classic, romance

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I’m not putting a summary down. Most people know what this book is about, and if you don’t, you at least have a vague sense of it as a romance novel.

So instead of telling you what the book is about, I’m just going to jump right in.

I did not like this book.

When I say that, I mean I really did not like this book.

It’s not because I don’t like the style, or this type of romance novel. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, and I loved it. It’s probably one of my favorites. But I had a very hard time reading this book, partly because it was a summer reading book, as in I did not choose to read it (but if I’m being honest with myself, I would have eventually read it anyways). Mostly, though, it was because I could not find a single point at which I thought, Oooh. What happens next? I’d already seen the movie, so I had a vague sense of what happened, which normally wouldn’t have effected how much I enjoyed the book. But this one got to me. Usually, when you see a movie and then read the book, there is something interesting in the book that is not in the movie, or the movie is so good it makes you want to read the book. With Jane Eyre, though, it was like something was holding me back from enjoying it. And, sadly, I know exactly what it is.

This book is classified as a romance, right? But at no point did I see anything romantic about her relationship with Mr. Rochester. I found the man himself to be detestable in every way, and could not empathize with Jane when she called him her love. He treats her like a slave or servant the entire novel, he calls her ugly, he flirts with other women, and honestly, I just could not find any good point to him. And not only was he rude, but he was twice her age. Maybe that was okay then, but personally, it put me in a weird place where I was picturing this forty-so man with an eighteen-year-old girl who had just learned to be on her own two feet. And then he treats her with disrespect for the entire novel, so she proclaims her love for him! At no point did I see that as a romance, or even love. There was also the issue of redemption. If he had been redeemed, in some way, I may have appreciated her love for him more. As it was, though, he never did anything that said he should be the token of her appreciation; at least with Darcy she hates him until he proves that he can be a fair, just, and even kind person. At least Darcy fixes what he did, and all for Elizabeth. That I found romantic. But Mr. Rochester is just pitiful. And not only that, but is illogical and frustrating at times because he cannot be bothered to understand Jane as a person, her aspirations, her wants, her desires.

And that brings me to another point: Jane. I actually liked Jane, though at the beginning she annoyed me. I found parts of her narration to be pointless, like the first hundred pages, where we read nothing but her awful child hood. I couldn’t see how it was relative to the story while I was reading it, though now looking back, I guess it had some impact on my thoughts at the end of the novel, and I was able to see her character development. Only, her character didn’t seem to develop. She never seemed to change or learn anything new about herself after those first hundred pages. I’d say she never grew up, but I don’t think that’s true; she was simply mature from the start. But even after she learns what Mr. Rochester has been keeping from her the entire novel, she still pines after him, she only does it from afar. She never even tries to move on from him. I get that she’s supposed to be in love, but it never really felt like love to me. It just felt like loyalty and obsession. There never seemed to be warmth when she thought of him, until the very end. It also bothered me that Jane didn’t seem to have any faults. She was portrayed as an angel: smart, slightly (depending on your view) submissive, artistically inclined, maybe not beautiful, but not exactly horrible to look at either. She was basically the female stereotype for the time, and that really bothered me. Elizabeth, also a character of the time, was not good at piano, art, or really anything that was typical; she liked to read and take long walks, and didn’t have any real interest in fashion, though she loved to dance and be merry; she also had a temper on her, and was quick to judge. She was an interesting character, whereas Jane is too logical, and too calm, even when she should be angry, or distressed, or so happy her heart could burst. I wasn’t looking for dramatics; but a little bit of actual emotion would have been nice.

I understand that some people actually enjoyed this book. I’m not condemning them. But I did not want to finish the book; I did not want to read past page 50, let alone read a little over 450 pages of this.

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