And we’re done! I’m happy to say that Jane Eyre remains one of my favorite books. In fact, I probably liked it more on a second reading.
I was surprised by how much I had forgotten about this section of the book. I remembered that Jane runs away, finds some people who end up to be her cousins, and almost goes to India with St. John. I remembered St. John as a much nicer character though. In my head, he was a bit strict and uptight, but also caring and a bit more understanding. The real St. John was unrelenting, cold, and judgmental. Quite honestly, I don’t know how Jane put up with him so long. Living under the scrutiny, guilt trips, and impossibly high moral standards would wear me out very quickly. I cheered a bit when Jane told St. John she scorned his idea of love.
Jane realizes that marriage with St. John would be a very bad idea. Thanks to some psychic communication of some sort, Jane ends up back with Rochester. And thanks to a several very convenient occurrences, Jane has inherited money from a long-lost relative, found family via the same long-lost relative (a least good female cousins), and Rochester has found himself able to marry again due to the death of his first wife in a fire she started herself. I had to laugh a bit at Jane’s reaction to gaining a fortune:
One does not jump, and spring, and shout hurrah! at hearing one has got a fortune; one begins to consider responsibilities, and to ponder business; on a base of steady satisfaction rise certain grave cares, and we contain ourselves, and brood over our bliss with a solemn brow.
Jane would certainly make an unusual lottery winner, would she not? Most tellingly, Jane is much more excited by acquiring family (via Diana, Mary, and St. John) than wealth. This is what Jane has truly been lacking her entire life.
It may be of no moment to you; you have sisters and don’t care for a cousin; but I had nobody; and now three relations…are born into my world full-grown. I say again, I am glad!
In previous parts of the book, I mentioned how the relationship between Jane and Rochester makes me a bit uncomfortable at times. Once Jane and Rochester are reunited, I’m much more comfortable with them together. In fact, I’m fully in the Jane-Rochester camp, because they come to it as equals. Jane is not dependent upon him for employment, money, or her sole source of companionship. She has the means to support herself and has family and friends outside of Thornfield/Ferndean. More tellingly, she’s not holding him at a distance this time. Reader, she married him.
Want More Jane Eyre?
While I had only read Jane Eyre once prior to this, I’ve read several other novels that involve Jane Eyre, all of them very different. If you just can’t get enough of Jane, check one of these out!
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
I’ll be honest. I remember maybe 5% of this book. I read it in an AP English lit class, possibly as an example of postcolonial literature. I was unused to the style of writing and had not read Jane Eyre, so the book made very little sense to me. It’s pretty short, and college gave me an appreciation for postcolonial lit, so I have it sitting on my bookshelf to be revisited. Wide Sargasso Sea is a prequel/parallel to Jane Eyre–it tells the story of Bertha Mason (name Antoinette Cosway in WSS) up to her marriage with Rochester, humanizing the woman who otherwise serves as a plot device locked up in an attic.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a recently published book that retells the story of Jane Eyre in 1960s Scotland. For the first part of the book, Livesey stays very close to Jane Eyre. I enjoyed finding the connections at first, although it got a bit old and forced in the middle. Gemma becomes an au pair in the Orkney Islands where she falls in love with her employer, Mr. Sinclair. The age difference between them is maintained–and it does not work quite as well in the 1960s.
I loved Gemma just as much as I love Jane, and my favorite parts were when Livesey wasn’t trying as hard to replicate Jane Eyre and told Gemma’s story instead. At the end, the novel takes Gemma into Iceland to discover her family history and herself. Also, Livesey does such a beautiful job of describing landscapes and the feelings that different places in Scotland and Iceland evoke throughout the book, I was ready to hop on a plane at the end to see them for myself.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
How does one describe the Thursday Next series? If you like off-the-wall humor, more literary references than you can count, comic fantasy, or book and grammar jokes, you should check out this series. Basically, the series is set in an alternate universe where the Crimean War is still going on, people have dodo birds for pets, and it’s possible for a few people to read their way into the world of books and interact with the characters. Thursday is a literary detective for SpecOps in the outside world initially, and ends up being a literary detective within the BookWorld (with Miss Havisham as a mentor) in future books. In The Eyre Affair, the villain, Acheron Hades, kidnaps Jane Eyre from her book. This is particularly troublesome because the story is told in first-person, which means the BookWorld can’t just get any old character to stand in for her. Thursday has to figure out how to enter the novel and stop Acheron. It’s great, and the following novels are even better!
This post is part of the Septemb-Eyre Read-Along hosted on Entomology of a Bookworm. Be sure to check out what other bloggers had to say, and an extra special thanks to Kerry for hosting the readalong!