For my pennyworth, Jane Eyre undeniably deserves its accolade of classic. A hundred and sixty-seven years after publication it remains a page turner - and I knew the story too! The book certainly caused this reader to get a telling off from his life partner for reading too late, and several times I was caught reading shortly after waking and before breakfast. Jane Eyre remains one of the nation’s favourite books; it is still widely read, a state of play I can’t imagine altering for many decades to come. In 2003 it came tenth in the BBCs national poll The Big Read - pretty impressive when you consider the breadth of English literature.
The book is narrated in the first person and the story follows the life of its titular main character from early childhood through to maturity. The novel incorporates many romantic and Gothic themes and has an erotic element that must have brought more than a little heat to the cheeks and caused a fair number of sighs amongst its Victorian readers. Its strong-minded heroine possesses and develops her own moral code throughout the book and does not readily bow to either convention or dogma. She rejects the Christian hypocrisy of Reverend Brocklehurst, the icy cold Christian asceticism and search for martyrdom of St John Rivers, and until he has atoned and been purged of his former ‘sins’, resists and rejects the physical love promised by the Byronesque character of Edward Rochester.
This novel was revolutionary when it first hit the bookshelves back in 1847. I’m sure there are many people who might choose to linger and labour over its plot deficiencies and failings, but this isn’t for me. I have never understood why those who discover only pain and misery between the pages of a book, still resolutely and doggedly pursue reading it all the way to the bitter end - then award it one star - what is this, revenge? The book most certainly has some flaws, yet for all this, it is still great reading.
I think I’m going to spend the next few months catching up on a few more of the literary classics I’ve so far missed out on reading in my journey along life’s highways and byways. A daily dose of first division literature seems to be just the ticket and complements very well the physical work I’m engaged in at the moment. Incidentally, reading this text on the Kindle device was definitely a pleasurable experience, because often these English classics come in books containing very small print. I am now officially a fan of e-readers!