I started reading seriously at seven or eight, books about myths and legends, the Narnia series. By the time I was 11, I had read all the children's books in my local library, so I moved on to 'Jane Eyre.' What I loved about Jane Eyre was that she didn't rely on her looks but her character. She had a spirit nobody could break.
Reading Mrs Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte« after Jane Eyre is a curious experience. The subject of the biography is recognisably the same person who wrote the novel, but the effect of the two books is utterly different. The biography is indeed depressing and painful reading. It captures better, I believe, than any any subsequent biography the introverted and puritan pessimist side of Charlotte Bronte«, and conveys the real dreariness of the world of privation, critical discouragement and limited opportunity that so often made her complain in her letters that she felt marked out for suffering. Jane Eyre, on the other hand, is exhilarating reading, partly because the reader, far from simply pitying the heroine, is struck by her resilience, and partly because the novel achieves such an imaginative transmutation of the drab. Unlike that of Jane Austen's Fanny Price or Dickens's Arthur Clennam or John Harmon, Jane Eyre's response to suffering is never less than energetic. The reader is torn between exasperation at the way she mistakes her resentments and prejudices for fair moral judgements, and admiration at the way she fights back. Matthew Arnold, seeking 'sweetness and light' was repelled by the 'hunger, rebellion and rage' that he identified as the keynotes of the novel. One can see why, and yet feel that these have a more positive effect than his phrase allows. The heroine is trying to hold on to her sense of self in a world that gives it little encouragement, and the novel does put up a persuasive case for her arrogance and pugnacity as the healthier alternatives to patience and resignation. That the book has created a world in which the golden mean seems such a feeble solution is both its eccentricity and its strength.
'Jane Eyre' must have been something I read six or seven times as an early adolescent. And 'Kristin Lavransdatter,' and 'Lorna Doone' when I was younger. My parents had a pretty rich library, no jackets on any of the books, so no descriptions. You just pulled something off the shelf and started to read it.
Acting is rare. You can be rehearsing Ibsen with Sir Richard Eyre and suddenly he has to take a call on his mobile telling him his friend Arthur Miller has died. Or you can come back from a job on the Isle of Man to be told by your agent you're going straight out to South Africa on another shoot. There's not even any time to wash your pants.
The loudness of tone in Jane Eyre is undoubtedly effective in communicating tension and frustration, but the style does of course have its related limitations. It precludes the use of the small suggestive detail or the quiet but telling observation that Mrs Gaskell and George Eliot are so good at. In such a fortissimo performance as this, the pianissimo gets drowned out, or noted only as an incongruity (which helps to account for the book's moments of unintended comic bathos). Again, it makes the whole question of modulation of tone a difficult one, 6 and it is also hard to manage irony elegantly, as the Brocklehurst and Ingram portraits show. There is unconscious ambiguity but little deliberate irony in Jane Eyre. Hence the remarkable unity of critical interpretation of the book-the reader knows all too well what he is meant to think about the heroine and the subsidiary characters. The novel does not merely request our judicious sympathy for the heroine, it demands that we see with her eyes, think in her terms, and hate her enemies, not just intermittently (as in David Copperfield) but in toto. It was, incidentally, because James Joyce recognised the similar tendency of Stephen Hero that he reshaped his autobiographical material as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, retaining the 'first-person effect' but building in stylistic and structural irony that would guard against the appearance of wholesale authorial endorsement of Stephen.
Joan spoke kindly, explaining patiently, as he always patiently explained things to her. 'It's like in that book you gave me, Jane Eyre. Jane says she isn't a bird caught in a net. Instead she's a human being with an independent will and that she has a treasure inside her that will keep her alive, no matter if anything bad happens.
Cate Campbell Beatty
This is our siblings of more famous BookWorld Personalities self-help group expalined Loser (Gatsby). That's Sharon Eyre, the younger and wholly disreputable sister of Jane; Roger Yossarian, the draft dodger and coward; Rupert Bond, still a virgin and can't keep a secret; Tracy Capulet, who has slept her way round Verona twice; and Nancy Potter, who is a Muggle.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, O'er a plan to venge myself upon that cursed Thursday Next- This Eyre affair, so surprising, gives my soul such loath despising, Here I plot my temper rising, rising from my jail of text. "Get me out!" I said, advising, "Pluck me from this jail of text- or I swear I'll wring your neck!
