The Classics Club: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

This is another poor book that has been saved from an ancient corner of my tbr shelf and needed a good dusting down. I’m not sure why it has been there so long, I hazard a guess that this is because of the size of the novel and also its reputation maybe intimidated me a bit. The push to finally read this book came when I joined A Year of Feminist Classics reading challenge, May’s reading material was this and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This is also another book to tick off my Classics Club list with The Professor, Villette, and Shirley still to look forward to from Charlotte.

Jane Eyre is an orphan, she lost both her parents to typhus when she was only a baby, since then she has lived with her wealthy but unloving relatives, the Reeds, whilst in their home Jane is ignored by her aunt and regular beaten by her cousin John. Jane eventually escapes this situation when she is sent away for schooling at Lowood School for Girls, a charitable institution where girls are expected to work long hours, eat sparsely, and dress in thin cheap clothing. Life at Lowood is harsh but Jane is strong and lasts eight years there. At the end of which she finally believes she has the education and means to finally escape to a better life. She advertises for a governess position and is accepted by Mrs Fairfax of Thornfield Hall. Jane’s first impressions of Thornfield Hall is that it is old and imposing but it is finally within its walls that she starts to learn what contentment is. With the friendly company of the house keeper Mrs Fairfax, the doting attention of her pupil Adele Varens, and the love of her master Mr Rochester. However Thornfield Hall is not all that it seems, a deadly secret is hidden within its very walls.

I have been struggling over this review for quite a while, my thoughts about this book are all very mixed up, as I found Jane Eyre to be both fascinating and so frustrating at the same time! I believe that the book is exquisitely written, especially the descriptions given of scenes and places. I could imagine every detail of the impressive Thornfield Hall and of the dire Lowood school as if I’d been there myself. The atmosphere of the book is rather dark as you can imagine from my synopsis, Jane has a hard life and there is no getting away from that but I was disappointed it didn’t have more gothic elements (like Emily’s Wuthering Heights) they were there briefly in the eery going-ons at night and that’s it. Then we come to Jane herself; she is strong and independent minded which I loved, she has a strong belief in God and what is right something I liked, she is also very self-deprecating which annoyed the hell out of me! Ok she is apparently not that pretty but doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve love or attention. Jane is also rather self-destructive which seriously jars with the idea that she is an intelligent woman. Why is she so happy when Mr Rochester is so rude and nasty to her? Why flee in the middle night with no thought to one’s safety? These and many more questions about Jane’s choices is what so frustrated me through out the novel.

Jane Eyre is a dark tale of love, loss and secrets told by a flawed narrator, which as I said before makes for a fascinating but also frustrating read (I doubt I would have found the story as fascinating though if our narrator had been perfect). I am very much looking forward to reading more from Charlotte and her sisters.


28 thoughts on “The Classics Club: Jane Eyre

  1. Great review, Jessica. I found Jane as a character very fascinating, but I liked Mr. Rochester more; he practically jumped out of the pages, he was that real.

  2. Found you via Classics Club – Jane Eyre is one of my favorites, but it’s been quite a while since I read it. I don’t remember feeling frustrated, though I could easily see how you might be. What I loved most about Jane was that – completely naive as she was, she really never compromised who she viewed herself to be. I liked that.

    1. Hello Nicole fellow Classics Clubber! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. While as I often found the decisions Jane made very frustrating, I did actually rather admire her for her strong convictions of right and wrong, and of who she was as a person.

  3. In my notes in my copy of Jane Eyre, the part where she fled in the night and ended up in the middle of nowhere, I wrote: “bad decision.” What was she thinking?

  4. I must say that Jane Eyre is one of my all time favourites (along with Rebecca) – funnily enough although set in different eras both women in these books are insecure. I admit that when it comes to Jane I can almost not bear to see any fault – but I think this is a problem with me to be honest. I just love that book and i don’t really know why – perhaps it’s because of the age I first read it (about 14) and maybe it appealed to some inner romantic notions – so that even though Mr Rochester seems to mistreat Jane he also really loves her and in a book where you have an insecure, plain looking woman with no hope this almost made him a hero. Plus I liked to think they were both in need of love and were in a way on a path to fixing each other. Okay, babbling now over.
    I did watch the recent adaptation – i thought it was okay – my favourite part was obviously Fassbender! For me it lost quite a bit in the translation onto screen. I thought the scenery and shots were absolutely beautiful, the casting really excellent, both jane and rochester, good acting, beautiful sets, but, for me, it lost an element of the love story and whilst this wasn’t a problem for me (because of all my rereads plus seeing other adaptations so I was able to fill in the blanks) I couldn’t help wondering whether you would really feel the love if you didn’t already have a preconceived idea that it was there. Also, I felt the more scary/gothic moments were greatly reduced and I thought this was a big shame – you barely seemed to know there was a mad woman in the attic. You didn’t really feel any fear about her presence? And, the darkness just wasn’t present.
    But, would I watch it again. Oh yes, Fassbender! *le sigh*
    Lynn 😀

