Monday, May 2, 2011

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel

I finished Jane Eyre this weekend and, for those who were worried after my last post, I did not end up hating the book. I didn't love it, I haven't found a new favorite, but I enjoyed it and I'm glad I read it.

*As with the others, this will contain spoilers. Heads up*
Jane redeems herself for her earlier weakness when she refuses to marry St. John Rivers. Initially she can't say no to St. John's requests, even though she says she doesn't want to listen to him. She never gives sufficient reason for why she felt she had to listen to him, his sisters wouldn't take part in his studies, but nevertheless, she is obedient. This is a good set up to the surprise for the reader and St. John when she refuses his marriage proposals, but I wanted to know more from Jane about why she couldn't refuse him before. She was articulate about why she wouldn't marry him, she stayed strong, she never became overly emotional,  and she never got angry with St. John. It was a this point that Jane's independence and strength shone. And it was with this that her return to Rochester worked.

The feminist in me was disappointed with two points in Jane's return to Rochester: her happily ever after is wrapped up in her marriage and that Rochester had to be physically maimed in order for the two of them to actually be equals. I have to remind constantly remind myself that for the time Bronte was writing this, when she couldn't even sign her own name because people would never read something by a woman, this was making great strides in feminism. And yet I felt like the relationship with Lizzie and Darcy was equal without all of the complications Bronte went through for her lovers.

While I say I like the story, I can't say I ever started to really like Rochester. Not only is he not particularly nice to Jane while she's living at Thornfield, although Bronte managed to make his love for her genuine, but he locks up his wife Bertha which can't have helped her sanity. I know we're supposed to think he's so good and kind because he doesn't kill her when he leaves Jamaica, but I don't know that deciding not to murder someone necessarily makes the person super great. Divorce may not be an option and his situation may be unfair, but I don't want to like a character based on pity. But Rochester is far better than passive aggressive St. John Rivers, who needs  to quit dragging our last name through the mud by being such a jerk. I think I may have hated him slightly more because of our shared surname.
*Spoilers above.*

I'm happy I finally read this one. I'm considering re-reading The Eyre Affair to see if I now get any of the subtle Jane Eyre jokes I missed when I was a Bronte virgin. But I don't plan on putting Jane Eyre on my re-read list. However, I think I'll give Emily a shot with Wuthering some point. I need a little break from them for now.

Title quote from location 1999

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