Happy New Year Loyal Readers!
I hope you’ve all been spending your time in a much more enjoyable manner than our dear friend Jane Eyre. My reading progress was a little bit delayed by the holidays, but I’ve now reached my absolute least favourite part of the novel, when Jane is in the midst of her life with the Rivers family. I have nothing against Diana and Mary as characters, although I do feel that they lack any real power to intrigue the reader – I have no interest in reading anything about St. John Rivers, though. He is ridiculously boring to me (especially compared to someone with such a complex history as Rochester!) and I actually hate the way he speaks! He is so dry and pompous…it’s infuriating! Obviously I still believe that Charlotte did a masterful job creating the character of St. John, if only because his voice is so distinctly irritating – but I’ll never love this part of the novel, and I often have the urge (particularly considering that I’ve now read the story about a million times) to just skip this portion altogether!
But I’m not going to do that because there are some real gems even in this section. Jane’s love for Mr. Rochester is not altogether absent here, just because she has made the choice to leave him and has begun a new life among different faces and personalities. No, Jane still very evidently misses her almost husband, and she allows her emotions to overcome her logic and reason when she defends her “dear Edward” against the opinions and criticisms of St. John. This one moment of dialogue is one of my favourites in the novel, and to me justifies reading what feels like thousands of pages about the most boring man in Victorian literary history:
“I felt cold and dismayed: my worst fears then were probably true: he had in all probability left England and rushed in reckless desperation to some former haunt on the Continent. And what opiate for his severe sufferings – what object for his strong passions – had he sought there? I dared not answer the question. Oh, my poor master – once almost my husband – whom I had often called ‘my dear Edward!’
‘He must’ve been a bad man,’ observed Mr. Rivers.
‘You don’t know him – don’t pronounce an opinion upon him,’ I said with warmth.”
Though Jane Eyre, or Jane Elliott as she prefers to be called at this point in the story, doesn’t express her sorrow or depression very often, it is these subtle moments of fear and anxiety for Edward that portray just how keen her struggles are.
And it is for that reason – because of simple lines like the one I highlighted above – that this time in Jane’s history still manages to touch me. I miss Edward Rochester just as much as Jane in these moments…I too wonder what he is doing (or, at least, I did the first time I read the novel…now I know just how much he is suffering too!), I wonder how he has managed to get through every day without Jane’s loving smile and pure green eyes. I wonder how either of these impassioned characters are able to get through days and weeks and months, while all I am required to do is read fast and flip pages!
I’ve spoken about how strongly I believe that Charlotte described true love more accurately than any other novelist, especially compared with the writers of our modern times. Her portrayal of true love reaches even more epic and accurate proportions when Jane Elliott stays in Morton, however. It is at this time that the reader learns that to be in love, to love another human most truly, is to miss that person every single day. Jane made the right decision to leave Mr. Rochester and his wife (even I can admit that good morals are important), but that does not mean that she can or should accept that decision easily or without emotion and disappointment. As readers who are also friends of Miss Eyre/Elliott, we do not need to be told explicitly that she thinks of her Edward every day or dreams of him every night. We know these things to be true by the subtle things she says, by the number of times she paints to busy her mind, by the repetition of her questions about Rochester to St. John. We know that she struggles, just as we struggle, from her separation from the man who exemplifies the other half of her soul and her (as I’ve suggested before, green) heart! And, in witnessing this struggle, we know how strongly and fiercely she loves.
When I first read the novel, I too wished that Jane Eyre “had never been born, or had never come to Thornfield”. I saw no possible benefit to her experiencing love with Mr. Rochester if she would just be forced to leave him and to nurse a lonely, wounded heart. But now I see that this separation is necessary. I know now that it is better to have someone to miss than to live a sheltered, guarded life – it is better to know the pain of separation if it means also knowing the joy and bliss of intimacy. So Jane had to love Mr. Rochester and she had to leave him, if only so that Charlotte could portray every aspect of that crazy rollercoaster called love.
Having said all that, Jane needs to get back to her Edward…ASAP! Because absence may make the heart grow fonder…but what’s the use of having a fond heart and not being able to use it?!
Time to keep reading and get to Ferndean Manor a little faster,
Girl with a Green Heart
Update: After writing this blog post, I continued reading (hoping to get away from St. John as quickly as possible, to be honest)…and I noticed the following passage:
“Perhaps you think that I had forgotten Mr. Rochester, reader, amidst these changes of place and fortune. Not for a moment….The craving to know what had become of him followed me everywhere: when I was at Morton, I re-entered my cottage every evening to think of that; and now at Moor House, I sought my bedroom each night to brood over it.”
It seems that Jane Eyre herself would agree with my assertion that she misses Edward terribly and constantly!