Sunday, 25 September 2016

Thoughts on Re-reading Jane Eyre


With what high sounding words did the characters express love! It almost makes one choose to do likewise after several hours of reading this piece of literature from yesteryear.

Behold, for example, these impassioned words spoken by Mr. Rochester to our little Jane, the first words that revealed his tenderer feelings for her, the night she saved him from being burnt in his bed by his SPOILER ALERT mad wife.

"I knew," he continued, "you would do me good in some way, at some time;-- I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their expression and smile did not"- (again he stopped)- "did not" (he proceeded hastily "strike delight to my very inmost heart so for nothing. People talk of natural sympathies; I have heard of good genii: there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My cherished preserver, goodnight!"

Let's put that in simpler modern-day English.

"I thought love was only true in fairytales, meant for someone else but not for me. Then I saw your face, now I'm a believer! Not a trace of doubt in my mind. I'm in love, I'm a believer!'

Guys, looking for words to express your love? Give it a try- "Your expression and smile struck delight to my very inmost heart!"


Well before the day of hookups and make out sessions, Mr. Rochester and Jane showed us that hand-holding can be very romantic, and an even thrilling encounter. No casual hand-holding for them! (Or me.) No stray kisses before love was committed. Physical contact meant a lot.

He held out his hand; I gave him mine: he took it first in one, then in both his own.


Morality and an awareness of God, a desire to do what is right in the eyes of God was a major turning point in the novel, not something you would expect from most literature today, except third rate horribly written Christian romance novels. I can't imagine most people agreeing that Jane made the right decision, SPOILER ALERT denying herself the joy of loving and being loved and fleeing Mr. Rochester when she found he had a mad wife.

Her inner struggle was fascinating to me, because she was tempted for sure, but I love the point where she says, "I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, not mad- as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual conscience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth- so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane- quite insane; with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot."

Wow. In the age of 'if it feels good, do it', who has that kind of inner strength? And yet her struggle has been experienced by us all at some point. If my God allows me to do what I want when I want and how I want it, and never demands of me anything hard, then my god is ME and my selfish whims.


But of course, as I often do when I get engrossed in fictional stories of unhappy marriages, I ask myself like any good Catholic INTJ would- 'Would he have grounds for an annulment?' And I breathe a sigh of relief when I realize that in this case, there are the clearest grounds for annulment I've ever read. He was pressured into this marriage, information about the mental health (not to mention age) of his prospective wife was hidden from him, he was told that his mentally ill mother in law was dead.. I'm no canon lawyer, but that does NOT sound like a valid marriage. Phew!

(Just FYI, as a Catholic I believe that if a couple freely make a lifetime commitment to each other, they are in fact bound for a lifetime to each other. An annulment is not a 'Catholic divorce', but a marriage being declared invalid (that it was never a real marriage) because there was some element missing when the vows were made- like one or both were forced into the marriage, some important information was hidden, one or both did not really plan to be open to children, etc.)


As I read Jane Eyre, I was reminded that the details of attraction and falling in love don't really change from culture to culture, and age to age. There is the acute awareness of where the other person is placed in a room at any given moment, there is observation of the other person's every passing mood, and inferences made in one's mind about the why and wherefore of every fleeting expression, there is a strong resolution not to make it obvious that one is observing, especially if one is not assured of the other person's affections, there is much pondering and reflecting on the character of the other person, there is pleasure taken in the smallest sign of affection, as there is in knowing that one has the power to make this beloved happy. Amirite? (Or is this just INTJ romance?)


And although there is much that is easy to identify with, the dramatic elements of Jane Eyre are hysterical. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS, A mad wife! Who laughs maniacally, and attacks, and bites, and drinks the blood of the one she bites. The madwoman ripping the veil in half the night before her husband is supposed to be married to another. A wedding stopped at exactly the point where the priest says "If any of you has reasons why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace" (well, the fancier version of those words). The mansion being burned down. Supernatural communications between lovers. So dramatic, and yet so enjoyable.

Okay, I'm done.

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