✨📖 Jane Eyre (1845) by Charlotte Brontë📖✨
It’s no secret that since I committed to Tolstoy earlier in the summer, I have enjoyed a new found appreciation for the 19th century. Turns out, as I’ve said time and time again on this blog, people were generally bad ass. Call me a romantic, but I cannot get over literature from that time. The latest book of the era I read, was Jane Eyre, a gothic romance novel by Charlotte Bronte. (Her sister, Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights, an equally gothic, equally romantic favorite of mine from when I was in high school).
Jane Eyre is written in the form of a fictional autobiography, as Jane recalls her life starting from childhood. A lonely orphan first living with her spiteful aunt, Jane is later sent to a girls boarding school where she makes her first real friend and learns to connect to her faith. Her connection to faith in particular helps her navigate the difficult hardships in her life, later on. Upon graduating, Jane is ready to embark on a new adventure and signs up to become a governess at wealthy – albeit ugly – Mr. Rochester’s manor. And that’s where the love story begins. 💖
Throughout her time as governess, Jane gets to spend more and more time with Mr. Rochester, and she slowly discovers she has fallen in love. But Mr. Rochester is supposed to be paired up with another lady, the much more beautiful Miss Ingram. As Jane wallows in her jealousy and sadness, she sketches a portrait of herself, and a portrait of what she imagines Miss Ingram to look like. She does this, only so she can compare the two, and remind herself that “she (Jane) is ugly and doesn’t stand a chance in the bid for Mr. Rochester’s heart”. I found this bit in the book to be particularly charming, because 19th century Jane behaves exactly like a present-day teenager. Except nowadays, we compare ourselves on social media.
As the book progresses, Jane learns that Mr. Rochester does not in fact fancy Miss Ingram – he fancies Jane. And they agree to get married! Except there’s one teeny tiny major secret that Mr. Rochester has been hiding (in the attic). I think it’s worth reading the book to find out what it is, but if you would prefer a spoiler, then read ahead: Mr. Rochester cannot marry Jane, because he is already married to a mad woman, that he keeps locked in the attic. Yes, that’s quite the mood.
In case you followed my advice and didn’t hover over the spoiler tag, let me just repeat this: the novel is a romance novel, but it is just as much a suspenseful gloomy mystery. An overall perfect read for this time of year!
Here’s a couple of relationship advice nuggets I picked up from this beautifully written book:
1: You Shouldn’t Lose Yourself for Love 💕
Jane loves Mr. Rochester, but upon discovering his secret (see above), she cannot bring herself to overcome her set of values and her religious principles merely for the prospect of human love. She understands that standing up for herself is hard, but it is absolutely necessary to keep her own sanity. Else, had she compromised and married Mr. Rochester on his conditions, she would have lost the essence of what made her Jane Eyre.
2: Pride and Ego Have No Place in Love 💑
This one in particular seems to be a beautiful theme of 19th century fiction (think Levin and Kitty from Anna Karenina). Even though Jane essentially leaves Mr. Rochester at the altar and runs away in hiding, she does eventually go back to him – her love ever present. Neither Jane, nor Mr. Rochester display “pride” or “ego” in implying they will not take the other person back, because they left once already. You could say this is a lack of boundaries on their part, but you could also say this is just them recognizing that we are all human. We are all prone to errors, prone to judging incorrectly. If someone asks for a second chance, I think it is up to us to ensure we give one fairly. The modern consensus on this is that you should never take someone back after they’ve rejected you. But 19th century romance thinks its worth foregoing your ego, for a shot at real love.
3: You Must Accept the Other, As They Are 💐
When Mr. Rochester first loves Jane, he loves her for who she is: plain, poor and simply herself. At no point does he project his ideals and dreams onto her, and wish for her to transform into a different person to fit his mold. He accepts her as she is. Likewise, in the end, when Jane returns to Mr. Rochester, she finds him drastically changed (spoiler alert): Mr. Rochester has been in a fire and is now blind and an amputee. His mad wife committed suicide. Even at that state, Jane professes her love to him and accepts him as he is.
4: Love Should Always Be Expressed 💟
One major theme in modern day relationship counseling is finding each other’s love language – and committing to speak it. Jane and Mr. Rochester, I would think, wouldn’t need such a service, because they already speak about their love – a lot. The novel is beautifully written, and the dialogue between characters is equally beautiful. They are honest, sincere and always ready to speak of the love they have for one another.
What do you think? Do you agree with 19th century views on love? Have you read a thrilling romance novel lately? I’d love to know!
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