Jane Eyre Discussion Part 1: The Novel

It’s time for some book chat. I’ve wanted to write about Jane Eyre for such a long time now. I love this novel so much. I do hope that you will all indulge me as I first discuss the novel, and then in a future post while I write about my favourite screen adaptation of this classic love story.

For anyone out there who doesn’t know the story, here is a brief plot description. Jane Eyre is an orphan, who is left to be raised by her cruel aunt. Jane is sent to a boarding school that is so bad it is more like a prison. Jane overcomes her childhood horrors and becomes a governess. She is appointed governess to Adele, the young ward of Mr. Edward Rochester, the mysterious master of Thornfield Hall. Rochester falls in love with Jane and does all in his power to make her fall for him in return. Secrets and heartbreak await within the next pages.

Jane Eyre  (hereafter written as JE) was written by Charlotte Bronte, and was published in 1847. Charlotte Bronte and her sisters, Anne and Emily, wrote a small number of novels which continue to enthrall readers more than a century after they were published.  JE in particular remains a beloved and much discussed classic novel.

Why though does this story continue to delight readers today? Why is there still such an interest in this novel?

I think it remains so popular because it is all about finding your soulmate. Jane and Rochester each find that special someone and they become so close it’s like they are one being. Even today we are still desperate to have a person like that in our lives, all desperate to be loved and to be accepted for who we are.

I’m sure it is also so frequently discussed because there is so much within it that is still worthy of discussion and debate. It deals with child abuse, with treatment of the mentally ill, with loneliness and despair. The novel also has lots of details within it about what life at the time the novel was written was like.

The relationship between Rochester and Jane is very interesting too. Rochester plays with Jane’s emotions, he goes after what he wants (her as his love and salvation)and awakens her heart, desires, and passions. Their connection is a genuine one, and even though it’s partly brought about through his control of the situation, their connection isn’t there just because of his control over their situation.

JE also shows us that true love is not about looks and sex, but about two souls and minds connecting. It lets us see that people should marry for love, not for money, or so that they can bring two estates together. I think that so many of the themes and issues in this novel are still relevant in our world today.

I first read JE in my early teens and instantly fell in love with it. It has become a firm favourite, and it is a novel I can read again, and again and never get bored with. I connect with the lonely, damaged and passionate Jane. I pity and adore the brooding and desperate Rochester. I pity the extremely ill Bertha. I love the time taken to develop the relationship between Jane and Rochester. I smile at the antics of the adorable Adele, and of the loyal Mrs. Fairfax. I hate the selfish Blanche. I want to slap the evil and hypocritical Mr. Brocklehurst(what a loathsome creature he is!)I really feel the growing affection, friendship and romantic attachment between Jane and Rochester.


A photo of my copy of the book.

I also love this book for the old language. There are many words, objects and phrases etc that I was unfamiliar with before reading the novel. Their inclusion in the novel lead me to go and research what they meant. There are some great words in it that you never hear used anymore, words such as physiognomy for example.

In so many screen adaptations of JE, these old words and ways of speaking are not present, I think that’s a real shame as it’s not being true to the novel, or to the time period it is set in. My favourite screen adaptation retains the novels historical language though, something for which I will always be grateful.

If you have never read or watched Jane Eyre, please don’t read any further. Massive spoilers ahead!

Bronte’s novel gives us a window into her time, and she also gives us a heroine who stays true to her principles and who is a strong, passionate and independent woman. Jane suffered unspeakable cruelty and injustice in her childhood, however she did not let that break or define her when she became an adult.

Jane is admirable for being able to move above and past the horrors of her childhood. She is a shy, gentle and passionate woman who wants to be accepted for her mind and soul, not for money or appearance. Society (even today)places too much importance on looks and status, it is the person inside and our actions that should count most in this world. This novel tackles these issues at a time when they were of paramount importance to all who lived.

The character best remembered from this story by most people is the brooding master of Thornfield Hall, one Mr. Edward Rochester. Like Jane, Rochester also had a deeply unhappy childhood, and now he wants true love and contentment more than anything else in this world. Despite his marriage to Bertha, Rochester wants Jane, he needs her and wants (and deserves)his own happiness too. Rochester loves Jane and also sees her as his salvation from the awful situation he has found himself trapped within. Some will judge him harshly for wanting to marry a woman despite already being married. 

I on the other hand don’t hate Rochester for that, on the contrary, I pity him and respect him. We see he was not cruel to Bertha and he looked after her very well. He could have just shipped her off to the nearest asylum and dumped her there but he didn’t. Between him and Grace caring for her she was well looked after, and she was treated with compassion and as much dignity as was possible in the time period. She was not mistreated or ridiculed. 

At the asylum Bertha no doubt would have been badly treated and been scared. So he gets all my respect for keeping her at home. Secondly, Bertha was raving mad and  Rochester was told nothing of this when his marriage to her was arranged. How would you react and feel if you were him in such a situation? He lives a pretty depressing life for years until the kind, pure and fresh Jane comes into his life. Here is the wife he should have had long ago.

I see no problem with him taking Jane as his wife because why should he remain married to someone who isn’t even aware of his existence? At least he didn’t try and take Jane as his mistress, he was all set to marry her until Mason showed up and ruined everything. I’m pretty shocked that you couldn’t divorce due to mental illness in those days. I understand the “in sickness and in health”vow, but I think that should only apply if something develops during the marriage. Bertha on the other hand had a pre-existing mental illness that was deliberately kept from Rochester by her family. Rochester quickly discovered the truth shortly after the marriage. Why should he have to stay married in that instance? Plus Bertha’s condition was never going to improve and she was totally insane. 

