ane Eyre is a well-known and well-loved classic English novel. Written by a woman, Charlotte Bronte, the novel qualifies as a romantic masterpiece which eloquently depicts the idea of love from the eye of an independent woman. But romance is not its only speciality. In around 400 pages, Bronte manages to touch on various topics like gender, religion, social class, loneliness, pain, insecurity and much more through this story. Topics like these are not romantic thus adding depth to the romantic account of two lovers. The book tells a tale of a young orphan girl striving in the patriarchal society of rural Victorian England.
It unravels the difficult journey of Jane Eyre as a woman and an orphan. As a qualified woman who strives for independence and holds high standards in terms of finding a husband, Eyre had to face multiple hurdles in her life. She faces these impediments with courage and seeks help from God and eventually it led to her ultimate destiny.
The story is narrated in first person where Jane Eyre takes us along on a long journey with her. The plot of the book is quite fast-paced. Events that happened in the first 10 years of Jane’s life unfold within the first 10 chapters of the book. These events contain crucial details about the character’s life which contribute to shaping her personality as an adult.
Jane Eyre has a character-driven plot which makes the character and life of Jane the focal point of the story. The climax of the story is the revelation of an unfortunate mystery in her romantic life which keeps her from pursuing her marriage with the love of her life. Yet her persistent, stubborn and determined nature allows her to finally rekindle with her lover despite the difficulty in circumstances. Yet the state of affairs changes drastically and unexpectedly as the story proceeds.
Let us now discuss the character of Jane Eyre in a bit more detail. She is intelligent, well-read (as well-read as she could’ve been considering her circumstances), hard-working and a romantic girl or ordinary features which give her a likeable quality. Yet her ordinary features and humbling experiences throughout life make her a character that is easy to resonate with. Along with these characteristics, she is stubborn, persistent and determined. Jane Eyre possesses the quality of self-reflection and is in touch with her emotions and thoughts. We witness her falling in love and then struggling for it. Living in a Christian society, she grows up to be a religious woman but even that part of her character is complex as she suggests a few liberal opinions throughout the novel and at times acts upon them.
Eyre is a woman who is ahead of her time which is the reason why she is able to win the hearts of readers even in 2022. From the very start of her life, Eyre shows discontent towards the patriarchal values of English society. She continues to be a driven woman throughout her life and shows an urge to see the world and gather various sorts of experiences. When she realises that her life has become stagnant, she takes responsibility for it and decides to change her situation. She expresses her thoughts with the following words:
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”
Eyre seeks opportunities for herself which pave her way towards an independent lifestyle as a woman. Not only that, she does not let her romantic endeavours become an obstacle in her independence. She takes a realistic approach towards her love life and makes it clear to MR. Rochester (her lover) as well as St. John Rivers (her cousin who presents a marriage proposal to her) that she will not try to become an angel, which she is not, in order to please anyone else. She vows that till the end of her life, she will strive to be nothing but herself. These attributes make her stand as a feminist icon in the world of classic English literature.
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Bronte’s use of language is eloquent and graceful. She paints vivid pictures of landscapes of pastoral England which add to the romantic elements of the book. Her characters are round and complex. She portrays one aspect of human character in multiple ways. For instance, the theme of religion and clergy is prevalent throughout the novel. But she presents to us characters like that of Mr Brocklehurst who is an embodiment of the hypocrisy of the church who is cruel and corrupt; as well as St. John Rivers who is also a clergyman, though cold-hearted yet, striving to walk on the right path under God’s commands.
Moreover, we witness the complex role of religion in Eyre’s own life. Initially, it is used as a tool of oppression but later it transforms into a source of solace and peace. Through this, Bronte unveils the bitter reality of the English clergy while acknowledging the role of religion in personal lives of people. She appreciates the contentment, courage, strength and inner peace religion brings to people, especially in difficult times. At the same time, she uses her characters to depict that religion has a tendency to consume a person to extreme lengths which might cause personal harm to an individual.
Even if you are not a fan of romance, this novel will manage to amuse you as well because it engages in various non-romantic themes like patriarchy, gender, class, church and much more. One scarcely encounters women authors in this niche as there used to be various obstacles for women to write in the old days. But Jane Eyre is a novel that we can get our hands on easily. It is a must-read for anyone who is dipping their toes into the world of English classics. It is a good starting point if one wants to indulge in classic literature and literature written by women.
Laiba Obaid is a rising content writer. Pursuing her passion for literature, she has done her Bachelors in English Literature from GCU Lahore. Her educational background along with her hobby of book reading has equipped her with the essential writing skills. She particularly enjoys presenting her opinion about books by writing book reviews.