Themes in: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Themes in: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

‘Reader, I married him.’

Jane Eyre is a Victorian Gothic novel, telling the story, from a first-person perspective, of the protagonist Jane Eyre. She is left in the “care” of her aunt and cousins after the death of her parents, but is treated horribly and is eventually sent away to boarding school. She grows up to train and work as a governess for the aloof and proud Mr Rochester. Jane begins to develop romantic feelings for Rochester, but she doesn’t know he is hiding a terrible secret.

To me, the most noticeable theme in Jane Eyre is Bronte’s use of the Gothic. I studied Gothic literature at A Level – not Jane Eyre sadly – but that made it easy for me to spot Gothic conventions whilst reading it.

Jane is described metaphorically as an ‘elf’, ‘changeling’ and ‘fairy’, supernatural creatures which could have either good or bad connotations, depending on which myths or fairy-tales you read. Thornfield Hall, Rochester’s home, is an isolated mansion with many abandoned rooms and secret passages, the perfect place for scary and supernatural occurrences. There is also lots of powerful colour symbolism, using key Gothic colours: black, white and red. Most notably, the Red Room, in which Jane is imprisoned as a girl, has ‘crimson’ bedcovers, ‘red’ carpets and dark, mahogany furniture to haunt and remind Jane of her uncle, whose dead body was laid out in the Red Room. The room is symbolic of Jane’s suffering, entrapment and a strong reminder of the ever-presence of death.

Another theme in Jane Eyre is love. I’ve heard many refer to Jane Eyre as one of the greatest love stories of all time. Whilst I disagree with this – I see Jane Eyre as primarily Gothic, not romantic – the theme of love is prevalent nonetheless. Jane desires to be genuinely loved and valued. This is perfectly justifiable, after being denied a true family, and the abuse she endured from her aunt and cousins. These desires are why she rejects St. John’s marriage proposal, because a marriage built around purpose or function would lack the love and value she longs for. Furthermore, this is why she rejects Rochester’s proposal to be his mistress: Jane is an independent and strong woman who will not let herself be devalued by being subject to a man’s whims and losing her integrity.

The final theme I want to talk about in Jane Eyre, which I hadn’t considered before until a lecture, is slavery, in relation to the character of Bertha. Bertha is taken by Rochester from the Caribbean and kept physically imprisoned at Thornfield Hall, out of sight. This reflects how, slaves were presented during the time of the slave trade, in paintings, for example, “lurking” behind the aristocracy, ready to obey. In addition, Bertha is always described in supernatural and animalistic ways, such as ‘clothed hyena’, ‘maniac’, and ‘shaggy locks’. These descriptions are significant because she is a white creole, and so has mixed racial heritage. This imagery suggests Bertha is “other” and exotic – like a creature – simply because of her race. This parallels the racist approach white Britons had towards non-white individuals at the time.

***

Thank you for reading this blog post!

I find Jane Eyre such an enjoyable book – even if I don’t see it as a romance – and it was written by a Yorkshire woman, and it’s my Mum’s favourite book, so it has a special place in my heart, and it was a pleasure to be able to explore some of the significant aspects of the novel.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please click ‘Like’ and leave any responses you have in the comments below!

– Judith

Read and Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Read and Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Author: Oscar Wilde
  • Published: 1890

The Picture of Dorian Gray is Wilde’s only novel.

Dorian Gray, a handsome young man, is worshipped by many in society, including the painter Basil Hallward. Hallward takes Gray’s portrait, and introduces him to his friend, Henry Wotton. Wotton has a powerful influence over Gray, and gradually he loses his innocence and virtuous nature. Dorian Gray express the life-changing desire that he would rather his portrait age, than him, allowing him to retain his youthfulness. His wish comes true, and Gray pursues a life of debauchery and stays beautiful, while his portrait warps and ages, recording each of Gray’s transgressions.

It took me a while to engage with The Picture of Dorian Gray; I found the first few chapters highly philosophical and “arty farty”, and so I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to finish it. Nevertheless, I pressed on, and discovered a definite turning point – from intellectual discussions about immorality, to witnessing immoralities such as murder, deceit and cruelty. For me, this is reminiscent of the Gothic genre, although The Picture of Dorian Gray is largely classified primarily as a philosophical novel.

Naturally then, the book raises themes of morality, immorality, art, philosophy, religion, youth, and vanity. I found the theme of vanity interesting, and the book’s meta-literary nature particularly highlights this; Gray seems to be aware his life is its own narrative with its own narrative conventions, and that he is “performing” a role – particularly as nobody can see his real self, which is trapped within the painting, and so his unchanging, youthful face is almost like a costume.

