Ok, so clearly I am incredibly late to the party when it comes to Jane Eyre, as I’m sure loads of people have already read the book.
It took me ages to read anything by Jane Austen as I was full sure that I would dislike her work; to my surprise, I really enjoyed them and continue to do so (helped along by the various televisual and cinematic Mr Darcys that have popped up along the way). At the same time, I was full sure that while I enjoyed the wit of Jane Austen, anything by the Bronte sisters was going to be full of the windswept, overwrought, dramatic romance that I can’t stand, so it was only recently I picked up Jane Eyre on the advice of a friend.
Jane Eyre was quite a modern book for its time; we see how Jane thinks, how she feels and how other characters’ actions affect her. This is in contrast to the outward face she gives the world. She is self-improving and strong willed. I really like her and I really like the book. I appreciate her putting her own self-respect before anything else. It’s easy to put modern standards on period literature – many might talk about the feminist stance of the book; how Charlotte Bronte shows that the ultimate dream is to marry a wealthy man and have children. But this is giving the book a disservice. Jane Eyre highlights the plight of governesses, a caste of society that goes unappreciated it seems. Becoming a governess was a position for those few well-educated, but generally poor (though genteel) women.
Jane Eyre shows us that heroines needn’t have to make grand gestures to gain our respect; having self respect, strong principles and maybe adhering to these in heart-sore circumstances can be enough.
-Julie Anne Young
Girl Museum Inc.