Rereading Jane Eyre

IMG-20131211-WA0010I was an impressionable teenager the first time I read Jane Eyre and I have reread it countless times since then. Every time I have reread it I have uncovered another angle or aspect in this superb manuscript. My first impression was one of awe and admiration due to the sheer power of the characters and the story. Each rereading has produced a powerful effect shifting from wonder and respect to anger and disbelief. These pendular reactions probably mirrored my own personal development and life experiences.

I don’t think it’s necessary to go through these transitions, suffice it to say that this period of veneration lasted until I read Wide Sargasso Sea, from then on Jane Eyre suffered an irreversible upheaval. The characters and events have been constructed and deconstructed in my mind obsessively to such an extent that I had to write the sequel to both novels in order to get them out of my system, and that is exactly what I did.

Now that I have written my sequel I am going to reread Jane Eyre one more time, which I’m sure will not be the last time, but it will be a very different rereading.This time I’d like to reread it publicly on this blog, as if it were my diary. I don’t know the exact shape it will take, but my plan is to write about my reflections on the whole novel as I reread it from start to finish.

Why am I doing this? Because I need to read it again, and I need to publicly record my impressions and perhaps offer new insights to myself and anyone else interested in deciphering this unequaled work of art.

 

12 thoughts on “Rereading Jane Eyre

  1. I have been wondering if I should write a comment or not andfially decided that I should. It seemsto me that many people condemn Rochester without trying to understand him. i have to admit that at first I had a rather critical aattitude towards him. However, having finished Jane Eyre I realised thereare many things which I could not understandyet. So I read his conversations with Jane again, read separate chapter’s analyses and my opinion has changed. First of all, Rochester was tricked into marrying a mad woman and was tricked by his father and brother – the people who should be closest to him. Youcan say what you like, but it is cruel to trick your own child and brother.Even though his wife was not the type of woman whom one would call decent (if I remember well, she had lovers), Rochester kept her in his house and not in a place where such people are usually kept and made sure she was looked after. He could have found a way to get rid of his burdain- a little accident or something- no one would have known. But he did not do that, he even tried to save her when she set the house on fire. Furthermore, he had a sad experience with Adel’s mother who pretended to love him and therefore he was disappointed. So after all his disappointments, Rochester met Jane who was not interested in his money and loved him even though she knew about his life in the past. Rochester fell in love with her because she was different from other women he had met before and he would have done anything to stay with her. I do not say that bigamy is a good way to stay with the one you love but I think it was hisdesperate attempt to be happy. He also knew Jane would never agree to be his mistress. Besides, Rochester took care of Adel though he did not know if she was really his child. He also told her that her mother was dead- he did not tell her:”Child your mother has abandoned you”- it means he did not want to hurt her and cared for her feelings. So to say Rochester is a villain is not fair.

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    1. Everything you say is true. Everything you say is written in black and white in Jane Eyre.

      a) Rochester’s father and brother tricked him into marrying a Creole heiress in Jamaica.
      b) He locked her in the attic because she was mad and unfaithful.
      c) He looked after Adele, although he denied being her father.
      d) Adele’s mother was unfaithful and abandoned her child.

      This is Rochester’s version, retold by Jane. It’s the only version we have because:
      a) His brother and his father are dead.
      b) Bertha, Mrs. Rochester, is locked away, insane, and unable to speak.
      c) Adele’s mother is ‘missing’.

      I propose that Rochester is a liar and Jane is an unreliable narrator.

      My reasons:
      1- Rochester lies and bends the truth:
      a) He says he is not married, knowing he is.
      b) He is cruel to Bertha. He took her generous dowry, while he was penniless, and after his brother and father died, and he inherited the estate, he brought her to England, locking her in a damp room without a window.
      c) He says he isn’t Adele’s father although he must believe he is, or why would he look after her? Even Jane believes it.
      d) He tries to persuade Jane to be his mistress, even suggesting they flee to France, and he physically attacks her, literally putting his hands around her neck, which is why she leaves Thornfield in the middle of the night.
      e) He tells Adele that her mother, Celine, is dead although he believes she’s alive. (He is also unpleasant and condescending to Adele).
      f) He accuses Celine of being unfaithful, but insists that he himself was a womanizer.
      g) He leads Jane to believe he will marry Blanche.

      He clearly manipulates Jane, and the other women in the novel.

      2- Jane is unreliable because she is in love.

      She doesn’t see the man he is, because she sees the man she loves, and that’s understandable, but it makes her version untrustworthy.

      Finally, it’s not a question of fairness, but rather of interpretation. I have deconstructed the text and read between the lines, I may have read too much, or you may have been too trusting, who knows?

