Monday, December 17, 2007

JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte

The Book: Charlotte Bronte, JANE EYRE. Bantam classic paperback reprint, 1987 (24th printing). Very good condition; edges show minor rubbing, 1/4" tear on front cover.
First read: 1977
Owned since: 1989 (this copy)

One of many ways you can divide serious readers is between people who prefer JANE EYRE and people who prefer WUTHERING HEIGHTS. I think it comes down to a question of who the reader identifies with; I've been asking the question for years, and have yet to find a man who prefers JANE EYRE.

But Jane's my hero and has been since I first encountered this book, as summer reading for Mrs. Flippen's eighth grade English class. (My prep school segregated English classes until 10th grade; in eighth grade, girls read JANE EYRE while boys read A TALE OF TWO CITIES.) As a new student -- and a scholarship student to boot -- in a class of girls who had been together for many years, I identified strongly with the story of the ugly orphan who decided she was entitled to a happy life.

Of course, my lifelong search for Mr. Rochester probably explains a lot about why I'm still single.

When I visited Yorkshire in 1997, I had to pay my respects at the Haworth parsonage where the Bronte sisters wrote their novels. It's a small house to have held (at one point) eight people, but the moors around it stretch as far as the eye can see. I was a little shocked to see a plaque commemorating Branwell Bronte's death on the wall of the Black Bull pub, as if the Black Bull had not borne any responsibility in that death.

But as Jane herself said -- I have it on a postcard, framed on one of my bookshelves -- "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being of independent will."

15 comments:

Ed Lamb said...

"One of many ways you can divide serious readers is between people who prefer JANE EYRE and people who prefer WUTHERING HEIGHTS."

How shall ye judge those who, like me, have never read either book nor seen either movie. And has no desire to do either?

-- Ed "The Philistine" Lamb

AnswerGirl said...

It's pretty amazing that you made it through almost 20 years of formal education without ever being forced to read either book.

Ed Lamb said...

Yeah, the stuff I don't know and have no interest in learning could fill a book. Or more precisely, it already fills hundreds of thousands of books.

But ignorance is often strategic. I can always fall back on the plausible if not even remotely true excuse that the day I had finally decided to sit down and read _Jane Eyre_, I read the National Federation of State High School Association's _Wrestling Rules Book_ instead. Having read the latter tome will certainly come in more handy when I have to literally consider how teenagers engage and try to overcome their purported betters.

-- Ed

Anna said...

Put me in the Jane Eyre column! as if there was any doubt...

Anonymous said...

Totally Jane Eyre.

-Kathleen

Archimedes Principle said...

As a fully trained man, there's only one answer - Wuthering Heights

AnswerGirl said...

Thanks for making my point, Peter! But I have to ask: did you love WUTHERING HEIGHTS before or after you loved Kate Bush?

Anonymous said...

I did enjoy Kate Bush's Amazing voice in Wuthering Heights.

I did the Love Course" by AR Gurney, a One act play about a pair of teachers who teach romance and the novel and end the season with a steamy lecture on Wuthering Heights during Viet Nam era student protests
But I have not read either

RB

RB

JIM LAMB said...

The closest I ever got to Jane Eyre was "The Eyre Affair". My choice in English period novels is more in Stevenson and Defoe.

Anonymous said...

ah yes, loved THE EYRE AFFAIR, JANE EYRE (book and all reincarnations on PBS)...and LOVED the Haworth parsonage (with attached museum) and surrounding area. Were you there when Eileen still lived in the area?
Sue

Anonymous said...

ps: though back when I read it for the first time, I thought it was an amazing coincidence that I was living in Rochester, NY...
Sue

Moira said...

I'm a Jane Eyre girl. FYI Franco Zeffirelli's 1996 film version is excellent.

AnswerGirl said...

Sue, I was in Yorkshire for Eileen's wedding! Can't believe that was ten years ago already...

Chris said...

While I like them both, I prefer Jane Eyre.

Archimedes Principle said...

Well...maybe Kate Bush did sway me a little...just a tad though...!