JAY [00:00:00] “If people were always kind and obedient to those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all their own way. They would never feel afraid, and so they would never alter what would grow worse and worse. When we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again, very hard. I am sure we should. So hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again.”
PHIL [00:00:40] Welcome to Dog-eared and Cracked, the podcast where each hosts subjects the other to his taste in books. Sometimes we even agree on a book. The only guarantee is that the conversation will be entertaining. If you want to read along with us, head to dogearedandcracked.ca to see our upcoming, titles and we’ll tell you more about what we have coming up at the end of the show. I’m Phil.
JAY [00:01:03] And I’m Jay.
PHIL [00:01:05] And this week, we’re discussing my pick. It’s Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre.
JAY [00:01:12] Before we get into the book, if you like the podcast, please write and review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Ratings and reviews make the podcast easier to find and allow us to reach more people. You can also leave us feedback at dogearedandcracked.ca, and who knows, we might even read it on the show.
PHIL [00:01:31] All right, so before we get to the book, we usually like to talk a little bit about the author. So tell us a bit about that Yorkshire gal, Charlotte Bronte. There used to be an old skit which someone said where the Brontes ever warm or dry. I was thinking of reading this book.
JAY [00:01:49] Interestingly, Charlotte Bronte was born in born in 1813 in Yorkshire, England. She and her two sisters published under pseudonyms. What’s interesting is that Charlotte Bronte’s first novel was actually declined by a publisher, but her second novel, Jane Eyre, got great reviews at that time. I found a review online dating back to November 1847. And the reviewer wrote, I quote, “The apt, eloquent and yet easy mode by which the writer engages you is something altogether out of the common way.” The idea of writing under a pseudonym seems self-explanatory. Especially for that time period, but Charlotte says it’s so much better. “We had a vague impression that authorities are liable to be looked on with prejudice, we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon a personality and for the reward of flattery, which is not true praise.” Ultimately, Charlotte married, and by all accounts, this was not the torrid love affair we might have hoped for. Charlotte became pregnant soon after a wedding, but her health declined rapidly. She died with her unborn child on March 31st, 1855, three weeks before her 39th birthday.
PHIL [00:03:05] So only eight years after Jane Eyre came out.
JAY [00:03:08] That’s right. It’s kind of a sad way to start the podcast. I apologise, listeners.
PHIL [00:03:14] So, the story of Jane Eyre is very well known, although I, like, personally, I actually knew almost nothing about it until a couple of years ago. So for listeners out there who might be like me, who somehow missed the plot of this book altogether, knew nothing about it, give us a summary. Tell us what it’s about. And we probably don’t need to worry about spoilers, given that it’s more than 150 years old.
JAY [00:03:36] There’s plenty of time for readers to have jumped on the Jane Eyre bandwagon.
[00:03:42] I had no idea about the story either. Anyway, the story follows the title character, Miss Jane Eyre and her tale begins as a 10-year-old orphan, at home in a place called Gateshead, She’s largely abused as a child until she is sent off to a boarding school called Lowood. Here, the gloom and doom continues, in descriptions of having to walk between classes without shoes in winter, barely being fed and of course, some kind of influenza making its way through the school and killing her best friend.
[00:04:11] After graduation, she does become a teacher at the same school, but it’s when she leaves for her position of governess at a place called Thornfield — that’s when the story really begins. In today’s terms, Jane is underage when she falls in love with her middle-aged employer. Now, there’s a lot of tension between the two. And as they poke and prod each other through words, the reader begins to understand a love connection is brewing. Along the way, a love triangle is presented. the beautiful and somewhat vapid Blanche Ingram is thrown in the mix and Jane loses hope. Things do turn around for Jane, when Edward Rochester realizes that Blanche is a gold digger. He asks Jane to marry him. But even now, sadly, all is not as it should be. At their wedding, the typical, “Are there any objections to why this couple cannot be married?” is met with all hell breaking loose. Turns out Mr. Rochester has a wife in the attic. Unable to reconcile being a mistress to an already married man, Jane leaves Thornfield and hits the road. A subplot begins, and she’s taken in by two sisters and their pastor brother. Here, Bronté kind of cheats with a little bit of a plot device. And lo and behold, it turns out that Jane is related to the trio, and that has left her with other means: a substantial inheritance.
