What elevates Jane Eyre (1847) is Bronte's remarkable style and skill and her sharp and complex characterisation of Jane herself as well as the book’s many other characters. Amazon.com says of the novel: ‘To read it as an adult is a joy: it's a sweeping, disturbing, intense, thrilling, very romantic gothic love story, written in the voice of a very intense, almost claustrophobically self-aware young heroine’. Many themes run throughout this book, but the dominant theme that it presents is social class and status. Not only is this shown in the high status of John Reed over Jane but also in her experience of school. The book tells the story of both a misunderstood young girl with whom we empathise and the social complexity of the 1800s.
In the startling first four chapters, we are greeted with apparent tension and conflict. Jane gets into a fight with John, and though she is the victim, Mrs Reed sends her to the red room as a punishment. The red room is where Mr Reed died. During her time in the red room, Jane reminisces of her time with Mr Reed and recalls his dying command that Mrs Reed bring Jane up as her own; this leads Jane to believe that Mr Reed’s ghost haunts the room. In terror she cries out but her pleas are ignored by her aunt and mistaken as attention seeking. Eventually Jane becomes exhausted and faints. When she wakes she is in her own room with Mr Lloyd and Bessie. She spends the next day in bed and Mr Lloyd suggests that she should be sent to school. Jane also learns more about her parents after she overhears a conversation between Bessie and her aunt. Her mother was a part of the wealthy Reed family, but she was written out of the will when she married Jane’s father of whom the family did not approve. These things captivate the reader,
making it almost impossible not to read on.
There's something for everyone in this book: difficult and neurotic family members, dark secrets about tragic former lovers, good triumphing over evil, all that good juicy stuff that makes a great
I will admit, when I first started reading this book I only did so because I thought it would be a good book to have ‘under the belt’; not necessarily because I thought it would be an intriguing and interesting book. However, once I got into it, I did not regret starting this book. The novel is interesting and something is constantly happening. I would argue that the best part of this book is the way Bronte also allows the reader to interpret it in their own way; for example, the red room to
some may simply be a room painted red, however others would see in it Jane’s frustration and anger at being locked away, while others still would focus on the fact that this is the room in which Mr Reed died and perceive connotations of blood and murder. It’s this variety of possible interpretation that makes the book such an enjoyable read.
After her traumatic ordeal in the red room, Mrs Reed decides to send Jane to school. When I first
read this, I assumed the book was turning into a child’s book, almost like The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton. However, as you carry on reading, this is not the case.
An outstanding passage from before Jane leaves for school is ‘I am glad you are no relation of mine. I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come and see you when I am grown up; and if anyone asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick.’ Not only does this show Jane’s characteristic passion and determination, but also her vulnerable and childlike qualities, as when she says ‘grown up’.
Jane Eyre is a fantastic read for anyone of any age. It has clearly stood the test of time for a reason, and therefore I would highly recommend it for any A level student to read.