I have decided to mix in some classics with my constant reading of sci-fi/fantasy, philosophy, theology, and biographies. In order to pick which classics to read, I have largely crowdsourced recommendations of which classic literature they have enjoyed, combining this with lists of major classic works. So yeah, pretty subjective, but we can deal. As I read through the classics, there will be SPOILERS, because I want to actually talk about them. Maybe it will encourage you to read them, or, if you have read them already, you can join in a deeper discussion of these great works. Feel free to recommend your favorites, as well.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre is a revolutionary novel, apparently the first first-person narrative focused on the moral/spiritual development of a main character (thanks Wikipedia!). That moral and spiritual development is also reflected in a subtle criticism of society that is woven throughout the novel.
I’d like to focus on that last point first. There are many societal ills brought up in the book, whether it is the treatment of mental illness, the expectations placed on women, or the broader expectations related to class and wealth. Bertha Antoinetta Mason introduces the question of mental health, as she is shut up in a home and relegated out of society. Her husband has gotten to the point where he essentially pretends, when he can, that she doesn’t exist, and he longs for human contact. The cruelty of this situation is highlighted again and again, no more so than when Edward Rochester tries to marry her and the revelation of his marriage to Bertha is revealed. The resolution of this comes somewhat abruptly towards the end as Bertha dies in the fire she lights burning down Edward’s house and dies in suicide. The horror of her situation, though, is never downplayed and reading it one can’t help but demand better care.
Apparently when the book came out it was seen as anti-Christian by some due to its challenging of hierarchy, but it is clear that Brontë is deeply faithful in her Christianity and indeed highlights the injustice of placing men and women on different levels in society. It’s not necessarily overt, but the critique of how society treats men and women is found throughout the whole novel.
As for the actual story–something probably worth talking about in a look at a classic novel–it has Jane Austen-levels of drama throughout. From her time as a young girl in dire straits–another social commentary–to the expectations placed on her about marriage, the plot moves along at a decent clip despite being a lengthy novel. The twists keep coming, and Eyre’s narrative voice is strong. It’s excellent.
Reading the Classics– Read more posts in this series as I work my way through classic literature. Let me know what you think of them! (Scroll down for more.)
J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!
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