Jane Eyre is a five-part bildungsroman of the female protagonist, Jane Eyre that left its readers wonderstruck in the year 1847 and till today. This was the era when the Novel became an extremely popular and emerging genre more so because it reflected the life of the ordinary. What sets aside Jane Eyre from the rest of the classics is the use of the first person narrative which plays a major role in making this huge case study very engaging, to instantly take you captive. Jane Eyre grasps the reader and gives her enough liberty to feel with Jane, think with Jane at multiple places in the novel while at the same time waiting for Jane to unfold her response to the stimuli.
There’s an ongoing chain of impediments that question the little, naive and orphaned Jane right from her days at Gateshead. Perhaps the heaviness of the plot brings Jane to the crossroad where we see her balancing between her rationale and her emotions. A very small instance of the Red Room becomes so important to outline and reveal the psychology of a 9 year old female child who is constantly struggling to establish a stable sense of identity.
“The room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because remote from the nursery and kitchens; solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered.”
It not only seems very personal to any reader at all because of the engulfing ‘I’ but also because of a unique use of vocabulary by Charlotte Brontë.The gothic imagery of “the madwoman in the attic” is hinted at in the Red Room episode and again revisited at Thornfield, a certain stereotype Jane tries to deflate. There’s despair, frustration, anger, eerie, loss and a whirlpool of crisis. But in all her troubles, one wouldn’t catch Jane in her loneliness. Jane is troubled for no fault of her own and is shifted to the brink of the society. In the words of Plath,
“the peanut-crunching crowd” yet again challenges the will of “the freak”. There’s something heroic about an ordinary character as Jane Eyre. It’s not just a case study or a lengthy journal but it’s also a narrative of revolution, not only on the grounds of feminism or a well written romance but a lot more, in all that comes along when a woman engages with the society.
It’s true that a novel written in Victorian period was way ahead of its times, and we see a woman who fights and decides for herself. She grows and learns and becomes one with the society she left with a baggage. Though I believe there are ways to view Jane Eyre’s ending as one that declares Jane victorious and independent and one that is conservative where all her struggles suddenly mean nothing as she makes peace with the gentry.
“Reader, I married him”, is perhaps the most popular phrase from Jane Eyre flung all around the internet. Yes, it does seem powerful and on a huge level, it is. Jane makes her choice whether it comes to Romance, her living etc and doesn’t await to be guided by the men around her. But at the same time, Jane isn’t the decision-maker of the options available to her. She is left to make a choice between St.John and Rochester. It is almost a given, without any hopes of a third alternative. Jane loves and gets loved by Rochester but once she is mistreated by him, she leaves only to come back and be a wife or a mistress of the vegetated Rochester. The relationship between the two continues to be conflicting even after she forgives him and decides to marry him. At the end, we see the growth of Jane into a wise, assertive and powerful woman but perhaps also someone who makes the best of what is ‘available’ to her.