Orphaned Jane Eyre grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, where she endures loneliness and cruelty, and at a charity school with a harsh regime. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane’s natural independence and spirit – which prove necessary when she finds a position as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him and live with the consequences, or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving the man she loves?
Jane Eyre was the first “grown-up” book I read. I must have been about eleven, when I discovered I could read adult books. I loved the book and reread it regularly through my teens and still read it occasionally. I think Jane Eyre is an ideal book for teenage girls. I identified with the heroine, as did Charlotte Bronte. Like Jane I felt unattractive and awkward in society. I admired her resilience and spirit and I was delighted when Rochester expressed his love for her. My love of the book was reenforced by an excellent BBC TV series starring Sorcha Cusack in the title role and Michael Jayston as Rochester. It was shown in the early evening on Sundays, and I was always worried that I would not get back from rehearsals at the Arts Centre, but I didn’t miss any of it. It was only later that I discovered that Elizabeth Webster, the director, was also a fan and so stopped rehearsals with time to spare. Michael Jayston was the ideal Rochester, not particularly handsome but with the sexiest voice! He was my first crush.
Now that I am mature woman I find new depths in the book. The psychology of the book is spot-on. What is it that attracts a rich man of the world like Rochester to the plain inexperienced Jane? He has been surrounded by women who flatter him because he is rich, Jane is totally unlike them, she speaks the truth. He does not know what to make of her and wants to know more. But there is more than unfamiliarity – on the surface Jane is reserved, but underneath she is capable of passion. In the second scene between them Rochester examines Jane’s weird paintings in which her imagination takes her to the northern seas. How like the book’s writer: her imagination escaping the restrictions of her life?
The Jane Eyre plot is a classic Cinderella/ugly duckling story. There are only so many plots and this is one of the most common. It is a plot that I have used in my trilogy The Healer’s Shadowtrilogy. Some people say that Jane Eyre is a Cinderella meets Bluebeard plot, but they are wrong. Bluebeard is a psychopath that destroys the female, Rochester may have a first wife in a tower, but she is alive, as Jane discovers to her cost.