This was my second time reading Jane Eyre--the first was back in 1991. I was a senior in college, and I *think* I read it in preparation for my senior thesis on Villette.
Jane Eyre, published in 1847, is a bildungsroman of Jane's life. Here is the blurb from the back cover:
Jane Eyre is an orphan, penniless and plain, but full of courage and spirit. She has endured incredible hardship to secure her humble status as a governess in the household of her brooding employer, Mr. Rochester. Jane's sharp wit and defiant nature meet with Rochester's sardonic temperament. The two become enmeshed in a deep, intense bond. But Rochester has a terrible secret--a remnant from his past that cold threaten any hope of happiness with this only love.
I liked this novel--back in 1991, and now in 2016. It's nice to see the plain, poor orphan turn out okay. I keep comparing Jane Eyre to the novels of that other Jane I love so much--Jane Austen, and I am struck by the differences. Jane and Rochester are not social equals--such a match would never occur in Austen. The age difference between the lovers is similar to Emma and Mr. Knightley--though both matches today would have the gentlemen likely added to a sex-offender registry! What I really liked in Jane Eyre that you do not get with Austen is the "after." After the marriage proposal has been accepted--Austen wraps it up after that, and we never see what happens after the wedding. I liked that Jane and Rochester had obstacles to overcome--their aborted wedding ceremony set the stage for the third act of the book, and when Jane and Rochester were reunited, you knew this marriage was going to be a happy one.
This week on edX, we've been looking into the Gothic elements of the novel: the setting in a crumbling mansion, the Gothic hero, the villain, and the plot touching on elements of the supernatural. Jane Eyre touches all of the bases.
I recommend Jane Eyre for ladies and gentlemen of all ages!