    1. I would totally agree with your point that both Rochester and Jane needed love, and that together I think they make better people. I am also still eager to watch the new adaptation…but mainly because Fassbender is in it 😛

  5. I love Jane Eyre – it’s possibly my favourite classic of all time, and not just because of Rochester, but also because I admire Jane so much. I agree that despite her strength or character, she can also be quite insecure. But I think it’s important to remember that at that time, finding a marriage partner was like a market where women were valued for their beauty, wealth and class; not only is Jane ‘plain’ but she is also a governess, a woman who lives in shadows and outside of any real social class. I think it’s natural for Jane to have moments where she doubts herself but in society there is no real place for her, no matter how much she believes there should be. As for the running away in the middle of the night – it IS kind of crazy, but I think she does it because Rochester’s love makes her weak and she feels that if she stays the night, she will agree with Rochester and run away with him to be his mistress. But she has too much respect for herself and for her religion to allow herself to become that kind of woman for the sake of love. Wow, look at me going on – I could write for hours about poor Jane, I used to find any excuse to write about her in my essays/exams lol.

    1. No need to apologies Jane is a fascinating character. Even if some of the aspects of her personality frustrated me I could still see much to admire in her; her honesty, integrity, strong moral and religious beliefs, and how outspoken she can be. I serioiusly think this book could benefit from a re-read.

  6. I loved this book, I think mostly for the writing and the atmosphere. People seem to have very mixed feelings on Jane as a character. She’s somewhat confusing because she’s strong, but it’s a very passive strength. She holds herself together and perseveres through some scary situations without losing control, but at the same time I really, really wanted her to just demand that Mr. Rochester tell her what’s going on–and she never did. But that made sense for the time with the class differences and gender roles. I also think as modern readers it’s hard to really grasp what kind of class division there would be between Mr. Rochester and the governess, which seems to be the source of a lot of Jane’s “oh I’m not worthy” moments.

    But even willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, that flight into the night without any plan for survival…yeah. That was stupid.

    1. Haha I think you’ve pretty much summed it up perfectly Cheryl! There was definitely things to admire Jane for, but also things to shake your head in disbelief at. On the whole though I think she is a very interesting character whether you like her or not.

  7. hi jessica, interesting review! I think I need to re-read Jane Eyre. have you seen the latest movie adaptation?

    1. Hello Toni, I’m glad you found the review interesting…I found it pretty interesting trying to write it lol! I haven’t seen the latest adaptation, have you? I’m hoping to catch it when it comes on to Sky Premiere which should hopefully be soon.

      1. haha yeah I’ve seen it a few times – Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester, need I say more? :p

  8. I think I saw Jane’s happiness at Rochester’s treatment of her as an extension of how she felt – the whole idea of people loving another so much that any attention from them is good in their eyes (though it’s mostly confined to drama school-years stories). Glad you liked the book!

    1. Hello Charlie, thank you for stopping by and commenting 🙂

      I totally get your reading of it, she’s loves him no matter how he’s treating her, any attention is better than no attention? What I really didn’t get is how she seemed (to me) to prefer it when he was being nasty to her than when he was being loving towards her?! Clearly Jane and me will never agree but yes overall I liked this book.

  9. As you know, I adore this book! Even re-reading it didn’t make me love it any less. I am glad there were aspects that you liked. 🙂 For some reason, I do really enjoy the love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester, despite the wife in the attic and her weird enjoyment of the way he treated her.

    1. I think I could do with a re-read of this novel maybe next year, because as you said there were aspects I liked. I may not have always liked the relationship between Jane and Rochester but that was mainly Jane’s fault. I actually rather liked Rochester’s character.

  10. To me the entire plus side of reading this book is understanding the “mad woman in the attic” reference. Well, also completing that assignment that one time in undergrad…..

    1. If that is the case you should be very interested in my next read Wide Sargasso Sea as that was written as a prequel to Jane Eyre which focuses on the ‘mad-woman’ and how she comes to be in the attic.

      1. I’ve been told many times I should read it, but I’ve never gotten around to it. The “mad woman in the attic” is a feminist shorthand critique for the treatment of first wives in literature though. Just fyi.

        1. Oh yes I have heard it used before. Wide Sargasso Sea I would say tackles both meanings of the phrase “mad-woman in the attic”. My review is scheduled for Wednesday.

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