Sorry, National Review, Jane Eyre Really Is Awful

 

Wednesday, at National Review Online, Jessica Hornik Evans wrote about a conversation she overheard in a bookstore in (where else?) Portland, Oregon*, about all the racism and toxic masculinity in Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre isn’t racist or toxically masculine (or any other kind of masculine), but it is a dumb book.

(Spoilers ahead, but you should thank me for spoiling it.)

Almost every character in it is insane. The only exceptions are a couple of maids and Jane’s devoutly Christian boarding school roommate, which is ironic because all the other characters in the book need Jesus. Midway through the book, Jane is about to marry a “Byronic hero” (literature-speak for a male drama queen) named after some town in upstate New York, and the author goes on for about four pages on how silly the “if anyone objects, speak now or forever hold your peace” thing is at weddings because nobody ever objects.

Three guesses what happens next.

Turns out ol’ Schenectady has an insane wife he’s hiding in his attic, and bigamy in the 19th century is only for Mormons. Wedding’s off.

(Keep in mind that Charlotte Bronte, the author who tells us how insane Bertha (Wife #1) is, thinks Jane and Binghamton are the ideal relationship, which tells you how reliable she is. Also, there’s a pretentious umlaut over the “e” in Bronte, which I could probably look up how to type, but I’m not going to.)Meanwhile back at the ranch, Plan B for Jane is to marry her cousin and run off to India. She backs out at the last minute, not because, oh I don’t know, marrying your cousin and running off to India is a really bad idea, but because she hears voices that tell her Utica is back in the market.

Voices. In. Her. Head.

Out of the incestuous frying pan into the schizophrenic fire.

Turns out there was a fire over at Irondequoit’s place, and it just happened to kill the woman standing between him and Jane, and he just happened to be close enough to get severely injured himself, because that’s not completely suspicious. Reader, she married him, and sadly Charlotte Bronte died of really bad morning sickness in 1855, because the two deadliest things (other than civil wars) in the 19th century were being artistic and being pregnant, so she didn’t have time to write the sequel in which Ithaca got tired of Jane the way he did with Bertha, and starts trying to off her in hilariously inept ways while she’s oblivious, and everyone realizes the whole thing was supposed to be a dark comedy.

*Perhaps we should just be happy that there’s one business in Portland that hasn’t been burned down yet.

Published in Literature
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 57 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    You should do more of these reviews.  Seriously.

    As for Jane Eyre, I kind of enjoyed it while listening to the book on tape while traveling, but I’m not especially motivated to hear or read it again-if nothing else, the description of the insane wife was interesting.

    • #1
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    I liked Jane Eyre, but I really like your review of the book. 

    You might like The Wide Sargasso Sea, a prequel to Jane Eyre written by Jean Rhys. Or Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. Both, in different ways, mock Jane Eyre.

    • #2
  3. She Member
    She
    @She

    Oh, my, yes.  It’s a remarkably tedious and gothic book, even if you’re a girl, once you’re (mentally, at least) more than about nine years old.  Although, compared to Wuthering Heights (Emily), it’s a beacon of rationality and realism.

    Jane Eyre has also been subject to some of the worst movie adaptations in history.

    • #3
  4. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    Ah. Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre. Ok, I admit liking it when I read it as a young girl (older than 9 though). The most moving part is the death of her friend in the workhouse girl’s school. I’ve enjoyed a number of TV adaptions (including George C. Scott) but not the movies. This is probably because my grandmother and mother were thrown out of a movie theater while watching the Welles/Fontaine version. Apparently their excessive laughter was not appreciated by the other patrons. Now, of course, I will never be able to think of Mr. Rochester in the same way and will only wonder how many other upstate New York  towns there are whose names could be substituted. Second the recommendation of The Eyre Affair. Have never been able to get through any version of  Wuthering Heights (book, film, TV). Now Heathcliffe and Kathy are seriously insane. 

     

    • #4
  5. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    Disagree vehemently. Jane Eyre holds true to her Christian convictions in leaving Rochester when she discovers he’s married. She also never planned on marrying her cousin, that was his pompous assumption that she should. She also didn’t know he was her cousin until the great reveal of her inheritance.

    The fire wasn’t coincidental, crazy wifey set them earlier in the book. Dealing with those was how Rochester came to respect and later love Jane. The character of Rochester was deep, imperfect, tortured, and funny all at the same time. He was a great character and so was Jane.

    The ending was perfect.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    Another reason I oppose banning books: It gives lousy books way too much free publicity.  Have you ever tried to actually read Lady Chatterlay’s Lover?  What a snooze-fest!

    • #6
  7. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Another reason I oppose banning books: It gives lousy books way too much free publicity. Have you ever tried to actually read Lady Chatterlay’s Lover? What a snooze-fest!

    Tom Lehrer liked it. At least that’s what he said in a song. Maybe he was reading it for laughs.

    • #7
  8. She Member
    She
    @She

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):
    Have you ever tried to actually read Lady Chatterlay’s Lover?  What a snooze-fest!

    Indeed.

