Friday, January 8, 2010

Elizabeth Bennet stole Jane Eyre's thunder


Bring out your stones. I am ready for it. I am about to admit something that goes against most of the female gender. I don't like Jane Austen. I can't get into Pride and Prejudice. I think Elizabeth Bennet may be strongly opinionated but is in no way a strong woman. I have never understood why everybody is so mad at Mr. Darcy. He did the same thing you or I would have done. He tried to protect a dear friend. Anyways, you may commence throwing your stones now but you might want to wait until I am finished.

I picked up Jane Eyre for the first time just a little while ago. I was reading it not for enjoyment but for the fact that it is a classic I have not read and I am trying to shorten that list. I felt bored before I even opened the cover. My boredom persisted for the first fifty pages or so until I realized that I was enjoying Jane Eyre. I wasn't just enjoying it, I was loving it.

Jane Eyre is everything I wish Elizabeth Bennet was. Jane Eyre is gracious, opinionated but she is a strong person to her core. Jane is not beautiful. She never was. She doesn't rely on it in any sense. She may have rich relations but she does not try to strike them to her advantage. She leaves for school. She doesn't coast through school. She studies and hard. She becomes accomplished in many things. She doesn't wait for someone to suggest she become a governess, she places the ad herself and then makes the necessary arrangements. Jane Eyre depends on no one but herself.

I think the thing that makes Jane Eyre immortal in my eyes is when she is at the brink of never having another care in the world, she shuns becoming somone's mistress. Even when the man is the person she loves most in the world. Even though she has no relations that would be ashamed. She says she could not live with herself. She stands up to enormous pressure and leaves, destitute. She starts over.

I have heard Jane Eyre called the anti-feminist book. They call it anti-feminist because Jane Eyre falls in love with her much older, much richer master. That in order for Jane to consider herself happy she must be in love and married. I make the case for the opposite. Even when her love (Rochester) is offering her jewels and fine dresses, she turns them down and tells him she wants to provide her own way. She refuses elevating herself and becoming his mistress. She continues to take control of her own destiny and is not powerless.

Jane Eyre does not believe herself better than anyone. All she asks is to be able to work for what she wants. She works hard. Yes, she falls in love and wishes to marry which nowadays seems to automatically throw her into the category of being anti-feminism. What is so anti-feminist about a woman knowing what she wants and pursuing the same, even if that involves marriage and children. Sometimes I feel like feminism points of view are saying that women must work outside the home, not have children or love a good romance in order to be reaching their full potential, but what if that is not what I want? Telling a woman they have to do something one way or the other seems like anti-feminism to me.

Since I have now angered all of the Pride and Prejudice fans out there and all of the feminists, I will now close with this. Jane Eyre is an amazing book and character because she carries her own weight, she is strong in a time period where women are supposed to be weak. She is not easily offended and is not swayed by the idea that she may have to work every last day of her life to support herself. She knows what she wants and she works toward it, when it becomes unattainable she does not lay down and die but moves forward. She does not hate the idea of work and she does not hate the idea of marriage and children. She is open-minded and willing.

36 comments:

Lu said...

I approve this book review. I am a fan of Pride and Prejudice but I've never really been able to understand why people think that Elizabeth Bennett is so great. I think she's kind of catty, personally, judging and holding such a grudge. You have now inspired me to read Jane Eyre. Eventually.

Vanessa said...

I just finished reading Jane Eyre a few weeks ago. I read it in high school and loved it. It is probably one of my favorite books :)

Alicia said...

Good Review. I didn't get into P&P until about 4 years ago and that was more the movies than the book...probably cause I could fast forward. Anyway, I read Jane Eyre 2 years ago. LOVED it. Couldn't put it down. Then went to find the movie. After watching 3 or 4 versions on DVD found the Masterpiece Theatre version. My favorite by far.

Arie said...

I have been avoiding your blog since I saw that you were preparing to write a review of "Jane Eyre" because I was reading it and I didn't want to know anything. Now, just minutes ago, I finished it. And loved it. But I love "Pride and Prejudice" too. In book club, we are reading works by all the Bronte sisters. Have you read any others?

Anyway. I'm glad I finally finished the book so I can get back to reading your blog. Hope you are well.

tweezle said...

I have both of these classics on my 2-read list, and you've just made them move up the list some :) Thanks for a great review!

Jenn said...

