This review contains spoilers.
This is a story well ahead of its time which is what I enjoyed the most about this book. As an orphaned child, Jane felt like an outcast her whole young life. Despite that, she grew into a strong and independent woman with principles of how she wants to live her life.
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need to exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute stagnations, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings, and knitting stockings (…). It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex”.
Here it is, a 19th century feminist in the making. Once again Bronte does not disappoint and challenges the norms of the age. Other very important themes of the novel are class conflict and gender differences. She is treated poorly by her relatives she lives with: “You have no business to take our books; you are a dependant, mamma says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentleman’s children like us . . . “ She spent her teenage years at Lowood, a school she was advised to go. This chapter of her life starts the progress of her journey to self-knowledge and independence. Reading, creativity and education are essential to her growth.
After six years of being a student at Lowood, she stayed there for additional two years as a teacher but soon enough she finds herself in need for a new challenge. She found a post as governess at Thornfield where she meet Edward Rochester and his ward Adele whom she supposed to teach. After a while, new challenges come her way; she falls in love with Rochester and again Bronte present the reader with the class conflict: “Gentlemen in his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses.”
Throughout the whole novel, Jane maintains her self-worth. She does not let love stop her from doing everything that is important to her. Eventually Rochester proposes to Jane but shortly before the wedding Jane discovers Rochester’s secret that changes everything. Jane learns that he is already married to someone else and the idea of becoming his mistress was not something she signed up for. She rejected the marriage proposal and moved away from Thornfield.
Her determination and integrity is truly inspiring. She moved on to work on her art and to teach. She did it all by herself without anyone to support her which was very impressive at that age. At the end, Jane married Rochester which was surprising but it was not a sign of weakness. Jane accomplished what she wanted and it was her choice to get back with a man she loves.
Finally, it was a good novel overall. Bronte explored very important and controversial topics for the 19th century. The only criticism I have is that the action developed quite slow and the description of landscapes and scenery was too long which was slightly repetitive at times.