Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

The last bit of Eyre I reviewed was the first part of two. I was unable to find the second part, so instead I went with another audio production, read by Flo Henderson. I don't recommend it. Flo Henderson makes Jane Eyre sound like a prim 55 year old instead of a vital and passionate eighteen year old.

The production aside, I loved hearing the story again. The love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester must be the most romantic in the history of literature. It's imbued with the sensibility of the original Romantics, the poetic and lonely souls who swooned over waterfalls and craggy hills and consumed Shelley and Byron.

Poor little Jane, who never had a family, resists her feelings for Mr. Rochester until he provokes her into a display of jealousy by pretending to plan a marriage with a beautiful young woman. "Your bride stands between us" she tells him when he asks her to marry him. And of course, it's true, because he's got a crazy wife locked up in the attic that she doesn't know about.

After Jane runs away from Thornfield, she finds refuge as the schoolmistress of a village school for working-class girls. Eventually she is liberated from her post by an inheritance. It is in these passages that there is the biggest difference from modern attitudes. Jane admits to feeling 'degraded' by her position, and must remind herself "that these coarsely-clad little peasants are of flesh and blood as good as the scions of gentlest genealogy; and that the germs of native excellence, refinement, intelligence, kind feeling, are as likely to exist in their hearts as in those of the best-born." (Here's where Flo starts sounding especially insufferable).

But I can forgive Jane anything as long as she resists the dubious charms of Mr. St. John, who wants to whisk her off to India. It's all about one of the best one-liners in the English language: "Reader, I married him."

ps - in the original text, Rhett Butler's parting words are "My dear, I don't give a damn." No 'Frankly'.

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