Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jane Eyre

"I thank my Maker, that in the midst of judgment he has remembered mercy. I humbly entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto!" Then he stretched his hand out to be led.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I've been reading Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. In fact, when I finished it once, I could not bring myself to read anything else and so began reading it again. I finished it, again. I'm still in love with this book. I spent my second reading ingraining into my mind its language, its story, is characters, its heart. If you've read it, no plot summary is necessary; if you haven't read it, no plot summary is sufficient.

Upon finishing the novel the second time, I had to consider a few things. First, why the name Jane Eyre? I certainly see the appropriateness of the name Jane as the character is simple, pure and plain, like her name. She is not extravagant or awkward. The name Jane, however, derives from the name John, which means, "God is gracious." Indeed, the book is really about the graciousness of God. It is about his guidance through life, his grace in difficulty, his compassion on the afflicted, his mercy on the repentant. Upon searching a bit online about the name Eyre, which is uncommon to me, I found this:
In Thorpe's catalogue of the deeds of Battle Abbey, we find the following legendary account of this name: "Ayres, formerly Eyre. The first of this family was named Truelove, one of the followers of William the Conqueror. At the battle of Hastings, Duke William was flung from his horse, and his helmet beaten into his face, which Truelove observing, pulled off, and horsed him again. The duke told him 'Thou shalt hereafter from Truelove be called Eyre (or Air), because thou hast given me the air I breathe.'

This name is again fitting, not only for the character and her relationships, but as a reflection of God.
The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. ~Genesis 2:7

God is the air we breath; His spirit gives us life and spirit. He is what fills our souls, if we let Him and Jane is a character who is open to God.

Another point that made me pause was the ending of the book, that is, the very last page. Bronte does not end on Jane or her dear Mr. Rochester but on St John. Why? I think she is giving us a hint as to the moral of her story. St John lives in complete concern for the will of God and so knows his death will be without fear but filled with faith and hope. Jane and Mr. Rochester have a conversation much earlier in the book about living without remorse, living rightly. Living according to the decrees of God returns several times throughout the book and is very much in Bronte's mind. Not everyone is called to live the same vocation, as Bronte makes very clear, but all are called to live their vocation according to the will of God and his decrees. And, even when a person falls short, even horrendously short of this, for the repentant, there is hope in God's mercy.

I'm a sucker for books that revolve on the theme of redemption and this is one fantastic book.

Whether or not it will replace Pride and Prejudice as my all time favorite, I cannot say yet. Time must judge first before I can. But I can say that Jane Eyre has, for the time being, edged out in front. I am curious to see how Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is next.

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