Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Why Jane Eyre is Better Than Pride and Prejudice

First, do not be offended and don't gasp at this opinion piece because it is just that, an opinion piece. I perhaps would have taken offence to this if I had come across it a few months ago, before reading Jane Eyre, and so I understand devoted Austen fans and their passion.

Well, let me start my rant, my collection of thought and my opinionated diction and you can decide if my points are at all valid. I must let this out.

1. Jane Eyre is plain. I suppose Lizzie Bennett is much plainer too than her older sister would have been but I do not mean just in appearance. What's wrong with a beautiful and vibrant main character? Nothing. You see, Jane is plain in dress because she doesn't feel as though she deserves finer things. Jane is arguably more relateable (that has to be a word... spell check mocks me) than often confident Lizzie to those who struggle with self-image, to those who cannot afford Calvin Klein or Versace, to those who come from humbler circumstances and to those who have been mistreated in some way.
2. Misinterpreted religion and beauty of relationship. In Jane Eyre there is a detailed part about her childhood at Lowood school where Brocklehurst declares Christianity a religion of constant humiliation and pain (for the lower class) to cleanse one's soul from their sins and imperfections while the wealthier ones enjoy their ignorant pleasures. Jane sees corrupted religion but then in the heart of Helen (a fellow student) she sees a loyal and joyous relationship with God that keeps her strong. Jane Eyre is better than Pride and Prejudice because it so often expands on more topics than just human love and redemption (which are great themes nonetheless but arguably the only main themes in Pride and Prejudice). And with expansion on more themes, a book becomes more relateable and ultimately better.
3. Thornfield is gloomy. Pemberley is splendid. Perhaps too splendid. It's quite a Cinderella story that Lizzie ends up to be the woman of Pemberley, and I am a true lover of Cinderella tales. I suppose if Darcy had owned a Netherfield it wouldn't have been as unreasonable, but no, he owns an even richer and more extravagant home than Bingly. Rochester's abode in Jane Eyre is a mansion, yes, but it is gloomy and a place Rochester himself rather dislikes. Now I'm not trying to argue that realistically life is more dull and and plain with the points I have made but that using plainer imagery illuminates the brilliant themes underneath quite a bit better. And it is the themes in the story that touch us.
4. Rochester is not handsome and not gentlemanly.  Hang on a minute, you think, doesn't that make Darcy all the more better? To me, the answer is no. Rochester is harsh, impatient, described as ugly, rude and commanding. Darcy is merely unsociable and proud. They both have their faults, and they both have sad pasts (secrets even) that have broken them a bit. But Darcy is easier to like, you think. And I agree, of course, but in Jane Eyre I find it even more fascinating to have a main male character be altogether disagreeable and yet have the protagonist still love him for the good she could see underneath. It's brilliant. To have pure eyes like Jane, to seek out goodness in others is a gift I wish to receive. And to have a character, like Rochester, who is tainted by his past and sees the purity and beauty in Jane, the very plain, is quite inspiring. It's almost like Beauty and the Beast versus Cinderella and both are classics. You just decide which tale speaks more of goodness to you. Beauty and the Beast always spoke more of goodness to me.
5. Sacrifice is essential to relationship. Sure Darcy spends bundles of money on patching up the scandalous wedding of Lizzie's sister, and all for Lizzie's sake, but they still must have plenty of money to own that incredible mansion. Darcy, I really like you, but you didn't give 'til it hurt. And giving until it hurts is the most beautiful illustration of love that there is. When Jane returns (after sacrificing all of her happiness because it was the right thing to do), she finds Rochester quite altered in appearance, afflicted with great loss and all of it was because he tried to do what was right and save the person that had caused him so much grief (not out of romantic love, mind you, but that is never the strongest love). Thornfield was gone. Rochester as he was before was gone. He was stripped down from his selfish pedestal when he did the right thing and nothing could have aided him better. When they reunite it is of a purer love than before because now they know truth (for truth is vital in any relationship), they know themselves and they know sacrifice.

And that is why Jane Eyre is better. Don't hate me too much.

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