Saturday, May 21, 2011
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre is a classic Gothic novel. It is characterized by rich landscapes, both outside and within. This book is filled with descriptions of moors and woods, gardens and roads, curtain-draped rooms and candle-lit hallways. If you wanted to teach kids about setting, this would be the book to do it. The inner emotional landscaping is also very richly detailed, with heightened descriptions of Jane's feelings, fears, and thoughts as she goes through each stage of her life. To be honest, sometimes this heightened emotive description was a little too much for me. It sometimes came off as melodramatic rather than exciting or meaningful. Still I felt like I got to know Jane and Mr. Rochester pretty well throughout the course of the novel, even if I didn't always like them.
The plot of the story was interesting enough, even if it tended to drag in parts. Again, there were classic Gothic plot elements throughout. There was an unhappy childhood, a mysterious meeting, a dark and brooding man, an unsettling mystery about the old house, a dramatic climax, a tortured heroine, and eventually a happy ending. Overall I think the plot was interesting, even if it was occasionally boring or preachy at times.The characters were of a mixed quality. Jane was a relatively well-rounded and believable narrator, and I actually found myself liking her as the book went on. She is a strong woman, especially for the time. Mr. Rochester, while pretty realistic, was not particularly likable. I never quite figured out why Jane liked him so much. The other characters were relatively one-dimensional, serving to advance the plot more than anything. John was a particularly nasty character. I have no idea why Bronte felt the need to focus on him for so much of the end of the book. I guess he was supposed to be a contrast to Mr. Rochester, but I felt like he got much more time than he deserved.
Overall, Jane Eyre was an enjoyable book, though no-one ever wished it longer. If you want to read a classic Gothic novel, filled with dramatic landscapes, heightened emotions, brooding hunks, and willful women, this is the book for you. As for me, I don't think I'll be reading any more Bronte for a little while.