JANE EYRE BOOK CLUB…PART ONE!
Dear ones, the great day has arrived.
It is time to discuss Jane Eyre.
I shall begin, and then — please! — jump in, everyone! Respond to me, respond to each other, respond to critics, respond to anything you like. I will try to post another comment every hour to keep the conversation going. I can't wait to read everyone's thoughts…
Let's start by discussing the character of Jane herself…
I would first like to say that I offer my apologies to Ms. Charlotte Brontë for never having read her quite wild and galloping novel, and for having somehow decided it was not worth reading because it would be moralizing, dull and simpering. Which means that I thought Jane herself was moralizing, dull and simpering. (Somehow I had conflated her in my mind with "The Little Match Girl." How? I have no idea.) I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE MISTAKEN.
Jane Eyre is a remarkable creation. She is not quite like any other literary heroine I have ever encountered. There is a beautiful and twisted strangeness about her, and I am absolutely with Mr. Rochester when he asks, late in the book, "You are altogether a human being, Jane? You are certain of that?" The question is worth asking, because she is so very unusual, so difficult to pin down. I found from the start that Jane had a odd, kinky, dark, unsettling vibe about her. She's "good", I suppose, but her goodness is cloaked in a prickly, stubborn, combative and almost aggressive personality — and I LOVED it.
I would not call her humble, no matter what her upbringing. I felt that Jane was always well aware of her special existence, aware that she was sort of better than everyone else — stronger, keener, brighter, tougher, worthy in some indefinable way. This is why she gets to tell her own story — because she herself feels intensely that her own story has value. Her circumstances may have been dreadful, but she still manages to hold herself in the highest regard. It's not arrogance, exactly but it's DEEP self-assuradness, which can sometimes feel almost spooky, coming from somebody so ignored and overlooked and (in society's eyes) so disposable. She will NOT be disposed of. She refuses to be overlooked.
She keeps describing herself as small and plain, but I had trouble believing that she really thinks of herself (in spirit, at least) as either tiny or insignificant. (I also don't think she minds her looks. I think she likes her smallness and plainness, as it is wonderful disguise for her electric and vibrant mind; she can be underestimated, and then make her play, without anyone seeing her coming.)
Even in her earliest and most abused childhood, there is nothing of the victim about Jane. Even as the Reed family is abusing her, she's thinking that they basically suck and thus she holds them in utter contempt. She is more contemptuous of them than she is fearful of them. (They can smell it, too — her contempt — and it only makes them hate her more. You can almost feel sorry for them. I would not like to be on the receiving end of Jane Eyre's diamond-hard disdain!) She knows she's better than the treatment she gets in her early years at Lowood, and doesn't rest until, indeed, she IS treated better. Later on in the novel, she knows she's better than the ridiculous society ladies who come to Thornwood and flirt with Rochester. (She's jealous of the attention Rochester gives to Miss Ingram, yes, but she still thinks Miss Ingram is basically a loser.)
Verbally Jane is adept at throwing conversational darts with unbelievable precision, even as a child. When she says that she prefers "rudeness to flattery", I don't think it's because of some deep Christian humility or fear of praise; I think it's because rudeness is way more interesting, and she would rather play rough than have dull, canned conversation. This is why she digs Rochester — because he's never boring, and she can go nine rounds with him verbally, in a way she cannot with anyone else. In the absence of interesting engagement, she remains silent — not because she is shy or retiring, but because she would rather say nothing than engage in boring conversation….just as she would rather marry a weird-ass, emotionally and physically damaged passionate man than marry a perfectly respectable, classically handsome, and utterly dry missionary.
Jane demands an interesting life, thus she gets one.
Good for you, Jane Eyre.
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK OF HER.
Tell me why you love her — if, indeed, you do love her.
Tell me how you see her.
Let us begin!