible suffering. This choice seems to really illustrate the incredibly powerful force of will that Jane possesses.
I must point out that I am oversimplifying in order to illustrate my point. Jane’s character is so very complicated and nuanced. We see her during a broad swath of her life, which makes her even more multifaceted. For instance, despite her strength of conviction she sometimes allows herself to be temporarily dominated and even consumed by strong personalities. She experiences this at various points with both Rochester and St John. At one point she makes an observation that speaks volumes about this contradiction.
“I know no medium: I never in my life have known any medium in my dealings with positive, hard characters, antagonistic to my own, between absolute submission and determined revolt. I have always faithfully observed the one, up to the very moment of bursting, sometimes with volcanic vehemence, into the other;”
Yet in the end, Jane never follows a path set out by another and never compromises. This may sound admirable, but as I pointed out above, the calculus of her choices does not really take in to account her own well being or the harm that she does to others. I am not writing this in judgment, rather in admiration of Bronte’s complex achievement. Finally, as we discussed during the read – along, if one accepts an interpretation that at the ending of the book, Rochester has lost his dark side, a key component of his powerful persona, then one can argue that Jane’s will has overpowered the one personality that seemed a match for her.
There is a lot more going on in this book. I have only commented here about one of its many interesting points. Many aspects I have barley mentioned. Even Jane’s personality has many more angles that I have not touched upon. The writing style is brilliant in a highly stylized gothic sort of way. Rochester’s character would lend itself to volumes of analysis in itself. The book has a strong but complex feminist message. For the brilliant literary creation that is Jane Eyre the character, and also for the additional above reasons, Jane Eyre the book, is a brilliant literary achievement.