Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Part II

I have read this book so many times since I was a kid that reading it now was like taking a tour bus through a well known city. First stop, The Red Room. Second Stop: Helen Burns’ Deathbed. Third Stop: Mr. Rochester Falling Off His Horse. No surprises yet the narrative was completely absorbing. (Apparently that’s what they mean by masterpiece.) There’s something primal about the larger than life characters and there’s something primal about the setting, both appealing to something just beneath our logical mind.

I had forgotten how shocking, how full of “adult content” Jane Eyre is. Jane never denies her love for the married man, though she rejects living with him.  This time, I saw the “Come away with me, Jane” scene as a real conflict. She almost goes with him to France, obliterating her position in society, not so much because it will make her happy, but because she’s afraid Rochester’s going to kill himself, or worse yet, lead a life of meaningless carousing. She and Rochester consider seriously the point that she has no relative to offend by living with him. (Which was a key plot point of Pride and Prejudice)

At times it seems like this novel is a brief in favor of no fault divorce, and it’s humorous how quickly she hightails it to Ferndean once she finds out Bertha jumped off the battlements and is permanently out of the picture.

This time, for me, the ”Come away with me to India” scene, had conflict as well. She likes it when Mr. Rochester bosses her around, because he loves the real Jane, the passionate contrary Jane, but she recognizes that her obedience to St. John’s bossiness would take a level of self control that would kill her. He’s no fan of the real Jane. He, like practically every other element in this novel, wants to suppress the real Jane.

My only quibble with the plot is Grace Poole conveniently being an alcoholic. Mr. Rochester apparently wants to take good care of his wife, but then he hires somebody who would get fired in about 2 weeks. I mean, how many times does Bertha steal the keys – seven or eight times?

I’ve almost talked myself into reading it again.

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