[LMB] OT: Jane Eyre

Corrina Lavitt corrinal at cox.net
Fri, 21 Nov 2003 08:22:37 -0500

> > Hmm...fascinating difference in perception. Jane Eyre the character
> > felt at all nuturing to me. Judgmental, logical, honorable, yes.
> > no.
> >
> I would agree with your perception of her... up until after she runs away
> from the house.  Her behaviour after that is so peculiar, so very
> from that before that it always seemed to me that C. Bronte didn't know
> to get her characters together, so she manipulated the novel until it
> worked.  Amusingly, I think I feel the same things about Jane Eyre that
> feel about Komarr, go figure.


It's interesting what each reader brings to the page. I have a theory that
if a a story sucks me in, if I can understand the characters, then I won't
notice the craft flaws in a story.

Which is not to say the craft flaws aren't there, just that they don't
override the story enjoyment. For instance, JK Rowling's critics are dead-on
with some of their comments. But, of course, they're not getting the real
point of those books, that the Harry Potter series is fantastic story on a
number of levels.

But on Jane Eyre:
> It's just that to me, Jane shouldn't have
> reacted the way the writer forced her to.  The Jane Eyre of the first part
> of the book wouldn't have married Rochester, especially not the wreck and
> emotional burden he'd become.  I seemed to recall that his neediness and
> pathetic appearance played a big role in her decision, which is why I talk
> about her nurturing character.  The fact that she's going to spend the
> of her life caring for a selfish, arrogant liar, that she's 'sacrificing'
> herself for love that makes me gag.  It's not a worthwhile sacrifice, he's
> not giving up anything for her, grrrr, it just annoys the heck out of me!

This is my take, FWIW. Don't expect to convince you, just stating why it
worked for me:

Jane's been alone all her life. The only two people who seemed to understand
her at all were her teacher who left and the friend who died. She's
desperately unhappy in her loneliness--that sense she doesn't belong
anywhere pervades the book. In Rochester, Jane has found someone who not
alone is all sexy and brooding but someone who is her intellectual equal and
someone who *understands* her, truly understands the way her ordered,
judgmental, intense mind works. That he does understand her is why Jane is
so tempted after she finds out the truth of his bigamy. Not that she's ruled
by incredible passion, but because her passion stems from that intellectual
closeness and his emotional acceptance of her.

That she can refuse him in the face of this is extraordinary.

That she later changes her mind is due to the fact their power positions are
shifted--she has money, he needs to rebuild, she's well, he's not---and that
mitigates their difference in station and puts them on equal footing--which
is far healthier than the original situation, even without the wife.
Rochester has had the arrogance figuratively and literary knocked out of
him. (And I always thought the fire and blindness was his payment for his
sins; he certainly seemed to view it that way and accept it.)

Also, having seen how judgment and being proper taken to far results in
someone like her cousin St. John (that's his name, right? I don't have the
book handy)----Jane is forced to look at herself in the mirror and wonder if
happiness and love perhaps should trump what's 'proper.'

The death of Rochester's wife and then his injuries removes any conflict
between Jane's sense of propriety and her desire for happiness. So she's
able to marry the one person who understands her and loves her for who she
is with a clear conscience. (The cousins love her. But they don't understand

That's how the story works for me. It's not my favorite romance but given
the number of classics I've tried lately and been disappointed by, it does
stand out.

Now, Jane running away and ending up at her cousin's cottage, THAT was
contrived and a big plot flaw. <g>

As for dark and moody characters, well, they do get a happy ending. The
difference as to why I like Jane Eyre and can't take Wuthering Heights?
The endings and the fact the characters seem to grow in JE and not in WH.