[00:05:30] Now, if we didn’t find an underage girl being seduced by her middle-aged employer creepy, now we have Jane’s cousin, the pastor, asking Jane to marry him and travel to India as a missionary’s wife. Jane heads back to Thornfield to see what’s up. Turns outThornfield is in ruins. Mad wife in the attic Bertha’s burned the place down and jumped off the roof.
[00:05:52] Rochester’s blinded and loses a hand trying to save Bertha. Jane marries Rochester and they live happily ever after.
[00:05:59] So, now that I’ve employed every possible spoiler and ruined the book for everyone to want to read it, why did you want me to read it, Phil?
PHIL [00:06:07] You know, I only read it for the first time a few years ago, and I was completely taken with it in part, I think, because I realized, like, oh my God, I get all this stuff that was kind of just floating around. It was kind of like last year I watched Terminator Two for the first time. It was the same sort of feeling like, oh, “Hasta la vista, baby.” Like, that’s where this is from, right? All of a sudden I got all this stuff that I’ve heard people talk about over the years. So I kind of felt like that with Jane Eyre. I also thought, you know, it might be kind of fun to do one of the real classics because we haven’t done that yet on the podcast. And I guess also because looking back, I thought, you know, we got a very kind of relatively, I guess, Western Canon classic kind of high school education together and thinking about it. I don’t know if we actually ever read anything by any women, let alone Jane Eyre. So I think it kind of seemed like a way to… it seemed more appropriate to ask you to read it than just some other friend of mine.
JAY [00:07:13] No, I appreciated the opportunity to read it.
[00:07:16] And it’s one of those books that’s that’s floated around and I’ve heard about, but I’ve never actually bothered to pick up and read.
[00:07:24] There’s a real examination of the differences in social classes and what that means. There’s a lot of Pretty Woman/Maid in Manhattan kind of feel to it, where this woman comes from nothing and ends up basically finding the man of her dreams. So maybe that’s part of the appeal as well.
PHIL [00:07:44] Is this just like a glorified Harlequin style romance? Or is there something deeper going on here?
JAY [00:07:51] There’s absolutely something deeper. Jane is the narrator in this and she laboriously explains every nuance of detail. She’s a consummate people watcher describing the minutiae — things like the weight of a footfall or the angle of inflection of a raised eyebrow. And the other part of this is it’s a psychological novel. So every possible motivation, every action by characters is thought out by Jane. It makes for interesting reading because she’s studying and reporting on human nature itself.
PHIL [00:08:20] I found her character is just so compelling, like I bought into — I wanted to know what she thought. You know, when we talk about, you know, her character, like, I thought, you know, the whole plucky orphan trope, like, does it come from Jane Eyre? And I actually checked — there is a Wikipedia article on orphans in fiction and the the plucky orphan was kind of a thing before Jane Eyre came along. And so Jane has that kind of trope, but she’s more complicated than that. How did you see her as a character? Because I saw her, you know, I really felt like I got a sense of this fully formed, complex character.
JAY [00:09:04] Yeah, no doubt. You know exactly what she’s was thinking, what she desires, how she feels about everything.
[00:09:09] So you got a real sense of, OK, I understand her. It’s almost like Charlotte Bronte did too good a job in kind of letting me kind of fall into that, because there’s a part where I just felt it’s so inconsistent. And I was like, what is she doing? Obviously, they found out that there’s a wife in the attic. Rochester says, OK, I still want to marry you. If I can’t do that, then let’s go away to France and we can live there and no one will know who we are. And we can live happily ever after. Jane survived up until this point. She’s a survivor. And I would have expected her to take another course of action. But the course of action she takes is the following: She literally just leaves Rochester in the middle of the night with very little money and she becomes destitute in mere days, to the point where she all but gives herself up for dead.
[00:10:01] And here’s a woman who has survived being abused by Mrs. Reed at at Gateshead, going to a terrible school, something reminiscent of Oliver Twist, pulling herself up and surviving through life. What did you think of that? Because that’s where I was really puzzled. Did you find that took a real turn?
PHIL [00:10:23] You know, she talks about how if you’re going to have morals and ethics, you need to have them not just when they’re convenient, or they’re meaningless. So she can’t go to France with him and marry him, knowing he’s already married. The thing that struck me the most in that section was how she referred to “the bride” as this person who didn’t quite exist. Like, she left the pearls behind. And it was like, Jane, after being married, it was like she was somebody else and that person no longer was going to exist. So she had to leave everything behind.
