February 12, 2015

Jane Eyre ~ A Book Review

Jane Eyre
Book By Charlotte Bronte
Review by Janelle A. Spiers
January 28, 2015

“I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.” ~ Jane Eyre

“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter - often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter - in the eye.” ~ Jane Eyre

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

The timeless story of Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte, has left a lasting impact on the genre of romance.  With memorable and haunting characters, mixed full of real life struggles and emotions, Bronte has painted a darker side of love that is not often seen in classic romance.  Her poetic way of writing, her original plot, and her ageless characters have turned Bronte’s Jane Eyre into an unforgettable masterpiece.
Bronte created a deep romance, however, only two thirds of the book are about Jane Eyre’s love life, but in that chunk of the book, love is a very strong theme.  Jane, the namesake of the book, has her story recounted from the time she was a child, and her character is very perseverant through difficult trials, which is another theme that Bronte began, but did not quite finish it out to the end. 
The story begins with orphaned Jane living with her abusive aunt and cousins.  When she retaliates against the bullying she so frequently receives from her cousin, she is sent away to a boarding school.  Unfortunately, Lowood, the strict school run by a hypocritical character named Brocklehurst, is no less inviting to young Jane and she is underfed and treated poorly, but not singled out, as the other girls are likewise treated.
After about eight years at the school, Jane decides that instead of teaching at Lowood, she would rather be a governess, and so she advertises for a job.  Her proposition is readily accepted, and Jane travels to a huge house called Thornfield Hall where she is in charge of teaching a young French girl.  The master of the house, Mr. Edward Rochester, is mysterious and ugly, but nevertheless, Jane falls for him, and he likewise for her.  But a startling series of events causes Jane to flee from Thornfield and live with a family who take her in penniless and hungry.  However, after several years of absence, Jane decides to return to Rochester and promptly marries him, never having lost her passion for her master.
Jane Eyre is a plain, small woman with much courage and strength.  Although she was raised to be meek and quiet, Jane has a feisty spirit that can plainly be seen when she is ridiculed or uncomfortable.  Her self-confidence and ability to think quickly helped and spared several lives within the story.
Mr. Edward Rochester is a strong gentleman, but he has very understandable human qualities.  Though he is very coarse and, at times, rude, Mr. Rochester also has a pitiable need for love and understanding.  He is described as unattractive and is believed by all to be rather ugly, but Jane learns to see past his homely face and love his features.  Rochester is the caretaker of Jane’s pupil, Adele, after her mother abandoned the young infant.  He shows no affection to the girl, but it is clear that his heart has enough gentleness to think of the child and bring her gifts.  However, underneath all of these thick, impenetrable layers of Edward Rochester, there lies a dark, haunting secret that stands between him and his beloved Jane.
In short passages of time, Charlotte Bronte was able to give vivid descriptions of her supporting characters, bringing them into the light of Jane’s retrospect and shining on them clearly.  However, none of the characters are exceptionally necessary for the progression of the story, except to give Jane reason for being in a certain location.
The writing quality of Jane Eyre is very high, and what Bronte once wrote as a modern English has now become archaic, very wordy, and has a slight poetic beauty in its words.  However, due to her excessive word count, the novel can be difficult to read, especially for people not used to such weighted reading.
Charlotte Bronte was born on the 21st of April, in 1816.  She was the third of six children, and only one of three to survive to adulthood.  At an early age she was sent to a boarding school that she later used as basis for Lowood School in Jane Eyre; the conditions were unhealthy and it hastened the death of two of her sisters. Another scene in Charlotte Bronte’s life, that is more than likely to have made its way into Jane Eyre, was her own work as a governess and the unruly John she taught, who threw a Bible at Charlotte.  This is similar to Jane’s abusive cousin who threw a book at the main character.
Charlotte Bronte published other novels, four in total, but Jane Eyre remains her most famous, and she is hardly recognized for her additional works. Jane Eyre was published on October 16, 1847 under the pen name of Currer Bell.  The Bronte sisters wrote under male aliases so as to attract more publishing attention.
There is a definite Christian theology spread lightly across the pages of Jane Eyre.  Jane is a very devout, moral girl who often prays to God before bed, and in the boarding school, her dear friend speaks much of the Bible, obeying God, and going to heaven.  There is mention of Hell as a place for sinners, and Mr. Brocklehurst, the owner of Lowood School, believes that girls should be plain, have no adornments including curls, because of passages in the Bible that ask for women to be modest.  However, it is revealed that Brocklehurst’s family does not follow to his own teaching.
There isn’t much swearing in Jane Eyre, but Mr. Rochester is known to use occasional profanity and also swear under his breath.  God’s name is used several times in exclamation, but it is hard to tell if it is more prayer-like or used in vain.  Overall, the language is rather clean and unquestionable.
It may be surprising that the love life and romantic appeal between characters is very clean.  (Spoiler) However, Mr. Rochester does attempt to marry Jane, even though he is married to another woman, a fact unknown to Jane.  His bigamous plans are discovered before they are carried into action, but a big deal is made about how despicable that is.  Jane and Edward kiss passionately once or twice, but no other actions are made to display their love.  One of the most interesting parts of their romance is that there is no apparent reason for Jane to have loved Mr. Rochester, and so her faithful commitment is odd at times.
Alcohol is mentioned a few times, but sparingly, and the main characters are never drunk.  A sub-character does drink frequently, and sometimes has had too much, falling asleep and ultimately neglecting her duties.  However, for the sake of the plot, this drinking is necessary and not made graphic or overly accentuated. 
Jane Eyre does have a dark and slightly disturbing tone, consisting of a mentally unstable woman.  On multiple occasions the woman lights beds on fire inside Thornfield Hall, nearly killing Mr. Rochester.  At another time, she stabs her own brother in the arm.  She eventually commits suicide by jumping from the roof of a building that she also lit on fire. 
There are several deaths throughout the book, three of them caused by illness, and two possible suicides.  The death scenes of each are not graphic, and not entirely horrifying, however, typhoid and consumption does take the life of a young teenaged girl, which can be very sad for sensitive readers.
Charlotte Bronte was incredibly diligent in keeping her characters consistent.  From Jane’s young schooldays to her later married life, her development is obvious but her character is the same all the way through the book.  As with her plot line, even though it is very slow and drawn out, it is steady and progressive, ushering Jane from one key point in life to the next.
Dark and mysterious, sweet and romantic, Charlotte Bronte has left the world with a book that stands out against the background of other classic romances.  Perhaps more suitable for older readers, Jane Eyre still tells an age-old story of love, endurance, and faithfulness, which we can all hold to today. 

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (Strong and powerful, also high moral.)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (Extremely memorable and original.)
Characters ~ Positive! (For life-like and classic characteristics.)
Writing Quality ~ Negative! (Difficult and wordy, hard to comprehend.)
Mature Content ~ Negative! (Some topics may be unsuitable for a young or sensitive audience.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For good/consistent character development.)

The total score for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is 3 out of a possible 6 positive points.

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