This classic piece of literature has always been one of my favorites. I felt like I could relate to Jane by just a little. By no means was I as poor or religious as she was. I did, however, feel I was as plain and compassionate. During this re-read of the novel, I understood more emotions of what she was going through because like Jane, I have fallen in love.
Jane Eyre is about a young girl of eighteen who is hired at Thornfield Hall to be the governess of a young girl. When she finally meets the master of the house, Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester, she learns what the evil sting of jealousy feels like and the joy of young love can be like. Mr. Rochester is twice her age, however, and a stern man with lots of money. He entertains a group of guests over a fortnight, teasing a young lady, Blanche Ingram, with the idea of a marriage proposal. With his older age comes experience and wisdom, because Mr. Rochester knows this young woman would only marry him for his fortune. He uses Blanche as a test to see how Jane would react to his proposal.
Jane has no interest in riches or a life of leisure. From her education at Lowood, a boarding school for poor orphans, she has learned many skills like speaking French, painting, and discipline. She uses the latter in all aspects of her life. She holds back her feelings for Mr. Rochester because it would be inappropriate and because she couldn’t imagine him feeling the same way. She prefers a life of simplicity and this is shown throughout from her lack of possessions. She owns a few dresses (which are plain and inexpensive) and probably only keeps painting supplies as her form of entertainment. When Mr. Rochester proposes marriage to Jane instead of Blanche, he wants to spoil her in splendor. He tries to buy her laces and jewelry and fine things rich women would own but Jane protests.
A grave secret that Mr. Rochester has kept from Jane wrecks their engagement. He asks Jane to dismiss it and live with him sinfully but Jane is too good for that and she flees Thornfield Hall. Despite her running away, she and Mr. Rochester could never live peacefully apart. She mourns for her life in Thornfield and what could have been a happy life with Mr. Rochester.
So, like Jane, I have felt the spark of first love. Any thought of a future without him is painful to bear. There were so many moments while reading Jane Eyre that I was devastated by her thoughts and conversations with Mr. Rochester because it is something I experience too, or could imagine experiencing. For example, when Mr. Rochester reveals his feelings for Jane she can’t believe it at first. She didn’t think someone of his station could love someone underneath him. Also, she’s nervous about the wedding day. Until then she tries to act distant because she doesn’t want to be disappointed if things don’t work out. Here she is protecting her heart, even though she allows him to kiss her every now and then.
“I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my center and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.” –Mr. Rochester
Jane and Mr. Rochester were made for each other. He sees in Jane someone equal to his character. She can be sharp and doesn’t come from a background of pompous aristocrats like most people he associates with. Jane’s down-to-earth nature is innocent and refreshing to Mr. Rochester, who’s life has dealt an unfair hand. Jane remains resilient after the troubles she has gone through (living with a mean family, going to a strict boarding school, losing Mr. Rochester to moral issues) and never loses sight of her beliefs.
There’s a lot to be taken from Jane Eyre. She tries her best to be devout and non-materialistic. Jane is a good example of the kind of person we should all aim to be. I think this is a great book for people who like a good romance novel. Jane Eyre is a classic with good writing (and so many good quotes!) and an intriguing plot with the mysterious secret Mr. Rochester keeps locked up in his home.
Picture credit: http://goodtoread.org/initial/j/jane-eyre/