Jane Eyre is not a piece of literature I would read on my own. After pouring through its pages, digesting its material and contemplating its overall themes, I can say with certainty that I did not dislike the book. Yet Charlotte Bronte’s eminent work is certainly not a text I would have ever engaged in without prompting for class. The emotions I feel towards this book are difficult to coherently express. Essentially, Jane Eyre, like Wuthering Heights or any of Jane Austen’s works, are a stark departure from any writing which I happily consume. However, I do not regret the time I spent with the book, and I have left it with gripes as well as rewards.
Bronte’s work is a long, continuing, seemingly infinite hunk of literature. There were many nights where I sat on my bed and attempted to speed-read (at which I struggled) in an attempt to meet the reading deadline. I narrowly finished the novel, but not before its walls upon walls of text effectively marred my attitude towards it. If I had to proclaim my one single issue with Jane Eyre, it is length, with numerous instances of a plodding pace and unnecessary passages. In many ways, Bronte establishes a fairly strong atmosphere and competent verisimilitude with the amount of description and accounts which she provides. At the end of the day, though, how much do I really care about Adele’s preparedness for a party or the current state of affairs in Whitown? The answer: very little. But that is, of course, my opinion.
I suppose one of the main factors which draw the length of the novel to such an extent is Jane’s first-person perspective and her incessant interior monologues. Do not misunderstand me: I am fine with Jane reflecting and thinking about her experiences during the plot. However, Bronte writes Jane’s thoughts as in-depth inquiries into the most miniscule and unimportant of subjects. An example follows: “whereas, I distinctly behold his figure, and I inevitably recall the moment when I last saw it; just after I had rendered him, what he deemed, an essential service, and he, holding my hand, looking down on my face, surveyed me with eyes that revealed a heart full and eager to overflow; in whose emotions I had a part.” (Bronte 128) That is some quite lovely prose, sure. Yet I, as a teenage male who rarely entertains such thoughts or considerations as those expressed by Jane throughout the book, have quite a conflict with it. Certainly, I may be sexist or cynical or both in this opinion. But when asking myself why progression within Jane Eyre was so sluggish, I continually came back to a conclusion of intensely feminine monologues and subject matter.
In some passages, Bronte writes a fair amount of inner thought before finishing with a mundane and commonplace action. Jane “lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house…” (Bronte 86). Such thought continues for a time. Finally, at the end of the dreary paragraph, Jane “opened a side-door, and went in.”
I suppose I keep getting tripped up at how Bronte’s writing seems to compound its effects over time. Though I am having difficulty expressing just how unnecessary portions of Jane Eyre’s passages are, I affirm my statement with certainty. Bits and pieces of text over the prolonged course of Bronte’s work, occasional observations of Mr. Rochester’s “raven black” hair, and Jane’s espousing of personal philosophy and dogma all combine into an unwieldy reading experience.
I was definitely engaged at times by the text. I came away from Jane Eyre pleased. I had received a hearty dosage of Bronte writing, with moody environments and emotional characters. I had experienced an interesting social circumstance, though one which I have difficulty relating to (the life of a nineteenth-century governess). The romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester, of all things within the text, kept me reading and mentally occupied. The dynamic of their relationship, their interactions and conversations, provided the greatest amount of enjoyment for me. With the ending pages of the book, I left Jane Eyre on a positive note, happy to have seen such an extensive, if not arduous, piece of literature to the end.