warning: Spoilers ahead
Can I say how much I enjoyed reading Jane Eyre? How little I wanted it to end--and yet, I also didn't want to stop reading. This is the dilemma I always hope for in a book, and it's so hard to come by on the NYT notable book list. Why do I keep looking there when the best books are sitting on my shelf unread? I won't make the mistake again soon.
Anyway, I've been thinking about the ending of Jane E. and how it could easily have ended with Jane's discovery of Rochester's secret--a tragedy. I wonder what editorial decisions went into to turning the narrative around, giving Jane a new life, giving her a family and money. I wonder if Bronte always knew that that was where she would take her heroine.
That image of the tree, struck by lightening, two separate trunks cleaving to one another until they both decay--I couldn't decide if this was a beautiful metaphor or a depressing one. On one hand, we all decay--as Mrs. D so beautifully noted in her last post. Isn't it better to meet the inevitable with another self at our side?
On the other hand--with all of Jane's comments on not wanting to lose her independence, and of not being Rochester's equal, at this stage in the narrative the decay aspect of the metaphor looks like a condemnation of marriage.
I know I'm drifting dangerously close to a feminist reading of JE, but what does it say that a marriage did not take place between Jane and Rochester until she had acquired a fortune and been wooed by another man, while Rochester lost half of his fortune, was physically maimed, and shunned by society? Is this really a marriage of equals? And if so--why is the cost of equality so high for Rochester? I realize that his loss of looks, sight, fortune and esteem all serve to bring down his pride, and give him a taste of the suffering that Jane has experienced for her entire life. But the book gives me enough faith in Jane to assume she could be his equal even without all his loss (perhaps even an equal in pride--which is perhaps what Bronte wanted to avoid).
Found myself a bit jealous of the later descriptions of their marriage--spending all day reading to one another and describing the scenery. I suppose, as with everything else, there can be too much of a good thing--but I don't see it happening soon.