JAY [00:10:52] Well, she’s highly dramatic. Maybe she was just like, “No, I’ll have none of this.” Like, you know, she would even keep the pearls. No, it’s like it’s all or nothing with her. Right?
PHIL [00:11:02] Right. And I actually, you know, one of the quotes I pulled out has to do with that. So here’s the quote:.
[00:11:09] “I know no medium. I never in my life have known any medium in my dealings with positive, hard characters antagonistic to my own, between absolute submission and determined revolt.” So she’s saying there’s no middle ground, like like you were saying. She’s either going to — I love the idea of either absolute submission or determined revolt. And so, maybe this is one example of that’s how it plays out in the book, this character trait of hers.
JAY [00:11:40] Yeah, I agree. I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment that you have of her character. Like even from the beginning, as the book opens, we experience Jane’s temper. She was punished for hitting her cousin and it’s deserved. But Bronte uses this as a context to write about her punishment by the terrible Mrs. Reed. And this is her supposed benefactor, who treats her horribly. She is stubborn and inflexible, and it’s a bad combination. And that’s exactly what we saw when she abruptly leaves Thornfield and sets up with no prospects and barely enough money to keep her going. So maybe it is consistent, yeah.
[00:12:13] You used the expression earlier, “plucky orphan.” And I think this is what we’re seeing is this pluckiness, and it’s like something will come up. I can go out there and make it on my own, and eventually someone will give me a job. And maybe it’s a little bit of both. Maybe it’s inexperience combined with this cockiness that she’s always had and that’s helped her survive. And she’s just relying on it to get her going in this new town.
PHIL [00:12:39] If we go back to, you know, her relationship with Rochester, she doesn’t have this overly romantic view of like, “we’re going to get married and we’ll be madly in love forever.” And Rochester says something about how they’ll be happy forever if they get married or something. And I was surprised by her reply to him. So, this is what she said:.
[00:13:02] “For a little while, you will perhaps be as you are now. A very little while. And then you will turn cool and then you will be capricious and then you will be stern and I shall have much ado to please you. But when you get used to me, you will perhaps like me again. Like me I say, not love me. I suppose your love will effervesce in six months or less. I have observed in books written by men that period assigned as the furthest to which a husband’s ardour extends. Yet, after all, as a friend and companion, I hope never to become quite distasteful to my dear master.”.
[00:13:38] So that kind of struck me, as you know, coming from someone who’s supposed to be 18 or so, as a fairly clear-eyed assessment of the arc of a relationship, but also I love that she recognizes she doesn’t have any experience in this. She talks about how it’s you know, she’s learnt this in books written by men.
JAY [00:13:59] Yeah, I couldn’t relate. Not that I have been in love affairs with middle-aged men, but the way that Edward Rochester interacts with Jane Eyre and the way that they connect through words, both basically by almost insulting each other — him trying to badger her, bully her almost into submission, and her holding her ground because of where she’s from. In return, he’s impressed by that and falls in love with her. A lot of that still to me seem a little unlikely, I guess is the only way I can describe it.
[00:14:37] I mean, part of this, too, is that this is a man who’s a man of the world. He’s 20 years her senior. And I know at the time, probably 18 or 17, I think she’s 17 when she first meets him, and at the time that was probably a marrying age. I understand that. But at the same time, there’s a bit of creepiness about it all in that really he’s kind of got the advantage on her.
PHIL [00:15:01] And he’s had mistresses in three countries already.
JAY [00:15:05] Yeah, that’s exactly right. He’s he’s had more life experiences. Now despite — I understand that she’s grown up in harsh times. That’s probably matured her. And I can I can accept that. But it just seemed like a very strange basis for a love affair. And maybe this is where I need to just step back and say, you know what? This is probably something that happened frequently in that time period. And I just need to accept that.
PHIL [00:15:28] One thing I had no idea about was how that being a governess was something that was looked down on.
JAY [00:15:33] You thought that was a really high-end career?
PHIL [00:15:36] No, but I didn’t realize they were, like, sort of contemptible.
JAY [00:15:54] She’s got an inferiority complex, and it’s not unexpected that she only accepted Edward when there was no possibility of a marrying a woman at the level of Blanche. So, Jane never directly admits it, but in the book, I believe that Charlotte Bronte meant for the character to always feel that she’s not good enough for Edward. She does not feel equal to him. And it’s not impossible to sympathize with that idea because he is older, he’s more worldly and more powerful, both because of his class and, sadly, his gender. It’s only when he’s blind in both eyes and missing a hand that she feels confident enough to marry him.