    Here’s the antidote:  Cold Comfort Farm.

     

    • #8
  9. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    She (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):
    Have you ever tried to actually read Lady Chatterlay’s Lover? What a snooze-fest!

    Indeed.

    Here’s the antidote: Cold Comfort Farm.

     

    “I saw something nasty in the woodshed!”

    • #9
  10. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    @Jeff Ditzler

    Do Wuthering Heights!  Do Wuthering Heights!

    • #10
  11. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Turns out there was a fire over at Irondequoit’s place, and it *just happened* to kill the woman standing between him and Jane, and he *just happened* to be close enough to get severely injured himself, because that’s not completely suspicious. Reader, she married him, and sadly Charlotte Bronte died of really bad morning sickness in 1855, because the two deadliest things (other than civil wars) in the 19th century were being artistic and being pregnant, so she didn’t have time to write the sequel in which Ithaca got tired of Jane the way he did with Bertha, and starts trying to off her in hilariously inept ways while she’s oblivious, and everyone realizes the whole thing was supposed to be a dark comedy.

    That was a literal LOL moment (awkward, as I’m supposed to be working)

    It reminded me of a news story that still sends one of my sisters into a paroxysms of laughter. (I bring it up as often as I can at inopportune moments)

    An elderly man tried to off his wife by throwing an unplugged blow dryer into the shower, where she was washing her hair and wondering what the hell was going on. (“he never comes into the room when I’m naked anymore …” was probably her first thought)

    Thanks for the synopsis; dreadful book and even-more-dreadful movies.

    • #11
  12. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Ah. Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre. Ok, I admit liking it when I read it as a young girl (older than 9 though). The most moving part is the death of her friend in the workhouse girl’s school. I’ve enjoyed a number of TV adaptions (including George C. Scott) but not the movies. This is probably because my grandmother and mother were thrown out of a movie theater while watching the Welles/Fontaine version. Apparently their excessive laughter was not appreciated by the other patrons. Now, of course, I will never be able to think of Mr. Rochester in the same way and will only wonder how many other upstate New York towns there are whose names could be substituted. Second the recommendation of The Eyre Affair. Have never been able to get through any version of Wuthering Heights (book, film, TV). Now Heathcliffe and Kathy are seriously insane.

     

    Ah … Wuthering Heights. That one I liked. I actually enjoy insane people. Though this video by Kate Bush made me wonder about my own mental health.

    • #12
  13. Samuel Block Support
    Samuel Block
    @SamuelBlock

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    You should do more of these reviews. Seriously.

    As for Jane Eyre, I kind of enjoyed it while listening to the book on tape while traveling, but I’m not especially motivated to hear or read it again-if nothing else, the description of the insane wife was interesting.

    Yeah. This was fun.

    Not that I have an opinion on Jane Eyre, mind you. I never read it. But this was fun.

    Please, sir….

    • #13
  14. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Yes, more reviews please!

    Millions love Jane Eyre, but it was, after all,  a precursor to today’s soap operas. 

    Of course, I won’t totally dish soaps, as they are good for a laugh, and almost enjoyable when one is home in bed with the flu and loaded up on Nyquil.

    Also if there had been no soaps, we’d have never had the movie  “Tootsie.”

     

    • #14
  15. JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery Thatcher
    JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery
    @JosePluma

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    I liked Jane Eyre, but I really like your review of the book.

    You might like The Wide Sargasso Sea, a prequel to Jane Eyre written by Jean Rhys. Or Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. Both, in different ways, mock Jane Eyre.

    Fforde always creates great fantastical worlds.  I got annoyed with that one for making such a big deal about Heathcliff, though.

    • #15
  16. JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery Thatcher
    JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery
    @JosePluma

    A copy of Jane Eyre is one of the plot contrivances in the movie Absolutely, Maybe.  If you haven’t seen it, the movie has the biggest collection of smug, self-centered New Yorkers that you’d ever want to line up and slap.   I saw it with my daughter, who had just started college, and she groaned when the character started talking about Jane Eyre.  She called the book “a penny dreadful that pretentious people who haven’t read much like to use to show they’ve been to college.”

    • #16
  17. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Well, I liked it. I even wrote curriculum for it. 

    • #17
  18. davenr321 Coolidge
    davenr321
    @davenr321

    I say you’re doing it wrong. These are psychological horror-thriller novels that are to read and enjoyed as such. Anything else and they simply do not age well.

    • #18
  19. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    She (View Comment):

    Oh, my, yes. It’s a remarkably tedious and gothic book, even if you’re a girl, once you’re (mentally, at least) more than about nine years old. Although, compared to Wuthering Heights (Emily), it’s a beacon of rationality and realism.

    Jane Eyre has also been subject to some of the worst movie adaptations in history.

    I confess to never having read Jane Eyre. Maybe now I should! But I was forced to read Wuthering Heights in high school, and I swear, that was the stupidest, most obnoxious book I had read up to that moment. It was just awful! I’m pretty sure I wrote a really scathing paper about it, too. But, because I was a good writer, I got a good grade. She was a reasonable teacher: she didn’t require obsequiousness–just skills. 

