• Ryanne Harper

Jane Eyre - a story of empowerment. Or not.


This may be a wildly unpopular opinion, but I found Jane Eyre, the book and the character, intolerable.

Last Friday, I saw a short clip of someone talking about Jane Eyre and she referred to it as a novel all about female empowerment and she gushed about how much she loves the book. It's totally fine to like the book, everyone has different tastes. But, female empowerment? I'm not really seeing it. This quote>,

which I really like, doesn't jive with the Jane we know. She doesn't really make any decisions about her own life.

A brief synopsis:

Jane is forced to live with her aunt who is horrible. She's then shipped off to a school where, again, everyone is horrible. She managed to make one friend in the wretched place, but the friend almost immediately died. Jane then decided she'd try her hand at being a governess. Long story short, she ends up falling for her boss. Also, this whole time, a lot of weird things kept happening in the house. Jane heard maniacal laughter, there was a small fire in Rochester's chambers, and a house guest was stabbed. Despite all the weirdness, Rochester proposed and Jane accepted. At the wedding, a random man shows up and declared Rochester couldn't marry Jane because he was already married to this man's sister, Bertha, who is "crazy" . More on her later. Jane, overcome with embarrassment, fled. I haven't a clue why she's embarrassed. She's outside the grounds for all of thirty minutes before she tried selling all her things and lies down to, presumably, die. Girl, Rochester and fam don't even know you left; just go home. Anyway, she is, of course, found by some nice folks and taken in. They turned out to be her cousins. She inherited some money from a distant relative and, finally able to do as she pleased, returned to find Rochester. Turns out, his "crazy" wife got mad, burned the house down, and killed herself. Rochester was blinded and lost an arm in the process. He and Jane wed and have a kid. The end.

So, I'm struggling to find the part where Jane was actually empowered. I find Jane to be completely helpless for the most part. It isn't her fault; it's just her reality.

Really, the only character I like in the entire story is Bertha, the "crazy" wife. I'd like to argue that she is, in fact, not crazy at all. Rochester bought her, brought her home, and kept her locked in the attic. She wasn't crazy, she was mad and probably had a severe vitamin D deficiency. Perhaps, this is just an idea, if Rochester let her out of the attic, she would have stopped trying to set him on fire. Also, if you are going to keep an attic prisoner, maybe secure your attic. She escaped a lot. And then there's her brother. He did nothing to help her and, when he did finally show up, the intent was to embarrass Rochester and keep his family from being embarrassed. There's a lot of embarrassment in this book.

I see what Bronte is doing. She's using Jane and Bertha to illustrate the problems women faced. I just feel like the story, and Jane, fell a little flat.


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