Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is one of my favorite books ever, for many, many reasons. The writing, the characters, the story… and yes, the romance.
For a book to be listed as a favorite of mine, an honor I bestow on very few works, it needs to be of excellent quality. But not only that, I need to enjoy it. I need to have fun reading it. In Jane Eyre, a lot of that fun is seeing Jane’s strength and passion. And, I must admit, a lot of that fun is seeing the romance blossom between her and Rochester.
Now, Jane Eyre isn’t just about the romance, so here are some other things I love about it.
First there’s the writing. It is beautiful. Every sentence flows like poetry. Jane Eyre does get long in some places, like many classic books, as she struggles with her feelings and describes seemingly insignificant landscape. However, I never lose interest since the writing is so nice. Take this quote, for example:
We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.
Then there’s the story. A creepy manor, a mysterious owner, disembodied laughter in the dead of night… Who says classics are boring?
Most importantly, there’s Jane herself. The whole story is about her being tested, again and again. Despite all she’s been through, she can say this:
“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you, – and full as much heart!“
Still indomitable was the reply- ‘I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man… there I plant my foot.’
Jane is one of the best heroines ever.
And then, of course, there’s the romance.
I haven’t read many straight-up romances (mostly just Jane Austen, The Fault in Our Stars,
and Twilight). However, most books have a romantic subplot or two, so I’ve seen a bit of what works and what doesn’t. And wow, does Jane Eyre work.
Even though Mr. Rochester is kind of a terrible person, I still find myself
squealing over rooting for his and Jane’s relationship. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked.
1. Their attraction is understandable
There has to be a reason people like each other. I don’t buy the “it’s LOVE!” excuse. That’s not love, that’s a plot device. Jane and Mr Rochester, especially, have a lot to overcome. Jane is a very poor match for Rochester, financially and socially. Rochester is basically the first man Jane meets, so it has to be obvious that that’s not why Jane loves him.
But it quickly becomes clear why Rochester loves Jane- her straightforward attitude, her refusal to consider anyone more or less of a person because of their rank, and her lack of airs or games. And Jane loves Rochester’s passion and his willingness to look beyond rank.
2. They enjoy being around each other
Angst has its time and place (and yes, Rochester does spend a decent amount of time angsting), but when the only thing a couple does together is monologue about how they shouldn’t be together, it gets boring. I see this a lot in YA books. It gets to the point where I wonder why they even like each other, when it seems like the relationship just makes them miserable.
Jane and Rochester, though, enjoy each other’s company. They banter and like talking about the same things. They are visibly happier together than apart.
3. No one else would do
It’s not just that they’re happier together, it’s that they’re happier in a way that no one else can make them. This is shown the first time they’re talking in the library and Mrs. Fairfax keeps getting confused by the conversation. Then during Rochester’s house party, there’s an obvious difference between how he interacts with them and with Jane.
There’s also their mutual passion. I don’t just mean their passion for each other, but that they both feel things to a great extent. They’d be hard-pressed to find someone else like that in their world of control and boundaries and rank.
4. Rochester flirts with Jane (and she’s oblivious)
Also Jane teases him a lot, and he always falls for it. This stuff makes the story so fun. I love the types of scenes where this happens, like when Jane asks for her wages, or when she talks about how attractive St John is.
This is a lot like point 2, only instead of the enjoyment being between each other it’s between them and the reader.
5. They’re equal in power
Power shared equally is an important part of a relationship. If one person holds too much power over the other, there’s always the risk of abusion, intentional or not.
Obviously Rochester has much more physical power than Jane, and he provides her salary and room and board. But Jane is able to influence his emotions as she wishes. During their (first) engagement, she keeps him just irritated enough that he doesn’t shower her with affection. When she meets up with him again at the end, she teases him into a better mood. She holds the emotional power.
Although this equality may not be clear to outsiders, it makes their relationship much less creepy than it could have been.
Even if you don’t write romance stories, you’ll probably end up writing some type of romantic relationships in your career. While Jane’s and Rochester’s relationship is not a romance to emulate in real life, it’s super fun to read about. Figuring out why this is can definitely help with your own writing.
But overall, the romance is just one of the many reasons I love Jane Eyre. It’s a truly wonderful book in all respects. I will always want to reread it.
What are some of your favorite romantic storylines?