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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

December 3, 2010

I tried to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. It’s one of those classics, you know, that you can easily find at a thrift store for fifty cents. My library has plenty of those. One of these days, I’ll learn to stop buying books just because they’re cheap and in the canon.

I stopped reading Jane Eyre after 75 pages. Books that expand your vocabulary and challenge you to think are a very good thing (see Dhalgren). Books that were written 163 years ago that are lugubrious and laborious are simply boring. So, adieu, Jane Eyre. I wanted to like you, being written by a female before woman had a room of her own, but I just couldn’t do it.

However, I did like that part where that sweet martyr Helen Burns died of consumption with Jane lovingly clinging to her neck. I haven’t watched any moving picture adaptations, but I would love to see the look on Miss Temple’s face as she pries Jane from your cold, dead, tuberculosis-ridden neck, Helen. You know, if the first 75 pages had been only vignettes of devout Christian girls dying slow deaths, this would have been a must-read. (Typhus did sweep the boarding school, but sadly, Brontë did not focus on this part of the narrative.)

If a book is not assigned reading (designated by your teacher/professor/Oprah), do you attempt to read the whole thing?


P.S. Previous to this post, I wrote about books I’d successfully read. That’s a little unfair, though, because it makes me look like an infallible devotee of English literature. I’m not; if something isn’t engaging me, I might put it down (after a fair shake, with plenty of guilt). What else have I abandoned in the past few years? 1) The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (even though he is my favorite founding father) 2) The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (shocking, as a liberal Oregonian) and 3) A Brief History of Time (I put it down to take a brain break and read some fiction. I never picked it back up.)

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