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- Classic in the Spotlight - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Thursday, 6 December 2012
The first time I read Jane Eyre I was 15 years old and it was a book I had to study for my O Levels (GCSE's for all you youngsters). When I was first handed the book I wanted to cry as, to me, it looked a huge chunk of book to get through and looked like possibly the most boring thing ever written! How naive I was! What started off as a chore to me ended up being one of my all time favourite books and one I have come back to time and time again. So, whats the book about?
Jane has been orphaned from an early age and is placed in the care of her uncle Mr Reed her odious aunt Mrs Reed. As if things weren't bad enough, Jane has to contend with her horrible and vicious cousin John. However, when Jane's uncle dies, Jane is sent to Lowood School and experiences what could only be described as a pitiful and sad existence at the hands of Mr Brocklehurst who abuses his position of power and is cruel to the extreme to the students at Lowood. The boarding school is without any fun, love or luxuries and the girls often go hungry, cold or cope with cruel and unusual punishments doled out by staff. However, Jane forges a wonderful friendship with another girl at the school, Helen Burns. Helen's stoic attitude towards the difficulties faced at Lowood help to strengthen Jane, enabling her to survive life at the school. Jane will face many challenges during her time at Lowood.
Upon leaving Lowood, Jane secures a position as a governess in the employment of Mr Rochester at his huge house Thornfield, where she teaches the lively Adele. Mr Rochester appears to be a dark, broody and emotionless man. But, despite this, Jane finds him intriguing and soon begins to fall in love with him. It also appears that all is not as it seems at Thornfield and Jane's suspicions are further heightened when a strange fire breaks out at the house and is blamed on a servant. Jane is not convinced that this is the case. Just what is going on at Lowood? What secrets are behind its walls? What is Mr Rochester hiding? Can Jane ever find love with him? All questions that will only be answered if you read the book!
I love the character of Jane because despite her many difficulties throughout her young life, she meets them with dignity, resolve and a quiet and unassuming strength. I suppose that in the period the book was written, Jane could have been thought of as a feminist, a trailblazer to working woman's rights. She is a passionate woman who despite an outwardly quiet disposition, will always get her point of view across. However, despite a desire for independence, Jane is often ruled by her heart and struggles with a need for autonomy versus a need to feel part of a family; something she has never had. And, for this, we feel a certain level of sympathy for her and an understanding of why she often behaves the way she does and makes the decisions she does. Let's face it. Everyone wants to be part of something.
For me this book has it all. It's a love story. It's a story of a strong woman. It's a mystery. For those of you keen to dip a toe into the Classics, this is one I would highly recommend. I promise you won't be disappointed. The Kindle version of the book is currently free on Amazon at the moment. Click HERE for your free copy.