Original date of publication: 1847
My edition: 2010 (Vintage)
Why I decided to re-read: the film adaptation inspired me to re-read this book
How I acquired my copy: Borders, Mach 2011
Oh, Jane Eyre, how do I love thee? The first time I read this book was in middle school; then I read it twice in high school and once in college. The recent movie adaptation inspired me to re-read this book after an eight-year gap since my last reading.
I won’t go into the plot since it’s one of those plots that most people in the English-speaking world seem to know (even if they haven’t read the book), and one of those plots that resonates throughout English literature. Suffice it to say that Jane Eyre is one of those books that stands up to the test of time well—not just historically but personally as well. It captured my imagination as a teenager; and, as I’ve been dealing with some recent emotional disappointment, there are some quotes in Jane Eyre that really seemed to reflect my mood—especially when the house party is held at Thornfield and Jane reflects on her new-found feelings for Mr. Rochester—that she believes are unreturned:
It does good to no woman to be flattered by her superior, who cannot possibly intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded to, must lead, ignis-fatuus-like, into miry wilds whence there is no extrication (Ch. 16)
Or how about:
I had not intended to love him: the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germ of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, green and strong! He made me love him without looking at me. (Ch. 17)
Or one of my favorites:
It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot....Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings….knitting stockings….playing on the piano….It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.- (Ch. 12)
How can you not love a book that speaks to your mood, no matter what it is? I think also the appeal to this book for me lies in the fact that I identify so much with Jane herself; I see a lot of myself in her personality. She’s such an introspective person, someone who experiences emotion strongly; but it’s very quietly experienced, which is probably why that emotion is so strongly felt in the first place. There’s so little opportunity for Jane to emote that when she experiences feelings for Mr. Rochester, she doesn’t expect it. Jane's feelings of being a social outsider is very familiar, to me, too. I love a novel that, even after reading it five times, causes me to see the book anew each time I read it.