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Jane Eyre is a classic masterpiece by Charlotte Brontë. It is quite easy to perceive why it is considered to be classic, even now, centuries after it was published. It is an influential feminist text exploring the female protagonist’s turbulent emotions and opinions.
It goes through five distinctive phases beginning from her tortured and sad childhood with her aunt and cousins, and her education at Lowood School as well. There she does acquire friends but also undergoes turmoil while working as a governess at the Thornfield Manor, where she falls inexorably in love with Byronic owner Edward Rochester; and in the finale she reunites with her love and finally settles down.
As a young girl, she is treated lowly and abused – both physically and emotionally. In spite of that, she wants to be free and live her life. Although being young, she is not taken in by vanity. She, instead, spends time drawing sketches. Though she represses all her feelings and emotions and turns away from her feminine traits, she fails to hide her jealousy when she sees her beloved with another female acquaintance. This goes to show that in spite of her feminist nature, she still longs to be loved and taken care of.
She inspires me to be bold and embrace destiny, however ugly it might be. For every cloud does have a silver lining. Though she has to endure all the hard times and make tough decisions, she, however, is able to get her happily-ever-after ending which goes on to prove that the road to bliss is not rosy as it sounds.
The main character is Jane Eyre, who narrates her story from the age of ten till twenty-two. She is an orphan whose mother and father both died due to typhus. She was then taken care of by her mother’s brother – Mr. John Reed. Mr. Reed himself is married, with three children – Tom, Georgina and Eliza. While on his death-bed, he bequeathed Jane Eyre to be taken in and cared for by Mrs. Reed. Once in her custody, she is treated dreadfully and abused. On reacting to her cousin Tom’s behaviour, she hits him back and is sent to the “Red Room”. It is the room where Mr. Reed had died. She thinks she sees her dead Uncle’s ghost and faints. When she’s awake, she finds under the care of Miss Bessie Lee – the plain spoken nursemaid and Mr. Llyod – a kindly apothecary. On the latter’s insistence, Jane is sent to Lowood School – a charity school with the tag of being deceitful. There she finds comfort in her friend Helen, who later dies of typhus. After six years as a student and two years as a teacher, she decides to leave Lowood. She advertises her services as a governess and soon finds employment at Thornfield Hall. There, she teaches Adele Varens, a young French girl, under the ward of Edward Rochester, who is the owner of the Hall. They share a love-hate relationship from the very start. Jane’s openness and intelligence intrigues Mr. Rochester. Soon they both fall in love, but never breathing a word to each other. Strange occurrences, like a fire in Mr. Rochester’s room, his friend getting injured and a mysterious laugh, create both drama and havoc. It turns out Mr. Rochester had married a woman named Bertha Mason, who was mad and kept hidden in his attic in the care of Gracy Poole. When Mr. Rochester expresses his love for Jane, this secret tumbles out and Jane is heartbroken and leaves the Hall. Exhausted and out of money, she is found by St. John Rivers who gives her a teaching position at a charity school. It is soon learnt that John is in fact her cousin and their uncle had left a huge amount of money in her name. John intends on moving to India as a missionary and proposes to Jane to accompany him as his wife, not out of love, but on account of duty. Jane refuses his proposal, however, consents to accompany him. But her resolve weakens when she mysteriously hears Rochester’s voice calling out to her. At once, she leaves for Thornfield Hall and is shocked to find it in ruins. She learns that Rochester’s wife burned the place down and committed suicide. Rochester lost his eye-sight and an arm in saving the servants. When Jane finds him, Edward feels she will be repulsed at his condition, but she reassures him of her love and they get married.
The novel undertakes several themes, toying with main characters excellently and weaving together a magical yarn that follows Jane from the sensitive phase of adolescence to her impassioned and turbulent youth. She addresses a child’s insecurity, the world through her eyes remarkably well. One not only witnesses passion and love, but also anguish, jealousy, atonement and forgiveness. Alongside, it also addresses feminism (then unknown), religious beliefs, gender relations and social inequality, an issue rarely dealt with in that era. Brontë plays with them wonderfully and renders a highly engrossing work of art difficult to put down.
I liked this book for it issues a young woman as the central character, who does not embody a regular 18th century lady. But she is head-strong, speaks out her mind and yearns to be treated as equal to her male counterpart. She longs to do and act as males of her time do. But these emotions are suppressed as the society scoffs at this demeanour. A work of genius then as it surpassed all notions then and now, for it still gleams of reality and truth. The century may not be the same, the clothes different, but the feelings and emotions still the same and that is what touches the heartstrings.