Thursday, 25 December 2014

Jane Eyre: Being Independent vs. Being Needed?

Jane Eyre is a re-read. I remember I have read it some years ago, I don't remember exactly when. When I was in high school I read a Japanese manga with references to it, so I think maybe around that time I decided to read the book.

Sadly, I forgot almost everything, except the ending. Upon watching the film, my memories were refreshed, but the film missed some scenes I knew was there. Then last month, I agreed to read it with Fanda.

And I failed to finish it before the end of the month.

(I believe I have forgotten how to write a book review. I don't know what to write at all.)

Being an unwanted orphan in her aunt's house, Jane suffered a lot as a child. She wasn't taught how to be pleasant, and even when she tried to please, her effort was never regarded. Maybe Nature and Nurture had both conspired to make her a frank, straight-forward, plain-speaking girl.

She was sent, at her aunt's request, to a school for girls, where her situation gradually got better. She was trained well to be a teacher, and after she taught there for some years, she left for "freedom". She advertised to be a governess, and she ended up in Thorfield, with a little French pupil called Adele, and a stern, somewhat harsh man called Edward Rochester.

The man was the owner of the house, and Jane's master. Both soon found that they were very much alike, and that they liked each other. They were both strange, alienated from the world around them. They both spoke in woven code of tales and gazes and smiles that others wouldn't be able to perceive. And so they claim from one another some sort of special bond of friendship, and before long, of love.

Not that fast.

Later it turns out that Mr. Rochester was not a bachelor after all, but a man married to a poor lunatic - as good as gone. However, lunacy doesn't absolve or cancel marriage bond, and as soon as Jane found this out, she went away from Thorfield, her job, her pupil, and her love.

Jane found settlements in the house of a clergyman, John Rivers, and his sisters, under a false name. However, he later found out Jane's true identity, with even more information that Jane's uncle had died, and left her a considerable sum of money. John Rivers and his sisters were actually Jane's cousins. Overjoyed, she shared her new-found riches with them equally.

After rejecting Rivers' marriage proposal, Jane mysteriously heard Rochester calling her name. She went back to Thorfield, but it was terribly burnt. Mr. Rochester's wife had set the house on fire, and then committed suicide. Mr. Rochester himself lost his hand and his sight in the incident, and now was plunged in despair.

However, Jane comforted him, and he proposed again. This time, there was no single bar to their marriage, and Jane accepted. The happy couple found delight in one another, and lived happily together.


Jane Eyre is a strange story. All along the novel, I found myself thinking, "What does this girl want anyway?" For one thing, she wanted independence. Being raised an orphan, she never had anything to decide for herself. She was always ordered around, she always had tasks, she always had prisons. When she left the school that had taught her so much, she said that she wanted to be free.

On the other side, she also wanted to be needed. She was always attracted to people who needed her. Adele, who was an orphan herself, who didn't have anybody else to taught her but Jane, the melancholy Mr Rochester, with all his secrets and peculiarities, without anybody else to understood him but Jane, and Mr. Rivers, who needed somebody to accompany him on his journey to India.

At first I thought it was rather a paradox. You can;t be free if you are attached to something, right? But then in Jane's case, her independence allowed her to choose her attachment. And that's the most important thing. Being free is not about being able to fly incessantly in the air, but to choose a place to rest.

1 comment:

  1. I like and agree with the conclusion you come to. Being independent means you are allowed the freedom to make your own choices, and not have others make them for you. That is all independence is.

    It's been years since I last read Jane Eyre. It used to be a book I read at least once each year. I really should re-read it again...