Monday, July 5, 2010

Reading Jane

Our current read for The Jane Austen Tea Society is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1816 - 1855).

I have read this celebrated novel many times in my lifetime. Just as with Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, I find that different stages & situations in my life have caused me to interpret this book in different ways. Do I empathize with Jane's choices? Do I agree with her points of resistance against what she has been dealt in her young life? And Edward Fairfax Rochester... do I understand her attraction to her employer and verbal jouster? I find that I have varied in these stances depending on my age, my marital status, and even my current emotional outlook.

Big questions surface this read... What did Rochester's employees really think of the woman locked up in the attic rooms? Which of them knew about it? Did they truly draw from the "village gossip" that Rochester referred to during the wedding confrontation in the church? Did they honestly believe the hidden Thornfield Hall occupant a "cast-off mistress" or “bastard half-sister”... And Mrs. Fairfax.... could she in her mild demeanor have known the truth?

This novel's heroine is so different from Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth. I greatly enjoyed the book, Ruth, but found Ruth as a character to be... well, OK.... sappy. Other characters in Gaskell's novel seemed drawn in somewhat realistic ways, but after her initial fall with Henry Bellingham, Ruth grew into a character very difficult to identify with... too perfect... too sweet...

Jane Eyre has more than one dimension as a heroine. She is reasonable but filled with emotional responses. She is patient and long suffering yet valiantly endeavors to confront injustice where she meets it. She is flawed yet understandable.

I am strolling slowly through Jane Eyre this read – savoring the vivid glimpse into the time period and bright, sharp landscapes drawn of the English countryside – “The hay was all got in; the fields round Thornfield were green and shorn; the roads white and baked; the trees were in their dark prime; hedge and wood, full-leaved and deeply tinted, contrasted well with the sunny hue of the cleared meadows between.”

And so I happily read on…

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