November 28, 2002

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

It must have been in grade school that I first read Jane Eyre. I suspect my older sister had a copy and I snitched it. I have read it since, most likely in high school, and then pretty much ignored it as a nice little romance. Been there, done that. At the local Large Chain Bookstore, I saw it on display with a bunch of other "classics" and I bought it, I am ashamed to admit but it's totally true, for the picture on the cover. The Oxford Classics edition has the most interesting painting of a young woman knitting with absurdly long needles and a cunning little yarn basket hooked to her wrist. The needles must be at least a yard long and she is working on a huge ribbed afghan with stripes in teal and white. Saw the picture, had to have it.

I finally got around to rereading it last weekend. Why I dismissed this book as a romance is beyond me because it is disturbingly weird. The basic story is that Jane is an orphan taken in by her aunt by marriage, treated badly, sent to a horrible charity school where she manages to learn all sorts of accomplishments and then ends up as governess for a child whose guardian is enigmatic to say the least and living in a seemingly haunted house. Not to mention she has all these depressive thought patterns that could seriously warrant therapy. That's the first half of the book. She ends up falling in love with her employer but finds out at the altar, no less, that he has a lunatic for a wife and he was just about to disgrace her with bigamy. She leaves in the middle of the night, spends some time starving on the road and is taken in by a pastor and his sisters. The pastor sets up a girl's school for the local peasants for her to teach in and then thru coincidence they find out that they are cousins of some sort. He is going to India as a missionary and even though he doesn’t love her he wants to marry her because she will be a good wife to a missionary. She refuses and then hears her name called to her on a dark and gloomy night on the wind by her former employer. She goes back to see him and finds that his wife has set the house on fire and he has been blinded and maimed in the fire. She marries him and they live happily ever after.

Not only does Jane have really bad luck with the guys in her life, she inhabits a world with of haunted houses and voices calling her in the night. I used to think Emily Bronte was the sister whose work showed some scary psychological disconnects with reality but after reading this one, I think it must have been in the family. If they made a movie plotted from the book instead of the normal Hollywood sunny, sanitized version, it would seem more like a Stephen King movie than anything else. What a weird book!

Posted by Deb English at November 28, 2002 09:13 PM