Monday, April 25, 2011

Restlessness was in my nature

I'm finally getting around to reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. You'd think I would have been shamed into reading this one sooner. I've gone on ad naseum about how much I love the Thursday Next series which begins with the book The Eyre Affair. And if you can't figure it out from the name, Jane Eyre plays a pretty large role in the book, with characters from Jane Eyre interacting with Thursday and Thursday actually jumping into Charlotte's masterpiece and becoming part of the story. While I have no doubt I missed many subtle jokes because I wasn't already familiar with the Bronte piece, it never bothered me enough to actually pick up the book. After my success with Pride and Prejudice I figured I could read some of the other literature of roughly that era.* Yet I was still apprehensive. Perhaps it's the social norms of the time, so uptight and prude, that makes me back away slowly. But I gave in and besides, it's a free copy for my Kindle, which certainly makes reading the classics easier.

I haven't finished Jane Eyre yet. Actually, I'm only 36% of the way done (yeah Kindle!) but I wanted to get my initial thoughts out there. Jane's just made it to Thornfield, but I've lost reading steam since she got there. I really liked the early chapters of Jane at Mrs. Reed's and Jane at Lowood. I had assumed I'd get a story of a kid who is good and perfect and obedient and yet is constantly berated and tormented and you feel nothing but pity for her. Thankfully that's not what Bronte provides. Jane is certainly mistreated by Mrs. Reed and her kids but she's not meek and mild, just a character to pity. When Mrs. Reed tells her kids Jane is "not worthy of notice" and that they shouldn't associate with her, Jane yells down "They are not fit to associate with me" (location 431). That's not a meek kid, that's not a kid you just pity. When she finds out she's going to leave Mrs. Reed's and go to Lowood school, Jane lets Mrs. Reed have it
I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you worst of anybody in the world except John Reed...I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if anyone asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty. (location 604-611)
*A few spoilers below. I already knew most of this before reading and it hasn't ruined the story for me, but if you're worried*
I miss that spark from Jane because so far while at Thornfield it hasn't shown itself. She's been kind and good and not taken advantage of but she's just kind of bland right now. There's a crazy lady, laughing maniacally and setting people on fire, and Jane's just very eh. She's trying to figure out what's going on, but so far she's been so quiet. Plus Rochester is kind of an ass and not in the fun way Darcy was so I don't get why he's supposed to be the great love interest.

I wish there was another Helen Burns, Jane's friend from Lowood, at Thornfield. I couldn't help but think of Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series when I read her character. Something about the daydreaming while being punished for whatever small infraction she had committed and not getting angry at anyone. Knowing death was on her heels made her more forgiving, more relaxed and she dealt with it in a way that was years beyond her age. Perhaps I dislike the chapters after her death because I miss her. I'm holding that against subsequent chapters and should probably just get over it.
*Spoilers contained. You're safe now*

Here's to hoping things pick up in the story. So many people list this among their favorite, desert island reads, so I'm sure there is something of substance and intrigue here to latch on to.

*Wikipedia just told me Austen is part of the Regency era and Bronte isn't but I think of them as one in the same.

Title quote from location 1992

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Kindle edition, 2010. Originally published 1847