    • #19
  20. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Sadly, YouTube seems to have removed all videos of Monty Python’s “Wuthering Heights In Semaphore Code.”

    • #20
  21. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are actually the same book.

    • #21
  22. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    So Mr Ditzler, I was discussing the bare bones of your review of Jane Eyre with the spouse. He immediately countered, without any self censor, “Just what is so bad about keeping one’s wife in the attic?”

    Should I explain the matter to him, or let the divorce attorney handle it?

    • #22
  23. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    So Mr Ditzler, I was discussing the bare bones of your review of Jane Eyre with the spouse. He immediately countered, without any self censor, “Just what is so bad about keeping one’s wife in the attic?”

    Should I explain the matter to him, or let the divorce attorney handle it?

    The attic usually has poor temperature control. Even in our finished and insulated garage attic, which you enter above my heated garage office, tends to be cool in winter and hot in summer. Not a good place to keep your wife.  It was a good place to keep our harvest of sweet potatoes and onions, though.  

    • #23
  24. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    So Mr Ditzler, I was discussing the bare bones of your review of Jane Eyre with the spouse. He immediately countered, without any self censor, “Just what is so bad about keeping one’s wife in the attic?”

    Should I explain the matter to him, or let the divorce attorney handle it?

    The attic usually has poor temperature control. Even in our finished and insulated garage attic, which you enter above my heated garage office, tends to be cool in winter and hot in summer. Not a good place to keep your wife. It was a good place to keep our harvest of sweet potatoes and onions, though.

    So, in terms of consistent temperatures, wife-storage is something more suited to the cellar?  Good to know.

    • #24
  25. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    I loved that novel when I first read it in high school.  I read it again as an adult just a few years ago, and I still love it.  Your review is funny though.  You should do a series ripping on all the classics!

    • #25
  26. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Michelle Witte does a hysterically funny synopsis of Jane Eyre in her book, The Faker’s Guide to the Classics.  In fact, I recommend the book for a good laugh because she pretty much skewers all the classics with sarcasm, snark, and wit.

    • #26
  27. Roderic Coolidge
    Roderic
    @rhfabian

    Jeff Ditzler: Wednesday, at National Review Online, Jessica Hornik Evans wrote about a conversation she overheard in a bookstore in (where else?) Portland, Oregon*, about all the racism and toxic masculinity in Jane Eyre.

    There are few books that would pass muster with critics who reduce everything to “racism and toxic masculinity”.  Jane Eyre is a complex and multifaceted work.  There’s a long list of characters representing just about every type of person.  It’s impossible to reduce it to a few trite slogans.  Brontë’s portrayal of Mr. Rochester, for example, is full of contradictions — proud, moody, cynical, full of woe yet capable of deep and strong affection.  As Evans demurs, for women capable of taking men as men he’s an attractive figure.

    I suspect much of the hostility directed at Jane Eyre these days is due to its strongly Christian sense of morality.  (God forbid that values such as chastity, charity, self sacrifice, patience, and forbearance be promoted anywhere.)  Yet at the same time the protagonist is an independent thinker who values her freedom.

    • #27
  28. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    So Mr Ditzler, I was discussing the bare bones of your review of Jane Eyre with the spouse. He immediately countered, without any self censor, “Just what is so bad about keeping one’s wife in the attic?”

    Should I explain the matter to him, or let the divorce attorney handle it?

    The attic usually has poor temperature control. Even in our finished and insulated garage attic, which you enter above my heated garage office, tends to be cool in winter and hot in summer. Not a good place to keep your wife. It was a good place to keep our harvest of sweet potatoes and onions, though.

    Everyone knows that pumpkin shells are best place to keep a wife.

    • #28
  29. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    Vince Guerra (View Comment):

    Disagree vehemently. Jane Eyre holds true to her Christian convictions in leaving Rochester when she discovers he’s married. She also never planned on marrying her cousin, that was his pompous assumption that she should. She also didn’t know he was her cousin until the great reveal of her inheritance.

    The fire wasn’t coincidental, crazy wifey set them earlier in the book. Dealing with those was how Rochester came to respect and later love Jane. The character of Rochester was deep, imperfect, tortured, and funny all at the same time. He was a great character and so was Jane.

    The ending was perfect.

    I love Jane Eyre! My mother and I watched the adaptation with Timothy Dalton together when I was about 8 but I didn’t read the book until I was in my 20’s. I’m so surprised so many of you here hate it. 
    Just a word to defend poor Rochester, locking his homocidal wife in the attic might not seem very nice, but it was much nicer than the mental institutions of the time in which she would have undoubtedly have ended up otherwise.

    • #29
  30. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Marjorie Reynolds (View Comment):=

    Just a word to defend poor Rochester, locking his homocidal wife in the attic might not seem very nice, but it was much nicer than the mental institutions of the time in which she would have undoubtedly have ended up otherwise.

    She totally would have burned down whatever mental institution they put her in!

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.