The title character of this novel is unusual, indeed, extremely rare - Marian Halcombe in The Woman in White is the only other such romantic literary heroine I can think of - in that she is not physically attractive. She has neither looks nor fortune. Most romantic heroines have the former but not the latter. It is Jane's character alone that the hero falls in love with. It is clear from the writing that Charlotte herself was unattractive and painfully aware of it. Strangely, the reading public have been unable to accept this, the very element of the book that makes it a perfect romance. The portrait of Charlotte that is most often reproduced is an idealized effort that makes her look beautiful. And whenever a screen adaptation is made of the book, the actress playing Jane is always beautiful. This reduces the theme to that of a rich man falling for a pretty servant girl. As always with classic literature, if you have only seen the movie, you emphatically do not know the book.
My first Bronte novel was Emily's Wuthering Heights, which I found very disappointing, with its heavy-breathing masochistic melodrama. But sister Charlotte is a writer of a very different caliber. From the first few pages, the reader knows they are in the hands of a great artist. The heartrending portrait of childhood with which the story opens is based on the author's own experiences, and it shows.
The book is not without flaws. The latter stages of the plot are carried along by a series of totally incredible coincidences and there is rather more Victorian melodrama than most modern readers would care for. But it remains, with its Plain-Jane heroine and its unlikely hero (in the end, he satisfies none of the conventional requirements of a romantic hero) the perfect romance. Never was the power of love more satisfyingly expressed.
Spoiler Alert: Plot elements were used Victorian England, setting of many popular works of fictional literature, was a complex world with many issues, traditions, assumptions, and moral values. Portraying a fictional character that does not live in accord with this rigid setting intrinsically highlights the culture of this society. In Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre, the protagonist of the same name is such character – one who sharply contrasts with … more
This was a very enjoyable book. I'm not sure it quite lived up to all the hype about it, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. It was very touching and moving, something I still like to read it again every once in a while.