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Jane Eyre–a classic
by Charlotte Brontë
with a Guide to Reading and Reflecting
by Karen Swallow Prior
Occasionally I will read a sentence plugging a newly released book that describes it as a “classic.” For me, a book has to not only be of high quality or a good example of a type of literature, but most importantly has to have stood the test of time to be considered a classic. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is one of these books. Karen Swallow Prior, a professor of English literature, is editing a series of classical books and has chosen Jane Eyre as one of her subjects. In her introduction, she discusses the author and provides background of the work and its publication. She also addresses the themes found in the book and how to read Jane Eyre through a current Christian perspective. Prior includes footnotes on archaic or unfamiliar terms and references to other works both secular and religious at the bottom of the pages where they occur. The novel is divided into three volumes; each is followed by insightful discussion questions. Also there are questions for reflection at the end which are appropriate for addressing overarching themes and issues.
Jane Eyre is a long and complex book; straight summarizing would not do it justice and would certainly contain spoilers. The volumes progress chronologically through Jane’s life, and she is the narrator. She includes the struggles she as endured that have formed her into an intellectual woman of strong moral character. She frequently quotes people as referring to her as “plain” in her physical attributes.
The novel includes social themes regarding the treatment of the poor and of women. Neither of these groups had great expectations of rising above their current status. At its heart, Jane Eyre is a romance, but it has aspects of mystery, adventure, and theology. Brontë’s treatment and development of the various characters are excellent, and there is liberal use of foreshadowing and symbolism. This is truly a classic that can be read for pure enjoyment or studied as a work of art.
Category: Fiction, Christian, Classic, Romance
Notes: Manuscript used by editor was published in 1848
Publication: 2021—B & H Publishing
I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning dawned I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy. I thought sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah; and now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the bourne: but I could not reach it, even in fancy—a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove me back. Sense would resist delirium; judgment would warn passion. Too feverish to rest, I rose as soon as day dawned.
This was very pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.
Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?