But the novels of women were not affected only by the necessarily narrow range of the writer's experience. They showed, at least in the nineteenth century, another characteristic which may be traced to the writer's sex. In Middlemarch and in Jane Eyre we are conscious not merely of the writer's character, as we are conscious of the character of Charles Dickens, but we are conscious of a woman's presence of someone resenting the treatment of her sex and pleading for its rights.
Yet there was always in me, even when I was very small, the sense that I ought to be somewhere else. And wander I did, although, in my everyday life, I had nowhere to go and no imaginable reason on earth why I should want to leave. The buses took to the interstate without me, the trains sped by. So I wandered the world through books. I went to Victorian England in the pages of 'Middlemarch' and 'A little Princess', and to Saint Petersburg before the fall of the tsar with 'Anna Karenina'. I went to Tara, and Manderley, and Thornfield Hall, all those great houses, with their high ceilings and high drama, as I read 'Gone with the Wind', 'Rebecca' and 'Jane Eyre'.
Arraigned at my own bar, Memory having given her evidence of the hopes, wishes, sentiments I had been cherishing since last night-- of the general state of mind which I have indulged for nearly a fortnight past; Reason having come forward and told in her own quiet way , a plain, unvarnished tale, showing how I had rejected the real, and rabidly devoured the ideal;-- I pronounced judgment to this effect:-- That a greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of life: that a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on sweet lies, and swallowed the poison as if it were nectar.
Arraigned at my own bar, Memory having given her evidence of the hopes, wishes, sentiments I had been cherishing since last night- of the general state of mind which I have indulged for nearly a fortnight past; Reason having come forward and told in her own quiet way , a plain, unvarnished tale, showing how I had rejected the real, and rabidly devoured the ideal;- I pronounced judgment to this effect:- That a greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of life: that a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on sweet lies, and swallowed the poison as if it were nectar.
When The Journal of Words compiled its list of the one hundred best novels written in English, do you know that Pride and Prejudice was number twelve?" She stopped pacing and glared at Jane. "And do you know where Jane Eyre was?" she asked. She looked at the four of them in turn, but nobody answered her. "Number fifty-two!" she shrieked. "Fifty-two! Below that pornographic travesty Lolita!" She spat the title as if it were poison. "Below Huckleberry Finn! Below Ulysses. Have you ever tried to read Ulysses? Have you ever finished it? No, you haven't. No one has. They just carry it around and lie about having read it.
Michael Thomas Ford
The first unanalysed impression that most readers receive from Jane Eyre is that it has a very violent atmosphere. If this were simply the effect of the plot and the imagined events then sensation novels like Walpole's The Castle of Otranto or Mrs Radcliffe's The Mystery of Udolpho ought to produce it even more powerfully. But they do not. Nor do they even arouse particularly strong reader responses. Novelists like Charlotte Bronte« or D. H. Lawrence, on the other hand, are able quite quickly to provoke marked reactions of sympathy or hostility from readers. The reason, apparently, is that the narrator's personality is communicating itself through the style with unusual directness.
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question. I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed. -Jane Eyre From Gradesaver.com
He felt like hearing Mrs. Grogan's prayer again, and so he went to the girls' division a little early for his usual delivery of Jane Eyre. He eavesdropped in the hall on Mrs. Grogan's prayer; I must ask her if she'd mind saying it to the boys, he thought, then wondered if it would confuse the boys coming so quickly on the heels of, or just before, the Princes of Maine, Kings of New England benediction. I get confused myself sometimes, Dr. Larch knew. 'Grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, ' Mrs. Grogan was saying, 'and peace at the last.' Amen, thought Wilbur Larch, the saint of St. Cloud's, who was seventy-something, and an ether addict, and who felt that he'd come a long way and still had a long way to go.
