Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The funny thing about this novel is not how enlightened it is for the time period, because it really isn't all that enlightened, right Mr. Rochester? How's that first wife hanging in the attic?
Or how closely aligned to modern ideas of equality between the sexes and finding an equitable arrangement between them it is, because it only happens to conform to the standards of romantic literature of the time, where happy endings happen. Windfall out of nowhere? Really? Trope, much? And how does that subvert anything except as to put Janet on an *externally* equal footing? Being balanced in monies and station is not the same thing as having a true meeting of minds and hearts.
Fortunately for us, all the plot twists are secondary to the one thing that she and Mr. Rochester have in common, and that is a true meeting of minds and hearts, and while the idiot manages to really crap it up, it seems that only an enormous act of god or authorship or pandering to trope could possibly put Jane back into a position of strength where she can tell the rest of the world to **** off and do what she wanted to do, originally.
And that's what this novel is really about. It's not about the plot. It's about the internal character of Jane Eyre. She's wholly her own person, and that, more than anything, is more subversive than anything else in this novel. She's not bucking the male-dominated world. She's not setting off to have adventures. She's not even telling people off unless they push her to it, and she has no qualms about being subservient or going dropping all of her happiness in a big pile and storming off to hold to her personal ethics.
That's the point. She knows herself. She knows her limits. She knows what she wants. And even if she doesn't always know how to get what she wants, she knows what she'll settle for and precisely what she won't settle for. She follows her heart, her own judgement, and nothing that anyone might ever say to her would ever change that.
There's plenty in this novel that might annoy or outrage modern readers, of course, but this one simple fact about Jane is what lets it transcend all other considerations, or indeed, time itself.
This is a great novel. :)
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