Why We Love Jane Eyre

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I love Jane Eyre, I’ve all but memorized the book, and watched the movie ( Timothy Dalton version} more times that I care to admit.

Even though Jane Eyre was originally published in 1847, it is still one of the most popular volumes in the  library system. The story has been translated into every living language and has been retold in every genre from silent films to Broadway plays.

So what is it about this humble orphan turned governess that intrigues people? I believe it’s this, simply – we admire Jane’s convictions, and want to be like her.  We hope that when things get difficult and there are tough decisions to be made,  we will do the right thing rather than the easy or convenient thing. That we will let our morals and values take precedence over personal gratification, and be able to walk away from adversity with head held high.

For those of you who are Janean novices, let me bring you up to speed.  Jane Eyre, who is abused and neglected most of her life, finally has a change of luck when she is hired as a governess at Thornfield Hall.  Here she meets Mr. Rochester, the master of the estate; they fall in love and plan to wed.  Alas, moments before they are to speak their vows, a complication arises which makes it impossible for them to marry.  And while Mr. Rochester implores Jane to come away with him anyway, arguing that no one will know they’re not married. Jane refuses.

“I will,” she says, “I will know.”

And here Mr. Rochester runs headlong into the “hitch in Jane’s character,” as he calls it, her unshakable sense of right and wrong.  Even though Jane knows she’ll break both  their hearts if she leaves, she cannot do otherwise and retain her self-respect. She flees temptation, and risks life and limb for her convictions.

Now while we admire Jane’s courage, we know that she is a fictional character and for her things will probably work out in the end. But in real life that doesn’t always happen. For us there is no guarantee of a happily ever after ending. Sometimes choosing the high road makes people mad at you. You may lose a job or find it takes much longer to achieve a goal.

It’s often hard to choose the right.  And frankly, to take a look at the newspaper headlines with their litany of rising crime rates, political scandal, corporate greed and terrorism, it’s easy to believe that no one bothers anymore.  Maybe integrity is just an outdated Victorian ideal; maybe it is every man for himself these days.

Maybe, but I tend to think not. Once you get past the headlines, you come to the real stories, the quieter tales that tell how real people lead their lives. One recent article told about a brilliant young woman who chose to postpone her college education in order to support her young siblings, and another told of a senior citizen who spent every waking hour collecting shoes and toys for a local shelter.

Everyday we read about soldiers who tear themselves from home and loved ones in order to serve their country. We hear of people who build homes for the homeless, bring hot meals to the elderly, and take medical relief to impoverished villages.  Volunteers help the handicapped, shelter abused women and children, and shovel mud out of strangers homes after  floods.

We admire people like this – people who do the right thing even when it isn’t easy or popular, even when it brings them little glory or recognition.  They have that hitch in their character, that unshakable sense of right and wrong, like Jane. And while many hope to someday be like Jane, we are grateful for those who already are.

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28 thoughts on “Why We Love Jane Eyre

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  2. You’ve picked one of my favorites. I may not entirely agree with Jane’s choices, but they are valid. She wasn’t a wimp. She was a strong, proud woman and there are too few characters of her ilk in life or literature. Good for you!!

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  5. I love the subject of your post though I’m more of a “Whuthering Heights” guy, also published in 1847 by Emily Brontë; Charlotte’s sister. 🙂
    From what I’ve seen, the youth are more soft hearted than others. I have seen with my own eyes teens volunteering in orphanages, elderly houses, food banks that transfer food to poor places, etc.. I saw those guys cleaning the toilets, sweeping the floors and mopping a 7 floors orphanage. I saw them teaching different subjects inside this orphanage for the poor kids in primary and preparatory schools. I even saw them formula feeding babies 6 months old. Absolutely I never felt more alive than in those days. Any one who wants to have true understanding of God and why He created us should really experience those acts even once in a life time.

    • I also love Wuthering Heights. have you ever seen the movie with Merle Oberon and Laurence Oliviar? It’s hard to say whos the better leading man, Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester. Mr. R is certainly more likable.
      As far a s the rest of your comment, I totally agree. Life is not worth living if you live only for yourself.

      • I think one of the reasons Jane Eyre is so popular as a book, is that it is another version of Cinderella, and who doesn’t enjoy the idea of a poor orphan being swept off her feet by an arrogant, handsome, dog-loving, fiery horseman? Especially as she gets the upper hand in the end. Oh yes, and he’s terribly wealthy and a bit of a bad boy. What’s not to like? The book was a bit daring in Victorian times, because it gave women the idea they could choose their own destiny, which was not something their menfolk liked, at all.

      • Well, I have always admired the passionate side of Heathcliff much more than that of Mr. R. and how he loved catherine. I still remember how Miss Ghada; my teacher in 2nd prep. used to depict his character when saying: “I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!” That was beautiful.
        As for Mr. Rochester, I think that I have always hated him because most girls including my older sister had some kind of soppy feelings for him. Maybe I’m a bit jealous ;-);)

      • Yes, Heathcliff was very romantic, but what about this – Mr. R:
        “I ask you to pass through life at my side—to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”
        Me: sigh.
        Don’t even get me started on quotes., but to be perfectly honest, Mr. Rochester was kind of wierd. That whole thing about pretending to be a Gypsy woman was creepy.

      • I thought that the Gypsy act was enjoyable 🙂
        Any way, speaking of novels having romance, mystry, and thriller; my most favorite is “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier.

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  11. Have you ever read “Eight Cousins” and “Rose in Bloom” by Louisa May Alcott? The characters of Charlie and Mac are good stereotypes of the bad boy and the good and steady one. The Charlies of the world may be debonaire, but I would much rather have someone like Mac by my side.

    • That’s what I can’t get over, how do you write with such feeling about something you’ve never experienced. Great imagination I guess. Actually I think Charlotte’s book , Shirley, was somewhat autobiographical, so whose to say what she experienced in her life.

  12. Well-written, interesting post. I fell in love with Jane and Mr. Rochester when I was fifteen thanks to my wonderful English teacher, Mrs. Simms. Thank you, Mrs. Simms, wherever you are.

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