I tried reading Pride and Prejudice in high school and could never get into the book. Your review of Jane Eyre really makes me want to read it!

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

thesurpriselily said...

Great review...I like all of her books, but I agree. I've probably read Jane Eyre more than any of her other works. I think Jane is a very believable character...we could all react the same way she does.

Anonymous said...

Greets!

It is my first time here. I just wanted to say hi!

Amira from Egypt said...

Gr8 Review!!
Thanks a lot! I really do Love Jane Eyre, and I do agree with all what you said. And for me Rochester is a real hero <3

Cranberry Morning said...

Interesting review! I have not read Jane Eyre, but now want to. I did watch the PBS Jane Eyre a few years ago and loved it. Have you seen Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South? I think you would like the heroine in that story. I also just bought that to read - maybe next fall.

I found you on Follow Friday and after checking your past blog posts, decided i want to make this a regular.

So, I'm your newest follower. Come visit me sometime. :-) www.cranberrymorning.blogspot.com

Oh, and by the way, as far as the Jane Austen books? I really like the character Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Maybe you would too.

Untypically Jia said...

This would probably make a lot more sense if I read more LOL!

Simoney said...

Hey... I love Jane Eyre too! She is very gutsy.
But I do love the clothes in Pride and Prejudice!
Tee hee,
Happy SITS day
xx

Reenie said...

Oh how true. I read both and Jane Eyre is my favourite :)

Jessica Nunemaker said...

Classics are my fave -- but Pride and Prejudice isn't my favorite book either.

I did like Jane Eyre but I LOVE Villette by Charlotte Bronte. Anyhoo -- just thought I'd share that! ;)

Happy SITs Day!

Annie @ astonesthrowfrominsanity said...

Stoping by from SITS . . . and I loved this post! As a former English teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. Jane kicks ass! :) Elizabeth? A cold fish of a handshake if you ask me. Now, if only people could see that Steinbeck's the Grapes of Wrath is deadly boring . . . all would be right with the world. :)

Sarah said...

Whenever anyone tries to put "romantic hero/heroine" and "Elizabeth Bennett/Mr. Darcy" in the same sentence, I want to cry.

Jane Eyre for the win!

DeNae said...

I'm actually here for your SITS day, so congrats on that!

As for this review, I agree to a point. I have to admit that my recollection of the book "Pride and Prejudice" is tainted by the movies, and I also have very different feelings about Elizabeth Bennett at 46 than I did at 19 when I first read the book. Elizabeth is far more snotty in the movies than she is in the book. And honestly, in that time period, women didn't have a lot of tools available to establish autonomy. Being able to voice an opinion was pretty much all they had.

However, Jane Eyre is an emminently moral character, and I value that in any book from any period.

And I agree with Cranberry Morning. Sense and Sensibility is a far superior story - with far superior characters - to Pride and Prejudice. A much more satisfying read.

Feathered Nest said...

Wow! I give you an "A"! Well done. I love your arguments and will never leave Darcy, but will now have to visit this book! You need a link on your blog so we can all order our copy right there! ;). Thank you and I'm now going to read your blog.

LBDDiaries said...

HAPPY SITS DAY AND Oh this was a great review! I so agree with this statement: "Telling a woman they have to do something one way or the other seems like anti-feminism to me." Since I was young, I have had this point of view - who are THEY to tell me what or what isn't acceptable in my life? It's MY life. I hadn't read this book - now I have to go get it immediately because I can't wait to read it! Thanks for the great review.

Gina said...

I'll be honest, I'm not into Austen or Bronte. I know, I'm hardly even a woman, right? ;)

Anyway, congrats on your SITS day, you totally deserve it!

The Double Dipped Life said...

This is a fabulous review! Thanks for the in depth, and CORRECT insights! Congrats on your SITS day.

jeanne @ Inspiring Ideas said...

I love Jane Eyre! (Although I confess I've watched many assorted movie versions as I've never read the actual book!) Charlotte Gainsbourgh is the best one, with William Hurt. :-)

Shell said...

You know, I consider myself a reader. I love to read...but I don't like many of the classics and tend NOT to like the books that everyone raves about. Secret Life of Bees- didn't get it when everyone else I know told me it was the best book ever. I guess I just want to be entertained.

Enjoy your SITS day!

Nikki said...