[00:16:33] I thought that was interesting as I thought about it. Do you think she had an inferiority complex?
PHIL [00:16:40] It’s a really good question, and I hadn’t thought about it that way, you know, because she does seem like she has in one sense, quite a bit of self-confidence. I mean, she stands up to him. She doesn’t take any kind of crap from him. But at the same time, she assumes he’s going to marry Blanche and that she doesn’t really she can hold a candle to her, even though she doesn’t think Blanche is particularly interesting, right? So, I I don’t know if it’s an inferiority complex, but I do think that’s an interesting way of looking at it. That once he is physically wounded, that it brings them closer to being equals, right? And he’s more dependent on her than he would have been otherwise. I hadn’t thought of that at all. So I think I really like that. That’s interesting.
JAY [00:17:33] There’s a passage in the novel that I found really striking, but it’s more subtle.
[00:17:39] It’s… there’s a point in the story where Jane has learnt of this woman named Blanche Ingram, who everyone assumes will one day be engaged to Edward Rochester. And Jane tries to temper her love for Edward by rationalizing that he would never go for her, that she’s too plain compared to how others have described Blanche. And she chastises herself and as an exercise, instructs herself to put her artistic skills to good use. So Jane draws two portraits: one of herself and one of how she imagines Blanche to look. She says:
[00:18:14] “Whenever in future, you should choose to fancy Mr. Rochester thinks well of you, take out these two pictures and compare them. Say, ‘Mr. Rochester might probably win that noble lady’s love if he chooses to strive for it. Is it likely he would waste a serious thought on this indigent and insignificant plebian?”.
[00:18:36] I really like that passage, because it really captured emotion and how her thought process was in terms of — she’s a very almost stoical character in the sense that she tries to control her emotions.
[00:18:52] And I like I like the comparison in that. It lasts a couple of pages where she goes into detail about how she draws the two portraits. With Blanche, obviously she draws, forces herself to to draw Blanche as a beautiful portrait. And for herself, she refuses to allow herself to embellish or otherwise make that portrait prettier than she feels it should be.
PHIL [00:19:19] Yeah, and and I mean, I thought it was interesting, the stuff about her art in general, like the the level of description of some of her works, like when Rochester is first looking at them.
[00:19:30] When I was reading this book the first time, I remember I was actually sitting on the couch in the living room because I was confused by what was all this stuff going on upstairs, and who is this mysterious servant, Grace Poole, who seems to be causing so much trouble and why is he keeping her around and if she’s setting fire to the place? And I did have some vague notion of something, but I couldn’t remember what it was that I’d heard about this. At a certain point, I just — I looked up and I was like, “Oh my God, do you know he has a mad wife locked up in the attic?” And Sara laughed and said, “You’re probably the only person in the country who doesn’t realize he had a mad wife locked up in the attic.” So, obviously, she’s a plot device, right? You know, she’s the reason that our characters can’t get together. She’s the big obstacle. But I also found it really difficult sometimes reading some of the descriptions of, you know, she’s a demon, she’s an animal, she’s a lunatic, she’s a monster. And I was thinking, like, is she the monster? Is Rochester the monster for keeping her locked up like like an animal? Is this a situation where if she wasn’t there she would be in much worse circumstances, and he’s actually like, you know, doing the best he can. Maybe not the best, because the best he wouldn’t have her locked up. But how did you see that?
PHIL [00:20:51] Like, how did you see Rochester’s treatment of her if she really was as self-destructive as they reveal in the book? If he could have chosen, he could have chosen to to leave Berthot to her own devices and then his marriage would have ended one way or another. He takes great pains, never cared for. You know, I’ll bet I agree it’s a secluded way. But at that time. I believe the alternative would have been a lot worse for her if she had been committed, and I like to choose I would choose to believe that he clearly cares for her.
JAY [00:21:23] It’s a it’s a bizarre way to show his love, but I don’t think we have any reason to think otherwise. It’s his one flaw. This is the same man who took on Adele, who is the illegitimate child of his mistress in France. So he has really no connection. But he took on this child…
PHIL [00:21:42] Well, she may be his daughter, we don’t know, right?
