Part I: The Book, cont’d
I finished Jane Eyre a little while back but it took a while for me to process my thoughts.
For the most part, Charlotte Brontë did not like Jane Austen’s novels. In her letters, she said that Austen’s work was “without sentiment, ” without poetry” and that “she cannot be great.” Once again, Austen was not a Romantic, but Brontë most definitely was. Some people claim that Austen was the mother of the modern romance novel, but I would argue that Brontë is more closely related to modern romance novels than Austen is. This post is not intended to compare Austen with Brontë; I am merely trying to explain how I came to some of my conclusions.
I’ve mentioned along the way that I read romance novels. I am very picky about which ones I read, so I am not as well versed in the genre as I could be. But modern romance novels are, for the most part, filled with overt passion. In some books, the characters seem to have nothing but passion in common. The modern romance novel has sex in it. Jane Eyre does not contain graphic sex scenes, but it is definitely filled with passion. It is as obvious that Rochester and Jane burn for each other as it is for any characters in a Stephanie Laurens novel. These characters are willing to give up everything they have (including their lives) for love — a choice that Austen’s characters never get (except maybe Marianne Dashwood). Personally, while I sincerely love this book, I do find that all of the characters, including Jane and Rochester, are various degrees of “over the top.” St John Rivers is the opposite of Jane and Rochester — he feels passion but, unlike Jane and Rochester, he fights it and ends up cold and alone. Jane seems to think he’s noble, but she refuses to marry him because she cannot love him as anything else than a cousin or brother. Personally, I find him rather pitiable. He had a chance at true love, but he tossed it away. True, Rosamund would not likely have been a good missionary’s wife, but shouldn’t he have given her the choice? Instead, he makes the choice for her and allows her to marry someone else.
I like and respect Jane. She can be rational and tough as nails, but she’s also very passionate and emotional. She is also intensely moral. Rochester is, I think, somewhat less rational than Jane, and more apt to think with his heart rather than his head. The whole Bertha situation is indicative of that, I think. He wants Jane, and he intends to have her. The fact that he’s married doesn’t stop him from trying to get what he wants. But Jane thinks about the bigger picture. She thinks about what will happen in the years to come. She refuses to allow herself to do everything her heart wants her to do. I find her to be very admirable. I’m not always sure what I think about Rochester. When I was younger, I found him to be swoon-worthy; now I’m a tad more skeptical and I find him to be somewhat manipulative and overly emotional.
The language is very flowery and reflects the Romantic nature of the book. I don’t know if I could make a steady diet of this type of writing, but if all the stories are as good as this one, I’d give it my best shot.