Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
It's been dubbed Septemb-Eyre at Entomology of a Bookworm and the assorted bloggers taking part in the Jane Eyre read along. I didn't sign up to be a part of it officially, and I really am not sure why. Well, other than I was worried that I wouldn't hold up my end of the deal and would fall behind. And then, I went ahead and scooped up various copies of the book and loaded my e-book versions on the nooks. I dropped what I was reading. In fact, I've been unable to locate that copy of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. that I started on Sunday. That's a library book. I have to remember what I did with that.
Yesterday was the day the Septemb-Eyres were slated to post on Chapters I through XI. I finished reading those last night and spent a good chunk of today going to each participating blog, reading the post, the comments and then sharing my thoughts. I'm sort of waiting for someone to tell me to show myself to the door because I'm hogging up their project. Oh, I really hope no one does that. Maybe, if I go and add my name to the list, they'll just pretend it's always been there and let me play along. The posts are all wonderful and there are so many awesome viewpoints on the book. Go and take a peek. You won't be sorry.
Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books and the titular heroine is one of my favorite characters in literature. She's spunky and feisty. She's got a sense of right and wrong and she stands up for herself when she is treated unjustly. I love that. I used to be like that and somehow I find that I've lost that ability at the most unfortunate times. Jane never loses sight of herself and she is stalwart and true throughout the harshest conditions and trials.
Jane's parents died when she was very young and she was taken in by her mother's brother and his family, the Reeds. When Mr Reed died, he made his wife promise to care for Jane like she did their own children. That was not a promise she could keep. Instead, her dislike for plain, dark and small Jane gave her children license to harass her with impunity. The girls are happy to ignore her, but John Reed ( who I've seen compared to Joffey from Game of Thrones and Dudley Dursley of the Harry Potter books, ingeniously, I might add, by the Septemb-Eyres) isn't content unless he's causing her pain, and then seeing her punished for his bad behavior and her reaction to it. After a particularly bad incident, it is determined that Jane should be sent away to school.
Jane is sent to Lowood Institution which isn't the Reeds. On the one hand, there are none of the luxuries she was used to, ample food and heat and space. On the other hand, she has the chance to succeed or fail based on her own merits. And, she does.
I love this book. Stopping after the first set of chapters made me focus a little closer on Jane's formative years. Poor little Jane. She keeps her head held high and fights for her rights, even when everyone is telling her that she hasn't any. John Reed is really an impotent little man, trading on power he doesn't really have. What he does have is a living natural parent and the promise of the estate when he is old enough to inherit. That, a bad temper, evil nature and a few years is enough for him to try to overpower his dependent cousin.
Once she gets sent away to school, she eventually comes into her own. She overcomes the privations the girls are forced to live with under the rule of the hypocritical extremely un-Christian Mr Brocklehurst. She is befriended by Brocklehurst's polar opposite, Helen Burns. Helen is as Christian as you get, she is bound for heaven and is earning her place there. Her quiet strength and goodness are instrumental in helping Jane at school.
This time around I was much more aware of all the religious influences on Jane. You have Brocklehurst of the fire and brimstone set. He's damning everyone to hell, determining that neglect and child abuse is somehow a pious way to treat poor little girls. Yet, his life is a far cry from the sad state of Lowood Institution. Jane wants to be good and she believes that people who love and respect her deserve the same in return. She is so desperate to feel and be believed to be good. She is quick to notice Brocklehurst's hypocrisy.
Then you have sweet little Helen Burns. She is good, kind and sacrificing. She strives to always do better and she believes there is a place for her in heaven and that her God forgives and welcomes. She's a little too far to the other side for Jane, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't learn a lot from her. But, Jane is just finding her way in the world and she's got to make her own path. At this point, I think it's safe to predict that it will be somewhere in the middle, but maybe closer to Helen's way.