JAY [00:21:44] That’s right. He’s not a mean man. He’s not a ungenerous man. The people who work for him are happy working for him. And so if this is his one flaw, I’m willing to forgive and and believe that really this is the best alternative for Bertha. Now, he could have been a little more open about it. He could have let the village know. But maybe there is just embarrassment and maybe, you know, I’m defending him now, but maybe he what he was afraid of was if the public did know about her, they would have tried to have her committed. And that’s not what he wanted for her.
PHIL [00:22:16] Right. And then I guess also there’s the question of like, how much did the servants know?
JAY [00:22:22] Yeah, obviously, the only one who knows is is Grace. Grace Poole.Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Yeah.
PHIL [00:22:30] The others must have had some suspicions.
JAY [00:22:31] No, remember, there was a conversation between… Oh that’s right now. Yeah, they do.
PHIL [00:22:39] OK, so the first time I read this book I actually did a combination of reading text and audio book. So I’d be going back and forth. Like, I’d get in the car and I’d listen to the audio book and then I’d skip ahead. And when we first meet the people who turn out to be the cousins when she leaves Thornfield — how did you pronounce the name of the male cousin?
JAY [00:23:02] So, listenters, it’s written as St John, but apparently it’s pronounced Sinjin. And the only reason I know that is because I was actually reading some notes online about this book and and it’s marked there. But I found that the oddest first name I’ve ever encountered. I mean, it works because I guess he’s he’s a pastor and… It’s just just bizarre. I guess it’s old English.
PHIL [00:23:33] I was like, Sinjin. What the hell? It’s Sinjin?
JAY [00:23:36] I don’t know. It has definitely not caught on. Maybe you can make that catch on, I don’t know.
PHIL [00:23:46] So this whole St. John section, I do know that some people — I think my edition has an introduction by Joyce Carol Oates, where she says something about like, why does it go on for 100 pages or something? Did did that bother you? Did you feel like it was too long a digression until she could go back to Rochester? It does seem quite different from the rest of the book, doesn’t it?
JAY [00:24:07] Yeah. Did you… You felt you felt like it was filler, is that it?
PHIL [00:24:10] Well, you know what? The first time I read it, I kind of did this time, but this time not so much.
[00:24:15] I was curious about what you thought about it. Like, it’s obviously a device, right? And it has that big coincidence where, oh, first they’re cousins. And second, you know, because of that, we’re going to learn that, you know, they find out who she is and she gets this big inheritance and is rich. So it definitely feels more contrived than the rest of the book. And I guess with St. John, he’s more of her equal, I guess, than Rochester. But he she resists him.
JAY [00:24:47] Yeah.
PHIL [00:24:47] Quite strongly, right? She’s she’s not buying into his bullshit basically.
JAY [00:24:52] So did it drag on? So, her books — “her books,” I’ve read one. Jane Eyre is a long book. It’s very dense, dense language. The words aren’t impossible to read, but it’s an investment when you read it. This section itself, though, was interesting because I actually thought she was going to end up with St. John again. This is where the creepiness comes in. Here is her cousin asking –who has finally decided that he is, his goal in life is to become a missionary over in India. And he then basically cons Jane Eyre into learning, I think it’s Hindu or something with him.
PHIL [00:25:31] Hindustani.
JAY [00:25:32] Yeah, Hindustani.
PHIL [00:25:33] Yeah. He tells her stop learning German. You’re going to learn Hindustani.
JAY [00:25:36] Yeah, because. Yeah. And so lo and behold, he one day he announces, oh by the way, now that you know Hindustani, you should just come to India with me as a missionary and — as a missionary’s wife. And so much of that is just wrong. Even he is basically saying, no, not you won’t be my real wife. She kind of counters with well, I’ll come as your as your cousin.
PHIL [00:25:59] That would look bad.
JAY [00:26:00] Yeah. And he says, no, that would not work for me. You have to be my wife, but you won’t really be my wife. And it just gets… Finally, that part. I felt a little dragged on a little too much. But finally she makes up her mind and decides not to go. You know, I don’t think we can be that critical. It’s tempting to be caught. It’s tempting to be critical of Charlotte Bronte for writing this long book. But I was thinking about this. And did you know that the first commercial typewriter wasn’t in use until 1874?
PHIL [00:26:30] I knew it was like the late nineteenth century. Like, I think Mark Twain was an early adopter.
JAY [00:26:35] So this book was handwritten.
PHIL [00:26:36] Yeah.
