This book takes the prize as my favorite of all time. No matter how many times I read it, I’m still touched by the writing, the interactions of the characters, and the personality of Jane Eyre. While there is an element of (unexpected) romance in this book, it appeals to me much more than the superficial tales of Jane Austen.
This book follows the life of Jane Eyre from her childhood to her 20s. We learn that at birth, Jane is orphaned when her parents fall ill and die within a month of each other. As an infant, Jane is taken in and loved by her mother’s brother (Mr. Reed), but after his death a few years later, Jane is seen as an unworthy and unwelcome guest in the home of Mrs. Reed, who has three children of her own to raise. In a word, Jane is unloved. What hooked me within the first few chapters were the following questions: will Jane ever find freedom from misery, what kind of person will she become with so tragic a start at life, and what will Mrs. Reed’s punishment be for spurning an orphan created in the image of God, and one whom her husband implored her to love as her own upon his death?
Once removed from her aunt’s house at age 8, Jane spends the 10 years as a pupil and eventual teacher at a charity run school for orphans, called Lowood. It is at Lowood that she learns discipline, forbearance, and the love of Christ through the examples of another student and teacher. Ready and eager for independence, Jane leaves Lowood at 18 to pursue a position as a governess in the home of a wealthy bachelor, Mr. Rochester.
Jane is as plain of a girl as you can imagine, unremarkable in her features, but with a frankness about her that attracts Mr. Rochester. She is also gifted, intelligent, diligent, submissive, and intriguing. She and Mr. Rochester are kindred spirits, and eventually fall in love. Demons from Mr. Rochester’s past interfere with his plans to marry Jane, and she flees from the temptation of living as his mistress rather than his wife. Jane places her future path completely in the Lord’s hands when she disappears from Rochester’s home, with very little money, no destination in mind, and no family or friends to turn to for help.
As if the sadness of leaving the love of her life behind isn’t enough, Jane also has to suffer the elements and nearly starves to death as she searches for employment. She is taken in by a family in mourning, the eldest of which is a clergyman in the area. This is the point of the story where the author begins weaving in twists that soothe Jane’s aching heart. It has great redemptive elements to it, and encourages the reader toward maturity, goodness, and faith.