[LMB] OT: Jane Eyre

James Burbidge jamesandmary.burbidge at sympatico.ca
20 Nov 2003 22:08:09 -0500


On Thu, 2003-11-20 at 20:49, Marty L. Adkins wrote:
> To the learned gentleman who referred to _Jane Eyre_ as the:
> >self-indulgent spiritual ancestor of the Harlequin romance
> 
> could you explain in what sense this is meant?  Where you say 
> "self-indulgent", I might say "Mary Sue."  Admittedly, the book is as Mary 
> Sue as all get-out, with the poor, plain minister's daughter being sought 
> after by multiple desirable mates.
> 
> Still, what I remember it for [and why it's still one of my favorites], is 
> that, in a time and place where women were not encouraged to have a voice 
> at all, it is a particularly strong voice for independence, self-respect, 
> and self-reliance.
> 
> Remember the farewell scene with Rochester after the mad-wife debacle?  He 
> eloquently tries to persuade Jane to run away with him, offering love, 
> riches, passion, companionship, everything she could desire, except the 
> sanction of God.  His final argument: "Who will know?"  And her reply, "*I* 
> will know."
> 

On the other hand, "Reader, I married him" has to be one of the
stupidest decisions in all of literature.

In a nutshell: where Austen or Fielding or Sterne (or...) nudge the
reader into a critical approach to all the characters, including the
viewpoint character by continually inviting the reader to pass judgment
and by keeping the authorial - versus - narratorial tensions alive,
Bronte encourages the reader to identify with the narrator without
judging, rather than maintaining a degree of detachment.

It is this aspect of _Jane Eyre_, the "directed" reader experience,
which makes it Harlequin-like, in contrast to the classical novel.

Oh, and I really couldn't stand _Villette_, what with all of the
anti-Catholic prejudice.