In light of my recent ponderings about the great hubbub that is “classic literature”, I’ve decided to breathe life back into my withering reading tag and review some classic novels—what makes them “classics”? What made them stand the test of time and garner such acclaim? Are they deserving of it? What can they teach us about the past era they were written in? Can they be enjoyed as books or do they have to be academically dissected for all their merits to come to the surface? Will I ever truly get over my desire to punch their romantic heroes in the face?
Jane Eyre the person is, like Jane Eyre the book, wonderful, powerful and miserable. She begins as a bullied, neglected orphan in the care—to use the word loosely—of her relatives, Wicked Stepmother archetype and all. Her aunt would have turned baby Jane out on the doorstep, but her husband, damn him, used his dying breath to make her promise she’d take care of his niece.
Jane knows, with a ten-year-old’s wisdom and an impeccably strong sense of self-awareness that continues through the whole book, that she’s better than these people, who torment her and unfairly punish her. So, first chance she gets, she suggests going away to school. Her aunt, keen to be shot of her, thinks it’s a great idea, and so our little heroine goes off into the world. To deal with frostbite, famine, typhus and educational brutality.
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