As I exclaimed 'Jane! Jane! Jane!' a voice- I cannot tell whence the voice came, but I know whose voice it was- replied, 'I am coming: wait for me;' and a moment after, went whispering on the wind the words- 'Where are you?' "I'll tell you, if I can, the idea, the picture these words opened to my mind: yet it is difficult to express what I want to express. Ferndean is buried, as you see, in a heavy wood, where sound falls dull, and dies unreverberating. 'Where are you?' seemed spoken amongst mountains; for I heard a hill-sent echo repeat the words. Cooler and fresher at the moment the gale seemed to visit my brow: I could have deemed that in some wild, lone scene, I and Jane were meeting. In spirit, I believe we must have met. You no doubt were, at that hour, in unconscious sleep, Jane: perhaps your soul wandered from its cell to comfort mine; for those were your accents- as certain as I live- they were yours!" Reader, it was on Monday night- near midnight- that I too had received the mysterious summons: those were the very words by which I replied to it. (Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre)
How different this world to the one about which I used to read, and in which I used to live! This is one peopled by demons, phantoms, vampires, ghouls, boggarts, and nixies. Names of things of which I knew nothing are now so familiar that the creatures themselves appear to have real existence. The Arabian Nights are not more fantastic than our gospels; and Lempriere would have found ours a more marvelous world to catalog than the classical mythical to which he devoted his learning. Ours is a world of luprachaun and clurichaune, deev and cloolie, and through the maze of mystery I have to thread my painful way, now learning how to distinguish oufe from pooka, and nis from pixy; study long screeds upon the doings of effreets and dwergers, or decipher the dwaul of delirious monks who have made homunculi from refuse. Waking or sleeping, the image of some uncouth form is always present to me. What would I not give for a volume by the once despised 'A. L. O. E' or prosy Emma Worboise? Talk of the troubles of Winifred Bertram or Jane Eyre, what are they to mine? Talented authoresses do not seem to know that however terrible it may be to have as a neighbour a mad woman in a tower, it is much worse to have to live in a kitchen with a crocodile. This elementary fact has escaped the notice of writers of fiction; the re-statement of it has induced me to reconsider my decision as to the most longed-for book; my choice now is the Swiss Family Robinson. In it I have no doubt I should find how to make even the crocodile useful, or how to kill it, which would be still better. ("Mysterious Maisie")
Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you... it means that you do not treat your body as a commodity with which to purchase superficial intimacy or economic security; for our bodies to be treated as objects, our minds are in mortal danger. It means insisting that those to whom you give your friendship and love are able to respect your mind. It means being able to say, with Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre: "I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all the extraneous delights should be withheld or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give. Responsibility to yourself means that you don't fall for shallow and easy solutions-predigested books and ideas... marrying early as an escape from real decisions, getting pregnant as an evasion of already existing problems. It means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short... and this, in turn, means resisting the forces in society which say that women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. It means that we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives. It means, therefore, the courage to be "different"... The difference between a life lived actively, and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, is an immense difference. Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way.
There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children's book. The reason for that is that in adult literary fiction, stories are there on sufferance. Other things are felt to be more important: technique, style, literary knowingness. Adult writers who deal in straightforward stories find themselves sidelined into a genre such as crime or science fiction, where no one expects literary craftsmanship. But stories are vital. Stories never fail us because, as Isaac Bashevis Singer says, "events never grow stale." There's more wisdom in a story than in volumes of philosophy. And by a story I mean not only Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk but also the great novels of the nineteenth century, Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, Bleak House and many others: novels where the story is at the center of the writer's attention, where the plot actually matters. The present-day would-be George Eliots take up their stories as if with a pair of tongs. They're embarrassed by them. If they could write novels without stories in them, they would. Sometimes they do. But what characterizes the best of children's authors is that they're not embarrassed to tell stories. They know how important stories are, and they know, too, that if you start telling a story you've got to carry on till you get to the end. And you can't provide two ends, either, and invite the reader to choose between them. Or as in a highly praised recent adult novel I'm about to stop reading, three different beginnings. In a book for children you can't put the plot on hold while you cut artistic capers for the amusement of your sophisticated readers, because, thank God, your readers are not sophisticated. They've got more important things in mind than your dazzling skill with wordplay. They want to know what happens next.