I think feminism is overrated anyway. There's nothing wrong with working outside of the home, not getting married..etc BUT there's also nothing wrong with getting married and being a stay at home mom.
I just stick to books like Twilight. They are cheesy but entertaining (to me anyway LOL)

alexis said...

Here from SITS, and I loved your review! I love reading classics, especially those by women, and Jane Eyre has always been one of my favorite books. But Pride and Prejudice isn't at all my favorite, I'd have to take Sense & Sensibility on that one. Elizabeth Bennet always seemed like kind of a brat to me. She's spoiled by her father, and thinks she knows it all. And one thing that people rarely ever mention about her is that she really starts to fall in love with Mr. Darcy when she first sees his estate, which is enormous. And then all of a sudden she's like, "This guy might not be so bad after all!" Hmm.

Anyway, happy SITS day and good job with the review!

FairOphelia said...

I love both writers, but I know what you mean about Pride and Prejudice. It's never been my favourite Austen novel.

When considering the remarkable difference between the two heroines, it's interesting to consider C.Bronte's own view of Austen. George Henry Lewes (partner of George Eliot) wrote to Charlotte advising her to read Pride and Prejudice and basically take a lesson from Austen. But, being a typical Bronte, Charlotte didn't like P&P at all. Her letters suggest that she much preferred a dramatic, powerful style of writing, and heroine with it. Hence why we have Jane Eyre!

It's worth reading Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as I think the heroine of that novel (Helen Huntingdon/Graham) is even more powerful than Jane. And Emily's Cathy in Wuthering Heights is another phenomenal heroine, not necessarily as likeable as Jane or Helen, but amazing. Lucy Snowe and Shirley are also brilliant C. Bronte heroines.

As for Austen, out of all her novels, I think that Anne Eliot in Persuasion is the most interesting - perhaps because it's her last novel and the most well developed.

Happy SITS Day!

Rachel said...

Alrighty, I guess I'm going the other way...I love Pride and Prejudice and have read it several times. :) Mainly, I think it's a fun book, and Elizabeth is a simple character, but I find I can relate to her as she just tries to survive in her everyday family life. I think the book as a whole is entertaining and witty...I still laugh when Elizabeth refuses Mr. Collin's proposal.

This could just be personality and preference, but I read Jane Eyre once, and liked it all right, but it's not on my top list of books to re-read, while I'd curl up with P&P any day.

WhateverNation said...

Brilliant. I enjoyed both books, but really appreciated and enjoyed reading your review.

Daisy said...

Keep these reviews coming! Clearly, I need to go back and give Jane Eyre another peek, and it will get me out of my Sinclair Lewis rut. Now...what about adding movie reviews with a feminist spin? Adam's Rib anybody?

Rachel Cotterill said...

I enjoyed both books - but then, I enjoy most books! I definitely agree with you that feminism is about choice, that's so often overlooked...

Happy SITS day :)

Young Wife said...

Jane Eyre is one of my very favorite books! Happy SITS Day!

Karen said...

Its been awhile since I've read both books, but what I do give you kudos for is doing just that & forming your own opinion! That's what makes this world interesting and both writers, both books, and feminism worth discussing. Great review! Happy SITS Day! :>

Kate said...

Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorites! Love some of the other books you have on your sidebar list... The Screwtape Letters, Lovely Bones, The Giver, Ever, Julie & Julia–great picks!

Stopping by from SITS! = )

Aniki said...

Dear Debra,
I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. I adore Jane Austen and I especially love Lizzy, who, yes, is very opinionated, but just so much fun and so full of life! ... Okay, I'll spare you and won't give you the full essay on why I love her... But I'll give you three reasons why I love your post (yes, even though you bash my favourite heroine!): it's honest, it's straightforward and you have excellent reasons. And you know what? I guess the world is big enough for many heroines, so I'll cheer for both. :)

Happy SITSday, by the way.

P.S.: Not really connected, but: have you ever thought about Hemingway and feminism? Because I've heard him described as macho and anti-feminist. But I absolutely do not agree. Well, maybe on the macho bit. But he wrote such strong women! Would love to hear your opinion!

samsstuff said...

Interesting review! I really like both books & will have to go back & reread both, its been a while.
Happy SITS Feature Day!

LindyLouMac said...

I love Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, but the world would be a boring place if we all enjoyed the same things.
Visiting from SITS for your special day, congratulations.

 
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