If you’ve taken a high school English course, I’m sure you’ve all groaned after one glance at the summer reading list. The dread of actually cracking open the covers has been hanging over your head since June. But June passed, and so did July, and you’ve probably procrastinated the assignments until the last week of vacation, resulting in a hasty skimming of the novels.
I’ve been there, too, but it turns out that the words classic and literature do not always have to translate to boring and pointless.
A prime example is Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” my latest conquest. Yes, the novel was published in 1847, and most editions are anywhere from 400-500 pages long. But before you throw the newspaper down in disgust, realize that “Jane Eyre” isn’t just another typical Victorian novel, and the heroine, Jane, isn’t your typical Victorian girl.
Rather than being a beautiful lady of society, Jane is a bit of a misfit. She’s not particularly attractive, but she is brimming with wit and independence, characteristics most teens today appreciate.
I’ll admit that the first eighty pages may induce a few yawns as they narrate Jane’s miserable childhood as an abused and lonely orphan. But don’t worry; the entire novel isn’t a massive protagonist pity party.
Once Jane leaves school, the novel finally picks up the pace. She comes to work as a governess at Thornfield Hall, a mansion owned by the mysterious Mr. Rochester, who serves as the brooding villain with a romantic heart underneath his cynicism.
Although he lacks Edward Cullen’s unearthly beauty, he’s a pretty interesting leading man. Don’t we all like a guy with a dark side?
But more than just a love story awaits. The pages contain a shocking plot twist involving a violent psychopath lurking within the walls of the mansion. As the mystery unravels, drama ensues like a soap opera. Still, the book isn’t theatrical nonsense. Amidst the entanglements of desire and danger, there is Jane, a girl who follows her morals and relies only upon herself, serving as a nineteenth century feminist.
And, at last, an ugly but brilliant girl finally gets her happy ending. It’s not exactly a Cinderella story, but at least it’s no Shakespearean tragedy.
Overall, there are parts of “Jane Eyre” that will temporarily make your eyes glaze over; there are confusing references and Yorkshire dialect; and the idea of marrying your cousin seems grotesque. However, the heart of the story is a tale worthy of a Hollywood movie with characters that, even two centuries later, are still relatable and admirable.
So if Miss Bronte’s novel plagues your summer reading list or shows up on your assignments for the fall, don’t be afraid to actually open it up and immerse yourself in the story. I know Spark Notes are convenient, but this is a classic actually worth your time.
Have you read “Jane Eyre?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.