“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.”
A tormented romance that spans a decade, covering many societal issues.
Jane Eyre was Charlotte Brontë’s first published novel, despite having previously written The Professor. It was released in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell, a pen name which Brontë had previously used for the collected work Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell which she wrote with her sisters.
Covering feminism, unconventional love, and societal class, it gained hardly any success at the time of its publication. However, as times have changed, so has society’s opinion. It’s a much-loved story today all across the world for its strong morals and non-traditional relationships.
The novel follows the life of Jane Eyre from an orphaned child growing up unloved to making her first friends at school. She’s well educated and becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall which is where she first meets the elusive Mr Rochester. Although things run smoothly at first, it quickly becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. Strange things start to happen, from mysterious laughter to unexplainable fires. These almost supernatural occurances over increase as Jane and Mr Rochester begin to develop feelings for one another. They seem destined to be torn appart at every turn, but are they strong enough to overcome it?
Despite it being her most famous work, Brontë’s Jane Eyre was heavily criticised at the time of its release.
- This is the ultimate Victorian novel. Brontë managed to successfully combine multiple aspects of Victorian literature from the gothic uncanny to the governess position to the whirlwind romance. It is without a doubt one of the best representations of Victorian literature, and more importantly, of Victorian life.
- Jane Eyre herself is the role model all young girls need. She isn’t pretty, she isn’t meek, and she isn’t a hopeless romantic. She’s intelligent, independent, and stubborn, and refreshingly unapologetic about being so.
- The novel is a prime example of a healthy relationship. Although Mr Rochester initially insults Jane by flattering her and buying pointless trinkets, he eventually learns to respect her independence and they treat each other as equals.
- This is a long book and can seem even longer thanks to excessive descriptions. Some paragraphs seem to go on for days about how a particular building or room looked, and after a while, such unnecessary details become tedious.
- The men throughout the novel are borderline abusive. They’re controlling and manipulative and although Mr Rochester redeems himself, at times it feels like Jane is in the middle of a tug of war game between men.
- Jane has strong religious and moral beliefs, which, although it makes her a good person, it also makes her predictable. As the story is told from her point of view, it leaves very little to the imagination. Jane is fundamentally good and will therefore always choose the most moral choice.
Overall, I’d give Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre a three out of five. It’s an unconventional and mostly realistic love story between non-traditional characters.
I’d recommend this novel to teenagers and up but only for lovers of gothic romance. It’s unique and dramatic, but unless you have the interest, you’ll quickly become bored.
Want to read it for yourself?
Prefer to listen instead?