Jane Eyre

#37 in my book challenge for the year, and #13 in my book challenge for the summer, was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This was my second reading, and I felt again disappointed that I came to this book so late in life. I wish I would have grown up with it. I find it a fascinating book to compare and contrast with Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Both have social commentary, and charismatic, passionate couples. Yet where Austen focuses much on the comedy of manners and witty repartee, Bronte is crammed with literary references and a deeper exploration of emotions and sexuality. Jane Eyre was one of the first books written in part from the perspective of a child. Told in first person, with frequent addresses to the reader, it fits comfortably into the conventions of modern young-adult literature. It birthed the trope of the madwoman in the attic, deployed in modified form in DuMaurier’s Rebecca. I was reminded somewhat of the plot of Susan Howatch’s Glittering Images, a book (and consequent series) with interesting religion, but very problematic treatment of women. Additionally, I was put in mind of the myth of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, though neither of my editions mentioned this connection. I looked up Lilith on Wikipedia (see the section”Lilith as Adam’s first wife” about 2/3 of the way down). Lilith is also mentioned on the Bronteblog as part of a scholarly precis, which notes that Charlotte Bronte referred to Lilith in her later novel, Shirley.

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