Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I have to say I am truly surprised. This is the third time I've read Jane Eyre, and yet the first time I've found anything positive about the experience. I read it once as an 11/12 year old because my mother bought me a lovely red leather-bound edition (apparently she loved the book and thought I would too). I hated it- too hard to read, too much philosophical rambling, no action, annoying heroine, etc. I read it for the second time as a freshman in high school because it was required. I no longer found it hard to read, but I still found Jane annoying and unsympathetic, and I still hated the book.

Fast forward to this year and my decision to revisit the classics, including giving Jane Eyre one last try before forever consigning it to the "I just don't understand how people can like this book" pile. All I can say is thank goodness I gave it that one last try because the book is a masterpiece. All the philosophical rambling that bored me before is now a central element to the text, superior in many way to the storyline itself. I see now that there is a lot of action for a book of its time, and Jane is certainly not annoying so much as she is inspirational. I mean, she is still a bit pious for my taste, but even so she rebels strongly against the conventions of her time to try to live a life that she finds both emotionally and spiritually satisfying.

All of the things that annoyed me when I read this book as a child are the elements that resonate most strongly with me as an adult. I read this book too early, and was too dismissive of it at the time. Like with Anna Karenina, I saw everything in black and white with the merciless clarity of a teenager; I now understand how wonderfully shaded with grey life (and good literature) often is. If you haven't read Jane Eyre since high school, I highly recommend giving it another try- definitely a 5 star!


Chris said...

I'm glad I was older when I first read it too- and after Wuthering Heights. Jane Eyre is one of my faves.

Jeane said...

I'm impressed.I don't think I'd ever try a book again after disliking it twice. I read Wuthering Heights in HS and didn't care much for it, you're brought it to my attention that I ought to read it again.

Katherine said...

I haven't touched Jane Eyre in a long time. Its definitely one of these re-readable books. I recently read a book called The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte, a mystery story in which she's the detective. That too was also an impetus for re-reading JE.