My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Let me start by saying I love “Jane Eyre,” because I love Jane Eyre. She’s a fabulous character. I feel like I know her. I first read the book in 8th grade (is that right? thereabouts) for school, and then again later in or just after college, and once again around the same time I did a major Bronte read including “Villette” and “Agnes Grey,” which I honestly remember only faintly, suggesting this all took place in the traumatic (for me) early-to-mid-90s. All of which means: it’s been a long time since I last read “Jane Eyre.” I remember how in that first reading, it confused me that she went off on her own and was actually out in nature, unprotected, sleeping on the moors. I remember experiencing that section of the book as if I were in it with her, hungry and disoriented and terrified about what might happen next. And I last read it still living in a romantic fantasy world about men, complete with a hope that if I could only be my authentic self, like Jane, all the impossible situations in my life would resolve into happiness. It’s one of the many books that makes me appreciate, once again, the awesome and revelatory little book, “Ruined by Reading,” which I highly recommend, too.
Despite the ways it ruined me, I love the use of words in “Jane Eyre.” I love the Rivers family. I even love Edward Rochester. I love Jane’s face-off with St. John. (I love that the first couple of times I read the book I didn’t know to hear his name as “Sinjin.”) I love her sense of her own self and her clarity about what marriage to her cousin would inevitably be like.
I also didn’t remember how much of a role God played in the story, or rather Jane’s feelings about God and God’s action in the world. I had totally forgotten the last few paragraphs of the book. The final image in my mind (yes, spoilers ahead, but is anyone actually reading this who doesn’t know the story?) was Rochester’s renewed vision and the placing of their first-born in his arms. I had no memory that she wrapped the book up with St. John’s anticipated death. But maybe the use of the Book of Revelation is appropriate, because Jane has experienced her own apocalyptic visions and responded to them.