I first read Jane Eyre in high school. The only scene I remembered was the burning of the Thornfield Manor by the lunatic Bertha who was on top of the mansion while the fire was blazing. I have wanted to read it again but for some reason wasn’t able to until last December when I went home to Iloilo and took out my old dusty copy. Hey, my copy of Jane Eyre was with the family (got it from my grandmother’s house) since 1979. So, it’s a very old book with very crisp pages. For some reason, I took it from my grandmother’s (who was fond of mahjong but not of books) and delighted in it at an early age.
I mentioned in my other blog that if I read it again this time, I am sure to have a different take on the novel because I’m reading it on a different phase of my life. I sure know that things come differently at different times because we go through different experiences thus affecting our perspective.
How different it came, indeed!
How would your lover, your boyfriend or your husband react when you call him “my dear master”? Mine would be terribly insulted! Oh well, Jane Eyre is of a different era.
Jane Eyre’s calling of Edward Fairfax Rochester as her “my dear master” is what struck me in my second reading. It is her very submissiveness which confuses me because, in general, the novel portrays her to be a strong, independent character. She was an orphan who lived in Gateshead with her cold-blooded aunt, Mrs. Reed, who had no love for her and until on her deathbed was a remorseless woman. At an early age, she showed her vocal honesty which made her an outcast in Mrs. Reed’s family. By her own admission, “she is a discord in Gateshead Hall“. To get rid of her, Mrs. Reed sent her to Lowood Institution. It was a very strict institution poorly managed and not conducive to learning. The devastation brought about by the typhus fever that plagued the school made the improvements possible and Jane Eyre stayed there for six years as a student and two years as a teacher. Not once was she sent back to Gateshead Hall for a vacation. After being accepted as a governess in Thornfield Manor to teach Mr. Rochester’s ward, Adele, her life unfolded beyond her imagination. She fell in love with Mr. Rochester, discovered a painful secret during her wedding day, unexpectedly met relatives and received a large amount of inheritance from an uncle she never knew. She only went back to Rochester, as she was still very in love with him, after having a fortune for herself. But Rochester was not the man that he used to be as his left arm was mutilated and his eyes went blind after trying to save his lunatic wife. This misfortune may have been the illustration of the taming of the proud Rochester.
Even if Jane Eyre displays a strength of character and independence as a person since her gloomy childhood, when it came to love, to her Rochester, she was in all submission. Upon seeing him again in the Manor House in Ferndean, she said:
“Dusk as it was, I had recognised him; it was my master, Edwar Fairfax Rochester, and no other.”
The frequent use of “master” is not in the context of employer-employee(she was employed as a governess in Thornfield Manor, remember?) but in reference to Rochester as the love of her life. This may have gotten into me because I am reading it on this comtemporary time when the concept of husbands or lovers as our “master” is a very detestable idea.
Rochester is not like your ideal hero. On the contrary, he is not the most creative lover. Imagine him posing as a fortune teller just so he would be able to get rid of Miss Ingram, the woman who was constantly trailing after him thinking he was a good catch, and to get into Jane’s real emotions. This was a very lengthy scene in the novel but was too corny for me. And look, how would you manage a man who speaks too much? Too flowery… to the point of being irritatingly funny.
Do I sound such a whiner after reading this novel? Jane Eyre may have those things above I don’t exactly like (this is where personal subjectivity comes in… one which we should be careful with) but this didn’t stop me from appreciating the novel. I enjoyed Jane Eyre, perhaps more than I did the first time I read it.