JAY [00:26:36] And you can imagine the number of drafts that happened here. So I applaud her for her — for putting that effort into the extra sections in that book because I felt it worked. I didn’t feel at any point that I was just kind of wasting my time. I do agree there are sections that were extremely long and the book could easily result in an abbreviated edition would probably be a lot easier for a lot of people to read, but I enjoyed it.
PHIL [00:27:09] So that’s right, because I was, you know, as I was reading, I had this like, what is Jay going to think of this? I have absolutely no idea. I didn’t know which way you were going to go. I mean, one of the things I like, I you know, one of the things that I had thought of when when I had asked you to read this, was thinking back to high school, like, did we actually ever read anything in English written by a woman? Can you remember?
JAY [00:27:34] No, I don’t think so. I can’t remember a lot about I don’t think I even read Great Expectations.
PHIL [00:27:43] Yes, I do remember we had Great Expectations, and I remember reading Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge over one summer because we had to read it before the fall.
JAY [00:27:54] Were we in the same high school? I don’t remember that at all.
PHIL [00:27:59] Yeah, I remember being, like on a canoe trip with my copy of The Mayor of Casterbridge.
JAY [00:28:04] I can honestly say I know I didn’t read that. I remember having a copy of Great Expectations that I’m pretty sure I never read either. This is what happens. and then you grow up and you do podcasts about books that you’ve never read.
PHIL [00:28:17] And I think what I was thinking about, you know, how it would be that I felt like probably the grumpiest English teacher I remember was Mr. Seaman, who — I remember his tag line being “The name is ‘Seaman’ don’t misspell it.”
JAY [00:28:27] Yeah, that’s right.
PHIL [00:28:28] So how do you think he would have approached Jane Eyre with with a bunch of high school boys?
JAY [00:28:35] Yeah, well, I mean, it was an all boys school for our listeners. So I think that would have been a doubtful book for them to actually even put in. But it’s it’s an interesting discussion about literature in high school. Here’s what I’ve believed for a while now. I don’t understand why they continue to make kids read things like Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare. It’s just too much. And so here’s the thing, is that Shakespeare — I have deep love and respect for him and his plays and sonnets. And as an adult, I can somewhat appreciate him, even though it’s very complex. But it’s adult themes and it’s incredibly complex language, and I’m really sceptical, like, do you think a teenager can relate to ideas about ambition, personal power, and existentialist angst?
PHIL [00:29:33] Some of them probably.
JAY [00:29:34] But that’s what those books are. That’s what those plays are about. I mean, and there’s such subtle — we’re digressing a little bit, but there’s such subtle language in Shakespeare. It’s powerful, but it’s subtle. And I don’t or — either that or I wasn’t paying attention in class. Perhaps that was more to the point.
PHIL [00:29:53] I think that books at the wrong time can really turn you off them. Like, I hated Great Expectations and last year, earlier this year, I thought, let me give this book a try again. I was like, it’s actually funny. Like there are parts of it that are funny that I completely missed, right? Like, it just seemed so kind of dull and boring to me. So I guess in some ways maybe I’m happy we didn’t read this in high school because it probably just sort of turned me off.
JAY [00:30:17] Right, right. Great Expectations — Is that the one about the two cities? Just kidding.
PHIL [00:30:27] There are essentially two Jane Eyres n this book, right?
JAY [00:30:31] OK.
PHIL [00:30:32] There’s the one who the action is happening to as the narrative moves forward. And there’s the narrator who’s looking back, right? I think 10 years after her marriage to Rochester. And I mean, it’s understood when you’re reading a first-person book on some level that there is somebody telling you this story. And if they’re telling you the story, then it must have already happened. Right? So you do have some sense that there’s an older narrator looking back, but that older Jane is like very present in this book. And she addresses the readers directly. Because I read the e-book version of this, I could actually just do a search and I could — I found that there are about 40 times in the book where she speaks directly to the reader, right? She’ll say things like:.
[00:31:19] “Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot.”
[00:31:25] “Reader, it is not pleasant to dwell on these details.” And of course, most famously, the start of the last chapter:
[00:31:32] “Reader, I married him.”
[00:31:35] I thought it was very interesting that — I liked having the sense of older Jane telling us about younger Jane and in some ways it actually pulls us out of the plot for a moment because there’ll be things like Rochester refers to the colour of her eyes and he gets it wrong. And she says, reader, you know, they’re actually this colour, not this colour.
