Jane Eyre – a forever classic

Charlotte Bronte’s classic work, Jane Eyre is known for its’ intense characters and mysterious plot, but even more compelling (to me) is its’ Christian themes. Jane is an innocent, naive young woman who finds herself in a world unlike one she’d ever known. Straight from a loveless orphanage and into the wealthy, though eerie halls of Thornfield, she takes her job as a governess with joy. In entering this new world, she finds a sense of freedom and purpose she’d not experience in her hateful aunt’s house or the orphanage.
Jane also discovers the fallen hero and her employer, Edward Rochester. Jane becomes curious about and finally attracted to Rochester. I wasn’t sure why she seemed drawn to him at first, because he spoke rudely and sometimes harshly to her. Though directness is not a serious flaw, it seemed that the author used this device to test the reader’s discernment and to display how Rochester’s bitterness because of his past sins had transformed his once gentle and optimistic demeanor.

Rochester’s rudeness is not his primary flaw, however. He manipulates Jane’s emotions, displays various episodes of possessive selfishness, lies to Jane, and eventually tries to trick her into marrying him although he is still legally married to a mentally ill woman. Despite knowing Jane’s convictions and faith, he dared to confess his uttermost devotion to her even while plotting to deceive her. This declaration proves that he didn’t really understand the vast selflessness of love, but also shows his desperation.

Now after painting him with such disdain, how can I save his reputation and how on earth can this timeless story end well? Jane loves him because he’s direct, honest (with his thoughts and feelings – he takes several opportunities to discuss an unnamed dark burden he carries), he treats everyone as equals, is a faithful employer, clever, and exhibits a rather wicked sense of humor. Some other, more revealing things about his virtues are the fact that he’s taken in a former mistress’ daughter so she would not remain orphaned. He had no ties to the girl, but felt compassion for her and brought her to live with him. He has also taken care of his wife, despite the fact that he could have placed her in an asylum or even killed her; he’s kept her with him and cared for her.

Rochester’s will is broken in the end, because Jane does not succumb to his desires…his wishes. He sees in her the evidence of selflessness and self-control, because she allows God’s desires to rule her, not her own. Rochester risks his life to save his insane wife and in the process is left somewhat disabled and physically scarred. His true revelation occurs when Jane returns to him and shows him love despite his brokenness and his deceit. His love, though imperfect still, becomes truer than ever because (I believe) of how well he is being loved.

Despite his dark, labyrinth personality, I like him and somehow the author transforms him into a hero. Maybe it is because we feel sorry for him, or we see enough glimpses of his virtues….glimpses mind you, until the end, that we realize there is a hero underneath all the years of bitterness. Classics are classics for a reason – and this book is certainly one of my favorites.

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