      We are, of course, both entitled to our opinions, because both our opinions are rational and logical.

      I suggest you have a look at Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, which is the story of Bertha Antoinette Mason, before she married Edward Rochester, during their honeymoon and the aftermath, and finally during her final days at Thornfield, before it is burnt down.

      There are many untold stories in Jane Eyre, some of which I’ve tried to tell in my novel, which is a reinterpretation and empowerment of Jane Eyre Rochester, and Bertha Mason Rochester.

      We de share one thing, and that is our love of Jane Eyre. It is without doubt my favourite novel. On everything else, we’ll have to agree to disagree, I’m afraid 🙂

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog and taking the time to write your thoughtful comment.

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  2. I’ve tried to find an e-version of Wide sargasso sea but was not able to get it so I have read chapters’ summaries and watched the film adaptation of this novel. Now I regret this. It seemsstrange to me that Rochester started to hate his wife after having tasted that love potion. well, perhaps I misunderstood the author but it seems strange to me that his hatred seems to be the result of dark arts.most people start to hate Rochester having read this book but Ithink his wife should have been less naive and should have had more pride. It would have been better for her to listen to her nurse suggestion and leave him. In my opinion, only Charlotte Bronte knew what Rochester was like so it is hard to say now who is right. However, as Rochester told Jane during one of their conversations that as he cannot be happy so he’ll get pleasures out of lifecost whatit may and as I understand happiness to him is to be loved so having found Jane, he should finally be happy and she should help him to be a better person. PS. If you find any mistakes in my comment – don’t be angry with me for I’m not a native English speaker.

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    1. Wide Sargasso Sea is a powerful novel but people either love it or hate it! It’s written in the modernist and postcolonial style of ‘writing back’, ‘rewriting’, and ‘reinterpreting’ the previous generation of Victorian writers, who were writing during the height of the British Empire, and colonial expansion. Rhys takes one of Jane’s minor, but essential, characters, and gives her a ‘real’ life and a ‘real’ voice. I say ‘real’ because Rhys was a Creole herself, just like Bertha, so she could easily get under her skin. We don’t really know much about Bertha from Jane Eyre, and what we do know is retold by Jane, from Rochester’s retellings, and frankly, he’s quite a liar, therefore rather unreliable! I’ve often wondered what Jane thought about Bertha, again, we don’t know a lot, except that she respected her as Mrs. Rochester, which is more than most readers do. Why is she always referred to as Bertha Mason? She was Mrs. Rochester throughout the novel, wasn’t she? Bertha’s story wasn’t told in Jane Eyre, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a story. it means there’s a door open for someone to write it, as Jean Rhys did. My novel is a continuation of both. I take Bertha’s account in Rhys as more reliable than Rochester’s account in Jane Eyre, but both are present, and the readers must judge for themselves. My trilogy is in a way a revision and reinstatement of Bertha. The debt Rochester owed her, can be settled by Jane, because Jane will have the power to repair and reconciliate her family and Bertha’s. How? Well, there are three books to read to find out! 🙂 Anybody can read and enjoy my novel, and many have, without having read either J.E. or W.S.S., but someone who has read them both, will be able to get much more out of the experience. Your English is very good. I never get angry with non-native speakers, I also teach English to adults and at College, so I’m very patient! Where are you from?

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  3. I’m from Lithuania(if you have herd of sucha country- but I think you have as many Lithuanians now work in the United Kingdom).I have read a sample of your book and it seems that the book is interesting. but I don’t have an opportunity to get it as I do not learn to use those e lectronic systems that can exchange my country’s currency to another.
    I have thought why I like Rochester and I have realised that I cannot explain this even to myself. perhaps it’sbecause he is well-educated and loves Jane even though she is not a beauty so beauty is not all that matters to him. In fact, Rochester is very different from all other male characters of which I have read so far.However, it may be true that he is an unreliable narrator.
    Thanks for your complement. I will be able to say to my teachers at university that a person whose native language is English said my English is good!(don’t laugh-I’m studying English but I can’t trust my knowledge yet.)
    It’s perhaps not very proper question but I would like to know what do you think of Heathcliff? Do you like this character?

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    1. Wuthering Heights is a wonderful novel, another of my favourites, but I haven’t reread it for about a year. I didn’t like Heathcliff at all, much less than Rochester, however I can’t give you a detailed answer before I have another look. On the other hand, I have found an interesting discussion comparing Rochester and Heathcliff on Goodreads, which will give you some interesting insights http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1134997-if-you-ve-read-both-jane-eyre-and-wuthering-heights—rochester-or-heath

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