This story is set in a time with a strict social etiquette and inequality in between genders, and I guess it must have been a little retro even for the time it was first published, which was in 1847.
|Jane is suffering the niceties of the all-girl school (BBC)|
I think I don't have to explain to you why this complex of themes drives all women insane. Or maybe I do. Have you heard of Downton Abbey?
The woman of today (roughly around the age of 35) is a bit nostalgic. She tends to miss the olden days, even though she herself is much too young to have lived in those times portrayed. And although she wouldn't trade equality for classism and a large variety of hairstyles for a bun that looks like the remains of a bird's nest, somehow she longs for those days of male dominance. The creators of Downton Abbey gently removed that aspect from their series, to make it more socially acceptable to watch it. Cowards.
Anyhow, the woman of today sometimes wants to be swept off her feet and not do the sweeping herself. Understandably, this must be confusing to you, the man of today.
Let me just say, that Jane Eyre at its core is about bursting the limits of the "stuffiness" outlined above. It abides by the rules of the Bildungsroman, yes, a coming-of-age story, with some elements of Gothic Fiction, also correct. This is the prosaic metre it is set in.
As regards to content, it is an outrageously modern and highly political story. The female heroine in Brontë's world - as in Austen's - is the rebellious type, an outcast and a scandalizer of sorts, coming to grips with her role after having been (socially) disadvantaged. It is as much about escaping those prison walls as Shawshank Redemption, all the while about a character behaving with moral integrity, like Forrest Gump. Over the course of events the heroine finds out that she herself sets the rules and conventions for the society she wants to live in, not men. And more importantly she learns that the moral compass she acts by is a good one.
Now, I can see that you may find that pointless, because to your male understanding, the world already is like that, with women doing what ever the hell they want. But let me remind you that women are still coming to terms with the concept of equality. And it is important to us to a) understand how it got to the point and b) remember from where we started. Because there may have been some advantages not having to be in charge all the time. We see that now, and sometimes we miss it. That's why we look back. And that's why it took us so long to get where we are now.
|Grown Jane, the governess (BBC)|
*Please refrain from the 2011 movie version. Yes, Fassbender and Wasikowska are all the rage these days. Unfortunately they didn't get what they were supposed to do - be convincing in their roles. Contrary to the rest of the world and critics I found this movie appalling, to be honest. It seemed like a desperate attempt to cash in on the Downton Abbey hype. And it is directed by the same guy who also did a film called The Adventures of Supernigger. I rest my case.
Get the ->BBC adaptation instead. It has an excellent narrative and a brilliant cast. There are no boobies in either of those versions, so go ahead and get the better one.
Edit: Take a look at Karen de Lange's book recommendation for Jane Eyre. The burtonesque Penguin Edition is designed by the acclaimed fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo, and certainly Christmas gift material.