JAY [00:31:53] So is it like talking to the fourth wall?
PHIL [00:31:57] I guess. You know, or you know what she’ll say, like, well, let’s leave him in the corner there while we carry on with our story. So, I mean, did those things pull you out of the narrative or did they they kind of deepen the experience?
JAY [00:32:12] Well, she pulls it off. I agree with you. I think that could be a little jarring in somebody who doesn’t know how to write. That could be really off putting. But Bronte really — she pulls it off, I mean, the whole book is very solid. It’s so consistent in everything. Like, every paragraph, every line that she’s written is all I almost want to say equally balanced, if that makes any sense.
PHIL [00:32:37] Yeah, yeah. When I first read Jane Eyre, and then I got caught up in this whole, like, oh my God, Gothic romance thing. So I read Wuthering Heights next. I remember like as a kid seeing a histrionic black and white version on TV, which I don’t really remember anything about except it was dark and windy and rainy. And I loved Wuthering Heights. I read it. It’s just so over the top. And it was very entertaining. What you know, what did you think? I know you’ve read Wuthering Heights like. I mean, obviously they’re written by sisters. How would you compare the two books? Is it fair to compare them? I couldn’t help but think of one while reading the other.
JAY [00:33:20] Yeah, I had to go back and kind of think about Wuthering Heights because it’s been a while since I’ve read it. And when I kind of peruse back in terms of the plot line, they’re totally different books. Jane Eyre has the happy ending. Wuthering Heights is dark. It’s much more complex in the plotlines and it’s more gothic. It’s a slightly easier read than Jane Eyre, but there’s way less introspection and much more dialogue. It’s almost like if we were to say Jane Eyre set a template for for rom-coms, I would probably suggest that Shakespeare started those. Would you agree? So Shakespeare’s comedies started the.
PHIL [00:34:08] I guess. Yeah, yeah.
JAY [00:34:09] Yeah. So Wuthering Heights would be a Shakespeare tragedy. And that’s how I draw the distinction.
PHIL [00:34:15] Uh-huh.
JAY [00:34:15] It’s just, it’s like everybody dies. In Jane Eyre, people die. But it’s almost — there’s just rewards.
PHIL [00:34:25] Right. And it’s funny when you said there’s a happy ending because of course like yes, but Rochester does also wind up blind and losing his hand.
JAY [00:34:32] No, fair enough. But I think the the idea — and again this goes back to… was that the only reason Jane took him back? But there is kind of a happy ending in the sense that she has reached — So Jane Eyre, in the end end of the story in my mind, has asically reached complete human fulfilment. So she’s comfortable with herself and truly feels happy because she feels that she’s arrived in her own way. And Wuthering Heights is just terrible people doing terrible things to each other and everyone’s dying.
PHIL [00:35:09] Now, often on this podcast, we’ll discuss whether, you know, something would make a good film or TV adaptation. So there are at least two dozen film and TV adaptations of Jane Eyre, which — I watched one of them the other night, a kind of it’s one that’s supposed to be very good. It’s from 2011. It kind of put me to sleep, but it’s a very hard book to adapt because it’s so interior. Right? Like, the first adaptation comes from 1910. So I’m wondering if the best of the lot is maybe the one that just throws up its hands and and has fun with it. And that is the SCTV skit Jane Eyrehead. Have you watched it?
JAY [00:35:54] I did see that. That was excellent. I highly recommend it. It was great. And I think it’s funny enough on its own, right? You don’t actually need to know the story of Jane Eyre to find it good.
PHIL [00:36:09] And now every time I hear Mr Rochester’s name, I think, “Oh, yeah!” Yeah, don’t go to the third floor, no reason there’s no mad wife up there.
JAY [00:36:27] Yeah.
PHIL [00:36:30] Now, we’ve now been talking for quite a while, I have to confess, I’m still I’m going into our rating section here with no idea how you’re going to rate this book.
[00:36:41] So we have… our sort of rating system is a one or maybe even a zero to five. One means you’d rather go for a freezing walk on the moors than have to read this again and a five means you just might watch all 24 of the Jane Eyre movies. How do you rate Jane Eyre, Jay?
PHIL [00:37:04] Well, it’s it’s impossible not to rate this book anything less than a four to five. I’ve complained in the past about Hemingwayesque writing, if you will, short terse sentences. And this is absolutely the opposite. And it’s not flowery prose either.
