GUEST POST – Surly Joe
SYNOPSIS – Jane comes from nothing but she desires everything life can offer her. And when she finds work as a governess in a mysterious mansion, it seems she has finally met her match with the darkly fascinating Mr Rochester. But Thornfield Hall contains a shameful secret – one that could keep Jane and Rochester apart forever. Can she choose between what is right, and her one chance of happiness?
Let’s start with the blatantly obvious. Jane Eyre is a classic. Received warmly and immediately successful when it was first published in 1847, Charlotte Bronte’s novel has been read, studied and appreciated by millions ever since. The story is simple yet always engaging, the language is detailed and flowery, typical of nineteenth century English literature, however never daunting or overblown. For a book of almost five hundred pages, it is a surprisingly quick read.
This is not what makes it a classic. Jane Eyre, the character, is why it is a classic. She is a rebel with principles. She is a feminist. She is a survivor. In the 1920s, she would have been a flapper. In the 1970s, she would have been a punk. Not a sniveling, dirty, randomly-destructive punk. An innovative, creative, anti-establishment punk. She would have hung out with Vivienne Westwood and Patti Smith and lived her life her way.
“I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”― Charlotte Brontë,
Right from the earliest pages, when Jane is a child orphan living in an abusive environment with extended family who think they are doing her a favour by keeping a roof over her head, the seeds of her feistiness become apparent. She was conscious that she did not fit in, and so, “like any other rebel slave”, she says “I felt resolved, in my desperation, to go all lengths”. She had in her “the mood of the revolted slave” and found her surroundings “Unjust! – unjust!”
As Jane matured, and even as she seemingly fell in line with convention, finishing school and getting a job as a teacher, her individuality and strength of character simmered under the surface. She admitted to herself, ”I desired liberty; for liberty, I gasped, for liberty I uttered a prayer”.
It was a long and difficult path to find the freedom she craved. Oftentimes, owning only the clothes on her back, she trudged on and maintained her focus. In one instance, when she was forced to survive for two days with no food, water or shelter, it almost killed her.
But Jane Eyre is not a tragedy and Jane Eyre is not a tragic figure, And when the good turns of fortune finally arrive, her principles and her individuality become even more pronounced and admirable. Despite the appearance of settling for conformity, it is her own conformity. It is dictated by no one. Her inner punk is alive and well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlotte Brontë was a British novelist, the eldest out of the three famous Brontë sisters whose novels have become standards of English literature.
In his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom. His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side. After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto. He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.
- Feminist Criticism and Jane Eyre
- Reflection on Feminism in Jane Eyre
- Analyzing Jane Eyre as a Contemporary “Bad Feminist”
- Punk shocks the world