Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, tells the story of an orphan who has suffered abuse her entire life. After studying and teaching at a very humble and very strict boarding school, Jane gets a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall, the country estate of a mysterious man called Mr Rochester. For the first time, Jane’s life seems to head towards the happiness she’s always longed for, but as Mr Rochester’s secrets come out, Jane, who refuses to give up who she is, must make some life-changing decisions that could have fatal consequences.
This book came to my hands three months ago, when I purchased it at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, but it wasn’t until this semester started when I saw the reading list for my 19th Century British Literature course that I decided to read it (I was planning on reading Moby Dick first).
As soon as it was published, Jane Eyre caused quite a commotion among Victorian readers. Far from being the ideal Victorian woman, Jane is not afraid to say what she thinks, she’s full of passion and anger, and the fact that her development is so transparent throughout the book has led some scholars to call it a “Bildungsroman” -German term for development novel or coming-of-age novel. Also, its Gothic and romantic elements make it harder for us to place it in a concrete literary genre, but it’s clear that Brontë did a splendid job with her work. In fact, when it first came out, people were obsessed with finding out who the real author was (she published it under the pseudonym “Currer Bell”), and there have even been people who claim that it couldn’t have been written by a woman, because the style is “too masculine”.
Now, I liked the story, even though it’s not one of my favorites. However, if there’s something worth praising here, is the way it is written. During our literature course we’ve talked about the plot and characters, and what they stand for, but I find it surprising that no one has bothered to mention how well-written it is. The way one sentence leads to another and the way the words connect so perfectly give the whole text a wonderful feeling of fluidness. The detail with which it is written got me as a reader so involved with the story, and its precision of language led me to feel what the characters were feeling, all that anger, all that confusion and the hopes of moving forward. It was great.
It’s definitely recommended for everyone. If (like me) you’re not a native English speaker, skip the translations and just read it in English, because Brontë’s use of language in the original version is absolutely fantastic.