[00:37:22] It’s full, it’s descriptive, but it’s also very precise writing. It’s a very economically worded novel. But at the same time, it’s quite a long novel. It’s a solid piece of literature. There’s nothing I can say about it that — it’s self-contained. And I won’t use the word perfect. It’s not a perfect novel because there’s — and it’s not necessarily something that everyone will enjoy, but if you want to read something that is, that I would consider I would agree is great, is well written, I’d recommend it.
PHIL [00:38:01] I think we also often have, maybe because of high school, you know, a sense of some of these classics as being really stodgy and hard to read. And and despite its length, like Jane Eyre is not stodgy. Write it if you’re in that the right frame of mind, like I guess it does grab you.
JAY [00:38:18] Yeah, it does. And it doesn’t go into a lot. It’s very character-oriented. And so that makes it more accessible rather than being — some novels like Les Miserables, for example. Well, we’ll spend a lot of — entire chapters talking about philosophy or politics at that time period. And it’s just — this book is is strictly about — it’s a novel about characters and what happens to them.
PHIL [00:38:46] So I would I would give this one my first five out of five. Of course, it’s not perfect, but what is? I found on rereading it, I was — I found it actually, parts of it, a little a little harder going than when I first read it. I’m not sure why, but once I got swept up into it again, I do think it’s quite remarkable.
JAY [00:39:09] Yeah, it’s I reading Jane Eyre is, it’s — I would describe it as an investment of time, but the payoff is worth it. And that’s not because there’s any real surprise endings or twists, but it’s 100% engaging.
PHIL [00:39:20] There was part of me that thought you might kind of throw up your hands and not like it.
JAY [00:39:24] It’s very dense. There’s a lot to it. It’s — how do I say it without misleading people? You wouldn’t read poetry for seven hours straight. Like poetry, I find, is best appreciated if you just dip into it a little bit here and there and can really appreciate it, and this is like reading something that’s just — it’s like you’d be, like reading poetry for three hours straight. It just — it’s a lot. And you need to just kind of set it down and take your time with it.
PHIL [00:39:54] So I read this book on my Kobo, which tells you when you start how many hours it estimates you’re going to take to read it. Right?
JAY [00:40:02] Right. OK.
PHIL [00:40:03] So, I can’t remember what it was. Six hours or something. But then it adjusts that time as you read. So, it changes the estimate based on your actual reading speed. So I think it started off at six hours and then I read a bit and it was five point six hours. And then I read some more and it was seven, and then it was eight… The more I read the longer it was going to take me. Like some Sisyphean task.
JAY [00:40:30] That’s excellent.
PHIL [00:40:36] So we have a review we want to share this week from Apple Podcasts. Do you want to read that for us?
JAY [00:40:42] Yes, would love to. This is BG Flashheart, and he left us this review on Apple Podcasts. It says, “Entertaining. Love the podcast, 30 minutes flew by way too fast! I’m looking forward to reading along with Jay and Phil and to exposing myself to a broader array of books. By the way, never read a graphic novel before and amazed the Andre the Giant biography took this format.
PHIL [00:41:08] Well, that’s it for this episode of Dog-eared and Cracked. So next time we have Jay’s pick, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which I just started reading last night, and I already have a few thoughts on. After that we have a couple of non-fiction books coming up because we alternate a pair of fiction and a pair of non-fiction.
JAY [00:41:26] How is The Warriors a non-fiction book, Phil?
PHIL [00:41:29] No, we’re doing the non-fiction. We’ve got to do non-fiction. Then we’re going to The Warriors.
JAY [00:41:33] OK. All right. Do you have any in mine? Because I haven’t given this any thought!.
PHIL [00:41:39] Yeah, I was going to do Bullshit Jobs by David Graber.
JAY [00:41:43] Oh, that’s right. OK, OK, that’s fine.
PHIL [00:41:46] I have it on hold from the library.
JAY [00:41:47] Yeah. OK.
PHIL [00:41:48] Well, spoiler alert: The Warriors is coming up in a few…
JAY [00:41:52] I just want to read it! It’s just sitting on my desk for months.
PHIL [00:41:55] Yes. It’s been sitting next to my bed because we were going to do it a while ago and then…
JAY [00:42:03] I started to cheat and read through it a little bit. And it’s — I’m actually really impressed.
PHIL [00:42:07] All right. Well, listeners, see you next time.
JAY [00:42:10] See you later.