Thursday, January 14, 2016

Back to the Classics: 19th Century

I had already signed up for an online course through edX on Jane Eyre when I discovered the Back to the Classics reading challenge, so this is a two-fer!  The edX class is still on week two of four, so maybe that will cause this review to be mercifully shorter than it would have been had I written it after completing the course!

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!

1 comment:

Kristina Brooke said...

I was never a fan of Jane Eryre or Jane Austin but I may have to give them another read. I often wonder if I missed the artistry or something special and that is why I did not like them...

Interestingly enough, I do like novels with Gothic elements so maybe I need to reread them.