I am excited about today’s book title, because it’s one of my all time favorites! Written by Charlotte Bronte under the pen name Currer Bell, this is one novel that’s on nearly every must-read list of classics. While the BBC ranked this book at number 10 in their Big Read list in 2003, the reception at the time of its release was far from favorable, with one reviewer terming it ‘pre-eminently anti-Christian’. How the tables have turned!
Jane is not your usual heroine. At first glance, she doesn’t have anything going for her – she’s not pretty, she has no family, no wealth and is not exactly a bubbly personality. But what Jane does have makes up for the lack of the others – she’s STRONG. This strength manifests itself in many places in the book and it is made very clear that the hero is much weaker than her. Jane has not had a happy childhood, but rather than despair, she fights back at times and later, is optimistic about her future. She has a very strong moral compass and sticks by it even if it breaks her heart. She has a strong sense of independence and individuality. For instance, she’s very uncomfortable receiving expensive gifts from her rich fiancé; she’s much happier when she has her own money. This in 18th century England, when most women would do anything to snag a rich husband!
I like the way Charlotte Bronte has depicted religion in the book. All the characters are devout Christians – however, it is interesting to see how this influences each character’s personality. Mr. Brocklehurst thrusts his interpretation of the Bible on the poor students and makes them suffer. Helen Burns is almost saintly in her approach, not bearing hate or grudge in her heart, even toward her oppressors. Jane, however, appears to follow a middle path. Her moral compass and subsequent decisions are guided by her faith, but never does she impose them on others. Her decisions are her own, and she sticks to them, not finding it necessary to go into lengthy explanations for others’ benefit.
Despite her humble beginnings, Jane isn’t meek or submissive. But she isn’t outspoken or belligerent either. She’s honest, she craves love and affection, but not at the cost of doing wrong. Now tell me, isn’t this a true heroine for our times?