Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

“Superstition was with me at that moment: but it was not yet her hour for complete victory: my blood was still warm; the mood of the revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigour; I had to stem a rapid rush of retrospective thought before I quailed to the dismal present” (9).

Charlotte Bronte supposedly wrote Jane Eyre after spending some time as a governess. She wrote the book under a pseudonym which was typical of women writers prior to the late twentieth century or so to keep their anonymity. Many writers, to this day, still feel the need to neutralize their names to access the commercial book market. It was difficult to choose quotes for this novel because the best ones are always so long and complex. In grammar terms, Bronte certainly knows how to work her compound complex sentences.

“The garden was a wide enclosure, surrounded with walls so high as to exclude every glimpse of prospect; a covered veranda ran down one side, and broad walks bordered a middle space divided into scores of little beds; these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate, and each bed had an owner. When full of flowers they would doubtless look pretty, but now, at the latter end of January, all was wintry blight and brown decay. I shuddered as I stood and looked round me: it was an inclement day for outdoor exercise – not positively rainy, but darkened by a drizzling yellow fog; all under foot was still soaking wet with the floods of yesterday” (47).

The Romantics and Gothics relied heavily on the use of setting and environment to establish themes to expand the meaning of their work. It’s very much still connected to the Victorian use of flower language and horticulture to convey hidden, coded messages. The tradition began as a way of encouraging individuals to do their own part in conserving the English countryside. The wealthy and intellectual classes had access to this language and were able to use it as a means of social networking. Many protagonists like Jane are constantly taking long walks and seeking fresh air to have some privacy and clear their thoughts.

“I believe he is of mine – I am sure he is – I feel akin to him – I understand the language of his countenance and movement: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him. Did I say, a few days since, that I had nothing to do with him but to receive my salary at his hands? Did I forbid myself to think of him in any other light than as a paymaster? Blasphemy against nature! Every good, true, vigorous feeling I have gathers impulsively round him. I know I must conceal my sentiments: I must smother hope; I must remember that he cannot care much for me. For when I say that I am of his kind, I do not mean that I have his force in influence, and his spell to attract; I mean only that I have certain tastes and feelings in common with him. I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever sundered – and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him” (186).

While I did enjoy reading Jane Eyre, some parts drove me nuts. She falls into a the romantic stereotype of the woman whose husband becomes her whole world. Then, again, given the remoteness of their surroundings, that is also not very surprising. She is a very self-aware and self-referential protagonist, giving us the know famous line “Reader, I married him” when speaking of Rochester. What Bronte does well is complicate their romance by the existence of a crazy first wife that lives in the attic and burns shit down the first chance she gets. Jane is placed in the precarious position of having to make a decision regarding Bertha, the crazy first wife in the attic, and her marriage to Rochester. Dum Dum Dum!

“There was a reviving pleasure in this intercourse, of a kind now tasted by me for the first time – the pleasure arising from perfect congeniality of tastes, sentiments, and principles” (378).

The 2011 movie with Mia Wasilkowska is rather good actually. I really enjoyed the scenery in this movie from the lighting to the wispy fog. Rochester is not my favorite Byronic hero by any means. His character rubs my twenty-first century sensibilities the wrong way a little too much at times; he’s a rough guy. Perhaps it’s because of the heavily blurred lines between wife, lover, and caretaker that Jane takes on for a blinded Rochester. A part of me cringes and thinks she’s a protagonist that becomes too much like a pseudo mother to her husband. There’s one way of killing the sexual ire in a relationship. But, I’m not the psychology expert on that.

“All was changing utterly with a sudden sweep. Religion called – Angels beckoned – God commanded – life rolled together like a scroll – death’s gates opening showed eternity beyond: it seemed, that for safety and bliss there, all here might be sacrificed in a second. The dim room was full of visions” (455).

Works Cited

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York, New York: Bantam Classic, 1848. Print.

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