Tuesday, March 17, 2020
The eNotes Blog Why I Keep Rereading JaneEyre
Why I Keep Rereading JaneEyre Booklovers all have stories we return to over and over again. One of mine is Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontÃ «- but I donÃ¢â¬â¢t just reread it, I revisit it like a friend. I read my favorite chapters when IÃ¢â¬â¢m lonely, consult it when I need advice, turn to it when I feel lost or need comfort. Though itÃ¢â¬â¢s over 150 years old, I still find something new and relevant in it each time. Gothic Elements I first read Jane Eyre when I was fifteen, and itÃ¢â¬â¢s remained my favorite novel since then. I love it for the characters and atmosphere- JaneÃ¢â¬â¢s fierce independence, her romance with Rochester, the gothic allure of BrontÃ «Ã¢â¬â¢s writing- but also for the way those things have challenged me. One of the first things that struck me about the novel is the fantastical and gothic elements and how theyÃ¢â¬â¢re included in the story. From the ghostly red room to Jane and RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s eerie, moonlit meeting to RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s frequent teasings that Jane is one of the fairy folk, fantasy is part of the everyday in Jane Eyre. Victorian Conventions This isnÃ¢â¬â¢t entirely unusual for a novel from the Victorian era: Victorians loved fairy tales. Andrew LangÃ¢â¬â¢s fairy tale collections, Christina RossettiÃ¢â¬â¢s poem Ã¢â¬Å"Goblin Market,Ã¢â¬ and Lewis CarrollÃ¢â¬â¢s AliceÃ¢â¬â¢s Adventures in Wonderland are all products of the Victorian fascination with fantasy. But the way BrontÃ « portrays the fantastic elements goes deeper than surface level. Jane and RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s relationship contains elements of mysticism- from RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s humorous impersonation of a fortune teller to the way Jane and Rochester, agonizing over losing each other, each hear the otherÃ¢â¬â¢s voice calling to them during their separation. These things are eerie and beautiful; they render the love story impossible to contain in earthly bonds. In this way and others, the novel depicts romance quite differently from the Victorian norm. This is one reason the novel was so popular (and criticized by some) after it was published. Jane and RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s relationship is powerful and intense from the start, and BrontÃ « wrote it with a fiery passion woven into the words on the page. ItÃ¢â¬â¢s partly the restraint and tension that make it so intense, but I still marvel at how moving it is even to modern-day readers who arenÃ¢â¬â¢t used to the same censors on romantic and sexual content that Victorian readers were. Romance and Subverted Power Dynamics I especially love how Jane and Rochester develop feelings for each other not because of shallow physical attraction but because of a much deeper kind. IÃ¢â¬â¢ll call it an understanding: At their cores, they understand each other in an almost mystical way. Their relationship is based in intellect, in challenging each other to think differently and in talking about issues and philosophical ideas that matter to them. At fifteen, this kind of basis for love was foreign to me; at almost twenty-eight, IÃ¢â¬â¢ve still never read another love story quite like it. It represents a bond that transcends the normal human experience, and I think itÃ¢â¬â¢s utterly beautiful. I also appreciate the frank, unflinching way BrontÃ « explored power dynamics in Jane and RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s relationship, including the initial imbalance of power between them. One scene that stands out is when Rochester threatens sexual violence when Jane announces sheÃ¢â¬â¢s leaving him. (The movie adaptations usually gloss over this scene.) Rochester is both a hero and a villain in the novel, and I love that BrontÃ « depicted the more troublesome aspects of his character and built a relationship between him and Jane that is complex, layered, and utterly imperfect. Some readers see RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s maiming and blinding as a way to Ã¢â¬Å"lowerÃ¢â¬ him to JaneÃ¢â¬â¢s level- the level of a woman in Victorian society- and look upon this choice by BrontÃ « unfavorably, but I have a different take. I see it as Rochester being cleansed (literally in fire, even) for his sins, having to shed his controlling nature and toxic masculinity in order to deserve Jane as his equal and partner. His wounds are his battle scars, his reminder of what he has learned and overcome. While there are problematic elements to the way BrontÃ « refers to RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s disabilities, there is also something powerful in this message. In BrontÃ «Ã¢â¬â¢s time, a man of RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s wealth and social standing would have been considered far too good to marry a servant like Jane, and this cultural aspect is explored in the novel. However, BrontÃ « subverts this norm when she shows readers that it was actually Rochester who had to prove his worth to Jane. The main aspect of the novel I turn to during times of sadness or stress is JaneÃ¢â¬â¢s determination to live by her own moral code. Though she is influenced by her religious beliefs and the norms of the time, she also makes her own decisions. She chooses not to marry St. John because she doesnÃ¢â¬â¢t love him romantically. She chooses to return to Rochester not knowing he no longer has a wife. Her strength and strong will have always been reminders to me to live my life according to my own moral code: to trust in myself and to find strength in my own independence. Feeling like rereadingÃ Jane Eyre? Check out theÃ complete annotated textÃ of Jane EyreÃ on !