How can I explain why Jane Eyre is my favorite book? I started reading it when I was 11, and my sixth-grade teacher thought I might like it. She told me she had only ever gotten one other student to read it. She thought “I could handle it.” I was somehow simultaneously a people-pleaser and a badass in my own mind, so I picked it up.
At the time, my understanding of the book only slightly surpassed what might be expected of someone that age. I understood all the plot points, but not necessarily their implications. It didn’t matter. I was completely engrossed.
After that, I read it at least once a year, every year, until I was about 24. I read it for a class in college and wrote one of my best papers on it. Learning about Victorian literature enhanced my understanding of and appreciation for the book.
But even before I knew how groundbreaking the book had been, how racy and bold it was for its time, I knew I had never seen a character like Jane before. Fierce, passionate, and loving by nature, she is subdued through years of first abuse and then near-neglect. The scenes in which she allows her passion to manifest in anger made me hurt with indignation. I know a lot of people don’t respond to this book the way I have, but I know everyone has felt the frustration of being held back, or not having one’s deepest feelings taken seriously for one superficial reason or another.
I think the best way to convey my connection to this book, my sense of ownership of it, is to post the review I wrote of the most recent film adaptation, which came out this past March. I’ll put it in a separate post, since I foresee posts on film adaptations of books being a big thing in days to come.