Gray even reads a novel ‘without plot, and with only one character… who spent his life trying to realise in the nineteenth century all the passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century but his own.’

This book is also described as:

‘the spiritual ecstasies of some medieval saint or the morbid confessions of a modern sinner’.

This accurately parallels the narrative of Gray’s own life – creating a story within a story – which he later acknowledges: ‘indeed, the whole book seemed to him to contain the story of his own life’.

I also thought The Picture of Dorian Gray was particularly thought-provoking – for many readers, I think, Wilde walks a fine line between being inspirational and being offensive. To demonstrate this, here is an extract from Henry Wotton, describing women to Dorian Gray:

‘I am afraid that women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else… They love being dominated.’

I’d love to see what a modern-day feminist makes of this! Thankfully, I’m not the sort of person to be offended by this kind of talk, but I do find it interesting. Does this accurately reflect the thoughts of 19th century men? Does this represent Wilde’s own views? Is it meant to be taken as humour?

Reflecting on The Picture of Dorian Gray, I’m glad I read it, after initially being uncertain. I think it’s a fascinating book and I’d be interested in reading more about its interpretations and messages.

Have you read The Picture of Dorian Gray? Have any of these quotes or comments struck you? I’d be keen to read your thoughts!

Please ‘Like’ this post if you enjoyed it, and share it around too 😉

– Judith

[BONUS Read and Review] 12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #7: A Christmas Carol

[BONUS Read and Review] 12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #7: A Christmas Carol

Welcome to 12 Days of Blogmas Day 7! Today I’ve written another Christmas-themed book review.

  • Title: A Christmas Carol
  • Author: Charles Dickens
  • Published: 1843

A Christmas Carol is, I think, well-deserving of its fame as a Christmas classic. In case you’re not familiar with the story (although I wonder how is this is possible), A Christmas Carol is about one particularly mean old man, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is notorious for hating all things associated with Christmas, until, one December, the influence of four ghosts initiates a drastic character transformation in him.

Last year, Chris Priestley wrote ‘A Christmas Carol is more than just a story. It is a tirade against greed, selfishness and neglect. It uses the story of a rich man – the startlingly nasty Scrooge – to highlight the plight of those affected by the greed and meanness he exemplifies.’*

*Chris Priestley, Ignorance and Want: why Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is as relevant today as ever (Wednesday 23 December 2015)

For Dickens, social realism and social commentary are reoccurring themes in his work; Oliver Twist focuses on the injustice cast upon the poor (for example, Oliver) by the better-off (for example, Mr Bumble) and highlights the realities of the poor – themes such as violence and crime can be seen in the lives of Fagin, Bill and Nancy. Similarly, in Great Expectations, Pip begins life in a struggling working-class family, with limited provisions, until he is provided with the means to better his chances in life.

Therefore, Christmas seems an appropriate time for Dickens to again draw attention to the impact the “Scrooges of Society” have on others, as people tend to be more charitable, kind and willing to listen around Christmas-time than other times of year.**

**Why this is, I have no idea.

I like the length of A Christmas Carol; it’s quite short compared to some of Dickens’ other books, which makes it an easy read – ideal, if you want to start reading more classic novels but don’t know where to start.

I also liked the idea of mixing Christmas, usually a cheerful occasion, with ghosts, hauntings and a foreboding sense of impending doom. This brings out my enjoyment for Gothic literature! Naturally, then, my favourite ghosts are Jacob Marley (his entrance of groaning chains is enough to spook anyone) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I feel like these are some of the best characters drawn out in the various film adaptations too – although I’m yet to find a film adaptation that completely satisfies me.

As A Christmas Carol is such a popular story, I thought I’d scour Goodreads, to find out why readers love this book so much***:

1. Claudia said: ‘I think A Christmas Carol makes us better people.’

2. Jude said: ‘It reminds us of what is truly important in a life.’

3. Walter said: ‘It showed us how the spirit of the holidays can be humanizing.’

4. Melissa said: ‘For me, it’s not so much the story–which I enjoy every Christmas, sometimes twice – as it is the writing itself. There’s a lyrical quality that hasn’t popped out at me in his longer stories.’

