Happy April, everyone! Can you believe we’re already one-fourth of the way through the year? Where I live spring is running a little bit late, as we’re experiencing unseasonably cold weather, but everything is blooming anyway, as if to defy the temperatures. This weekend even promises rain, which means perfect reading weather!
For those of you who don’t know, I teach high school English for ninth through twelfth grades at a small private school. All of my classes read at least four novels per year in addition to their regular coursework, and I like to re-read the books I teach about once every five or so years. Currently I’m re-reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and I’m having a grand time, which is why I’m recommending it for this week’s Weekend Reads.
Jane Eyre is perfect for fantasy lovers because it was written during two literary periods that appeal to our enjoyment of the supernatural: the Romantic period and the Gothic period. Without using my teacher-voice, literature written during the Romantic period is characterized in one aspect by spiritual and supernatural elements. Gothic literature is an exploration of the dark side of man, so it is filled with elements such as ghosts, lunatics, crumbled castles and mansions, and the like. Both of these periods make Jane Eyre the perfect classic for lovers of fantasy.
The novel tells the story of Jane Eyre as she grows from youth into adulthood. It is divided into five parts, and this go-around I’m noticing each part seems to have hints of a specific fairy tale. The parts are referred to by the locations where Jane lives: Gateshead, Lowood, Thornfield, Moor House, and Fernden. I’m only in the middle of the book, but my students and I agree that the Gateshead section contains definite Cinderella vibes and the Lowood section smacks of Little Red Riding Hood. Our first impression of Thornfield was echoes of Beauty and the Beast, but Charlotte Bronte actually refers to the Legend of Bluebeard in this one, so we had to concede the point; especially when we met the character named Bertha Mason. I’m excited to see which fairy tales (if any) can be found in the last two sections. I’m guessing Snow White for Moor House, but I can’t remember much about Fernden yet, and I refuse to “cheat” by looking it up until after I’ve finished the book.
Other elements of this story include ghosts, a lunatic who lives in an attic, lots of references to fairies and elves, and a classic romance that helped establish the archetype of the moody but desirable male lead. If you’re looking to read outside the strictly fantasy genre, but you don’t want to deviate too far, Jane Eyre is the book you need to read next.
Are there any pieces of classic literature that you're fond of? I'd love to hear about them, or about your impressions of Jane Eyre if you've read it, in the comments.