I've been on a rereading kick lately. Instead of picking up something new, I've been taking another shot at some old favorites.
I wouldn't say Jane Eyre was ever really a big favorite, per se. The last time I read it was in high school. Here's what I remember about it:
- the cover, which was one of those weird school-issued hardback in softcover proportions and which had an austere Whistler's Mother-esque portrait on it.
- disliking the first half of the book, but then getting really into it and - ultimately - liking it as a whole.
I wanted to give the book another read to see how I'd feel about it over a decade later.
I'm only about halfway through but, so far, I have to say I still think the first part (when Jane is in school) kinda drags. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that although Jane is supposed to be ten, she's speaking with an adult voice. I understand that she's meant to be reflecting back, sort of in a Kevin Arnold Wonder Years way, but I wonder if I would have felt more into it if it was really told from the perspective of a child.
I have gotten to "the good part" though. Jane is at the dark, grand and moor-surrounded Thornfield and the mysterious and moody Mr. Rochester has entered the scene. I just finished reading a chapter in which both Jane and Rochester pontificate heavily on their own unattractiveness, followed by their morose character flaws. Jane is invariably self-described as small, pale, thin, and drawn. Rochester's got a big old cranium and a unibrow. Or something like that.
If this book had a 2011 soundtrack, it'd totally be all My Chemical Romance and Thirty Seconds to Mars.
But anyway, the point is, it seems Charlotte Bronte went out of her way to make sure we knew that neither her heroine nor her hero were attractive - or, at least, not conventionally so. I'm sure this has a lot to do with the novels that were being produced in her time (or any time really), especially romances, which featured only great beauties and handsome gentlemen. You gotta give her credit for reminding us that "plain people" have stories too.
Of course, throughout the course of the novel, it becomes universally apparent that both Jane and Rochester are anything but plain - no matter how much Jane would like to insist otherwise. Oh, Jane. The She's All That ugly/pretty girl of her time.