Bingo Square: This Old Thing
I read Jane Eyre in high school for fun when I was trying to read classics because I thought I needed to better myself. I can’t say that was a very successful venture, since I didn’t end up liking that many of them without a teacher’s guidance to point out some of the deeper meaning (although I loved East of Eden and Anna Karenina). Jane Eyre was definitely one I didn’t enjoy that much because it was long and boring.
And yet, some of the best literary criticism I have read is about Jane Eyre, written by people that love the novel. Some people who have amazing taste in literature love this book and Jane Eyre, the character, so I thought it was time to give it a second try, utilizing the Thandie Newton narrated audio book. Bingo was simply the final push since I had already used Audible to revisit an old favorite, Persuasion. Maybe North and South will be next!
And it still isn’t my thing. I can look at it from a more aware perspective now, but it is still so much longer than it needs to be (19 hours compared to 12ish hours for Pride and Prejudice or less than 10 for Persuasion). Rochester is the original mansplainer. Like seriously, maybe it wouldn’t have bothered me as much in writing, but these people don’t have conversations, they monologue at each other. The novel and Jane often felt a bit melodramatic to me, and the monologuing certainly contributed to that. Despite that and the fact that everything dragged out just a bit more than necessary, every once in a while there would be an incredibly beautiful or descriptive turn of phrase that would make me pause and think, “this is one of the reasons it’s a classic.”
Jane judges herself, but she also judges everyone else around her. Pretty and rich women are vapid and boring, or mean; poor children are dull and dumb; she is begging but not “one of those beggars.” She kind of reminded me of Buffy in season 6 when Buffy determined she had a inferiority complex about her superiority complex, except in reverse.
While Jane Austen uses her novel to satirize and make fun of society, Jane uses suppressed anger. I actually liked this but her anger seemed so misdirected. She is angry at the society women who enforce the patriarchy and the system so they can gain even small amounts of power, but shows very little anger towards men. Austen did not respect these women, either, but she did not seem to blame them, instead seeing them as victims of the same system.
At no point does Jane show even the smallest amount of anger towards Rochester. Not when he dresses as a gypsy woman (which seriously, Charlotte, obnoxious rich master dressing as a woman jumped the shark in Pamela). Not when she finds out about his wife. Not when he offers to make her his mistress. She only feels love for him and sympathy for his circumstances. I understand it was an 19th century audience, and yet it seems like she should be able to say, “I was very upset with Mr. Rochester for lying to me and attempting to compromise me.” Her bluntness in other parts are hilarious: why are you here? – Because I walked through the door.
Also, I get that she wants to maintain her dependence, but I really needed her to stop protesting when Rochester wanted to buy her a new wardrobe. This was me yelling at Jane in my head: “if he is going to elevate you to lady of the house, the least he can do is make sure you look the part, it’s already going to be awkward enough going from governess to lady. And seriously, you should have taken the pearls he gave you and sold them – he lied to you about a wife and left you unemployed as a result! The man fucking owes you, taking the pearls doesn’t make you obligated. Basically, stop being so damn judgmental and rigid!” Anyone remember the sassy gay best friend videos on YouTube? I need to check if they did one for Jane Eyre!
At least Jane is smart enough to realize that Rochester has a Madonna-whore complex. He loves virginal pure Jane compared to his wife Bertha, and yet he thinks he is deserving of a new wife. As rich Englishman, a crazy wife didn’t even have to mean the end of Rochester’s life. He could have easily locked her away and kept a mistress. Unfortunately for him, he tries that, and he loses interest and respect in the women he uses as mistresses because he wants pure women and as soon as he fucks them, they lose their appeal. So I don’t feel any pity for the guy because he has options. Also, the St. John chapters/episodes go on too long.
So while I still don’t love the novel, there is so much to unpack, both in who Bronte does attack and who she is friendly or sympathetic towards – and her complete lack of sympathy for Bertha Mason. I’m not sure if she was making herself more palatable giving societal conventions or if she thought Rochester as she created him was more sympathetic and pitiable than anger inducing. This is definitely far from my favorite classic, though I was glad to revisit it at this point in time, being able to take advantage of Thandie Newton’s superb narration, and having read The Madwoman in the Attic. I doubt I’ll ever read this one again (and I’m definitely not revisiting Wuthering Heights) but I will continue to devour articles about this novel written by others with much deeper understanding of its intricacies, themes and politics.
Final thought: I honestly don’t know if it was worse because it was an audio book but I don’t get Rochester as a brooding romantic hero at all! He is too long winded. I mean he definitely works in movie form when portrayed by Michael Fassbender with much less dialogue but he became beloved as a book character and I don’t understand!
Bingos 12 and 13! Row 2 and Column 5!
Alabama Pink: Apathy and Other Small Victories
So Popular: Attachments
Brain Candy: Miss Wonderful
Home Something Home: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
White Whale: The Fifth Season
Cover Art: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
Delicious: Cinnamon and Gunpowder
The Book Was Better: Juliet, Naked
This Old Thing: Jane Eyre
Two Heads Are Better Than One: Trail of Lightning – with emmalita
Dream Vacation: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
#Cannonbookclub: Between the Bridge and the River
Snubbed: The Grace of Kings
Fahrenheit 451: Lord of the Flies
Listicles: The Girl from Everywhere
Throwback Thursday: The Winter King
Not My Wheelhouse: Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved
And So It Begins: Darkfever
Cannonballer Says: Yiddish for Pirates
This is the End: The Reckoning
Award Winner: The Obelisk Gate
Birthday: No Time to Spare
So Shiny: Magic Triumphs