30 April 2007


Cristina of the BrontëBlog posts a nice discussion of A.N. Wilson's rereading of Jane Eyre:
Jane Eyre is such a complete work that it will have something for every reader. It is Jane's childhood for Mr Wilson; it is the love story for many other people; it is Jane's development for yet many others; it is Jane's independence and self-respect for others; and so on and so forth. This does not necessarily mean that one aspect is better than the others - it simply means that, for some reason, the reader connects better with it.
But this bit by Wilson is very interesting:
When interviewed by Mr Brocklehurst for her place at the school, Jane is asked, " 'And what is hell? Can you tell me that?' 'A pit full of fire.' 'And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?' 'No, sir.' 'What must you do to avoid it?' I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it came, was objectionable: 'I must keep in good health, and not die.' "

Nothing in the book - not the midnight prowlings of Mrs Rochester nor the drama of Jane's interrupted wedding - quite exceeds the brilliance of this exchange. But, though the second half of the story is so unsatisfactory and in parts so boring, it is not unrelated to Jane's talk with Mr Brocklehurst. Jane Eyre is not merely a justly popular novel. It is also one of the great documents of 19th-century Protestantism. [...]

Mr Rochester, with his appallingly flawed nature, his passion, his willingness to commit bigamy, is a full-blown sinner. But much is forgiven to those who have loved much. As in the Epistle to the Romans, being a sinner is not a bar to grace, it is a gateway. Jane Eyre comes to him not only as a fervent lover but also as a redeemer, so that the biblical last words, quoted by the dying St John in a letter from India, are the key to the story's meaning.

1 comment:

bhadd said...

Moby-Dick to me belongs to Jane Eyre and other Edgar Allan Poe-type prose. I agree that comment on hell is insightful, very.

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