About Jane Eyre: Liberating Incarceration Literature
It makes you work for it, but they say anything worth doing… I’m talking about reading the classic Jane Eyre, a 19th century novel about a young woman beset with trials aplenty, opportunities aplenty, a victim of circumstance and at the same time, very much a character who forges her own path.
Like many if not most of the truly great novels, this is deeply psychological. The more I read and write to develop the craft, the more I come to believe that good stories are intertwined with the dustiest and sometimes least traveled-to nooks and crannies of the human mind.
Well, here we get a good gander at Jane’s mind. Telescopic. Microscopic. All the scopics. She ain’t no pleasure cruise. Nor is Rochester, the main man in the proceedings. Nor is St. John, the other dude. He’s an even bigger frigging pain in the butt. Let’s be real. Almost everyone in this book is a pain in the butt. That should be clear from the get.
But it’s more complex than that. She’s complex. Here’s the deal: People are complex. Jane Eyre isn’t escapist literature, even when you take into account the Gothic/Romantic elements. This is the opposite of escapist. More like incarceration literature. Damn supermax of human nature studies. You’re in a frigging 8x10 cell with Jane until the very end. The good news—it’s somehow worthwhile.
This is hard to explain. Art can be like that. I’ll give it a go anyhow.
All the main characters have defensible positions in the story. At the same time, they each get in their own way. You know, like people. One minute I’m thinking Jane is the bomb. Next page she’s the worst. Make it easy on yourself, kid. Oh… I see your point. Same goes with Rochester. Dude. Little tip. The old, crazy wife in the walls routine is never going to amount to points on the board, but then again, Rochester’s sort of a baller. Homeboy’s got a lot to deal with.
It’s a study in motivation and seeing both sides of an argument. A lesson in biting your lip knowing that even if you can’t agree with everyone, maybe it’s best to at least try and understand. That’s what I get out of it, anyhow.
There’s something singular about good fiction. Stories and characters done right allow us to break the chains of our own mindsets. I’m not saying anything new, but it’s worth reiterating, and also to note that the more one invests themselves in a text, the farther they can travel.
Cheers and see you after.