I’m in two minds about Jane’s reaction when she learns the truth about Bertha. I get that her religious and moral convictions made her think that she had no choice but to leave and not stay and marry Rochester. On the other hand why couldn’t she see what I said earlier? It’s not like he was cheating on his wife, she was his wife in name only anyway, because they were not intimate either emotionally or physically. So where is the harm in Jane staying with him?

I’ve read this again recently and picked up on something I never noticed before. It seems like Jane only gives herself one hundred percent to Rochester when he is no longer in control of their situation. At the end he is a blind cripple, he no longer has any dominance in their relationship. He had experience in making love and in matters of the heart, and he played with Jane early in the story due to her inexperience in these things.

At the end he cannot see her reactions to say a kiss they share, or how she reacts on their wedding night the first time they make love. To me it’s like she didn’t like to be seen (at times) and now he can’t see her she comes to him. He can no longer be in control of their intimate moments the way he is at the end ( I know later he regains his full sight in one eye.) This doesn’t take anything away from this romantic story, but it does add an  interesting aspect to think about. Has anyone else noticed this?

In short, JE is a novel that I never get bored of returning to. It’s well written, descriptive, vivid and it moves me so much. Bronte’s characters are as interesting and alive today as they were when they first appeared in 1847.

In my next post I will share my favourite screen adaptation of the novel.

What are your thoughts on the novel? I welcome you comments and thoughts on my observations and views of Bronte’s story. Please leave your comments below.






16 thoughts on “Jane Eyre Discussion Part 1: The Novel

  1. Katrina Morrison

    Hi Maddy
    You should get a lot of responses about this topic. 😊 This book, and movies, was my favorite romantic story for years. The book portrayed their characters more realistically and I think lighter too then the film versions do. Rodchester is the Alpha male who knows what he wants and will take it and the rest of the world can be damn.
    He lied and would have married Jane under a falsehood. It was wrong.
    I was glad he suffered when she left him. I just wish she had not suffered so too. Deceitfulness is a major theme as a well as love throughout this story. Jane is accused of being a liar, her Aunt lies about her and confesses to her on her deathbed, and Brockahurst is a liar too.
    Jane’s life has been a misery due to lies and yet she in falls in love with a man who she trusts and whose lies hurt her the most. The fact she still loved the liar, proved the adage that love conquers all.
    I love ill always love this Bronte story because as you mentioned before, it covers so many themes ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. maddylovesherclassicfilms Post author

      Hey Katrina. I’m looking forward to the responses on this one. You are right, it seems like she is surrounded by liars throughout the novel. Rochester also is, in that he was never told about Bertha. Blanche also lies making out that she loves him, when she only wants his money and status. Jane and Rochester are like two halves of the same soul, both damaged, gentle souls who want to be loved for themselves. They had quite a rocky road to travel, but in the end they found happiness with one another. You are spot on about love conquering all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thoughtsallsorts

        Ah Maddy…it is stunning…I couldn’t pick up another book for at least 2 weeks because I felt like a traitor reading anything else. If you do get to it, just persevere past page 60 or so, thereafter you won’t manage to put it down. I couldn’t even stop the day of my 10th wedding anniversary…that’s how good it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Brian Lageose

    This was one of my first favorite “classics”, so I’m quite please that you focused on it today. It appears that we both enjoy the book for many of the same reasons. Trivia: In the 8th grade, we had to do projects based on the books we had been assigned in Literature class. I chose one wherein I had to rewrite the book (understandably condensed somewhat) in the form of Jane’s personal diary. It was a challenge, but it was great fun…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dbmoviesblog

    This was a great read, and I agree with your thoughts and feelings on this one. For me, I like that kind of a “mind” game going on between Jane and Rochester, the way Rochester thinks he can see through Jane, and for Jane sometimes Rochester is a bit of a mystery. Very romantic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. maddylovesherclassicfilms Post author

      Thanks! I love the mind games he plays with her too,and in a way with those games he is teaching her all about love. There is jealousy and desire as well as hand holding and smiles. I love when he says “You never felt jealousy did you, Miss Eyre? Of course not, you never felt love” That about sums it all up LOL. I can reread or rewatch all the scenes between Rochester and Jane and still be moved and fascinated by their conversations and situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. keptbychrist

    I may lean towards the side about judging Mr.Rochester harshly lol. I’ve actually started rereading Jane Eyre and I’m up to the part where she is contemplating what to do next because she has grown tired of her routine life at Lowood. I really appreciate how we are carried through her thought process but the moment she decides to advertise, I find myself mentally yelling, “No, no don’t do it!” She seemed so excited to find opportunity out there.
    A question came to my mind: Do you think Mr. Rochester hired a governess with the intention of winning any young woman’s affection? Jane is very intelligent women but is very naive to the world around her. All she knows is what is enclosed in Lowood: rules, duties, the same faces. She’s never related to any man before Rochester. He seems like a lonely man who’s seen a lot in his life perhaps her naivety is what draws him even further to Jane. These are just my initial thoughts, I have yet to continue reading and change my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. keptbychrist

    I’ve also heard that Mr. Rochester regaining his sight at the end kind of leaves us with the curiosity of what happens when he does gain his sight, will be gain power over her? I find it interesting that you pose that question.


  6. charreysblog

    I love this book very much….
    I especially like the transition that Jane undergoes and the whole boarding school experience for her…😃
    My best part, however, is where Jane decides to go to Rochester and she assures him of her love. The part that goes, “you are green and full of life….” I can’t remember that very well but I remember that it’s a wonderful book…. a keeper!

    Liked by 1 person


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