5. Diane said: ‘I think we love this story partly because of how well Dickens portrayed Scrooge as a complex, multi-layered character. Sure, he appears as a greedy stereotype at first, but then we are shown his backstory and how he became that way, and (gasp), suddenly we realize that any of us could become rapacious and bitter if we chose to go down that road. And that’s what raises this tale to a classic–its universality. We are also made to care so deeply about Tiny Tim & his family, who choose to be generous even through their own want, because they realize they will become like Scrooge if they don’t.’

*** If you want to see other readers’ responses, you can find the forum I used here:

Do you like A Christmas Carol?**** Why, or why not? Also, do you have a favourite film adaptation? I’m interested to hear your opinions.

**** If you like audio books, you might be interested to learn that A Christmas Carol, narrated with  Sir Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Cranham, Miriam Margolyes, Jenna Coleman, Brendan Coyle, and Roger Allam is currently available for free on Audible until January 2017! Download it here:

If you enjoyed this post, please click ‘Like’ and stay tuned for my next Blogmas post!

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #1: Christmas Cracker Book Tag

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #1: Christmas Cracker Book Tag

Happy Blogmas! This is Day 1 of my 12 Days of Blogmas.

I decided I didn’t want to blog every single day of December because I was worried I wouldn’t get posts written in time so instead, I’ve chosen to blog continuously in the 12 days running up to Christmas.

December is essentially the month of Christmas, so what better book tag to do than a festive themed one? I found the Christmas Cracker Book Tag on Pretty Book’s blog and thought it looked fun.

Let’s get cracking (see what I did there?)!

1. Pick a book with a wintry cover

Although I don’t own this copy, I saw this beautiful cover of A Christmas Carol in Waterstones. I don’t buy books just for their covers though – as much as the idea of having shelves full of stunning books appeals to me, I just don’t have the money for that. You can find A Christmas Carol in Waterstones here:

my-photo-a-christmas-carol

2. Pick a book you’re likely to buy as a present

This really depends on who I’d be buying for. I’d be more likely to buy someone a book I know they love but their own copy has seen better days and they’re in need of a new one, or perhaps they never had a copy anyway.  For my mum*, I’d probably get her a pretty copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847), which I know is one of her favourite books. For my dad*, I’d probably get him something The Phantom of the Opera themed (Gaston Leroux, 1910) because he really likes the musical.

* Mum and Dad, if you’re reading this, these answers are hypothetical only 😛

3. Pick a festive themed book

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843), obviously. If I had to choose more childhood classics, I’d pick A Nightmare Before Christmas (2007), a beautiful book by Tim Burton, based on the 1993 film of the same name.

4. Pick a book you can curl up with by the fireplace

I do this with almost every book! My favourite books to curl up with are lengthy novels I can savour for longest. For length, I’d say Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869) but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again! My next instinct is probably Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) because it’s sufficiently chunky, and is one of my favourite Harry Potter books.

5. Pick a book you want to read over the festive period

I have so many I want to read! I want to finish all the fiction books on my “currently reading” list – I measure this by how many books are on my bedside table – which are It by Stephen King (1986), The Rover by Aphra Behn (1677) and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890).

6. Pick a book so good it gives you chills

I feel like I’m repeating myself when it comes to talking about favourite books (!). I would say Sharp Objects (2006) by Gillian Flynn (I regularly cycle through her novels and love them every time) or anything written by Stephen King.

7. Pick a book going on your Christmas wishlist

I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to ask for any more books for Christmas, as I already have plenty I still haven’t got around to reading yet! However, I want to read more of C.S. Lewis’ books, and I want to collect and read more Stephen King (once I finish It, I plan on reading 11.22.63). I also want to read and watch some more Shakespeare. As you can see, I’ve made a lot of plans, but it’s finding time to carry out these plans that’s the issue!


Have you read any of the books on my list? If you enjoyed this post, please click ‘Like’ or leave a lovely comment below.

I haven’t tagged people to do book tags in ages, so I’m going to tag 5 bloggers to do the Christmas Cracker Book Tag too. They are:

  1. Cait @ bathtimereads.wordpress.com
  2. Vicki @ vickgoodwin.wordpress.com
  3. Sophie @ purrpale.wordpress.com
  4. Sasha @ downthereadingholeblog.wordpress.com
  5. Inspired Teen @ lifeofaninspiredteen.wordpress.com

Happy Blogmas!

– Judith

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

Recently, I’ve been listening to a LOT of Taylor Swift, a singer I’ve been an on/off fan of since being a young teen. Yet for some reason, I’ve been listening to lots of her songs, so this Tag Tuesday, the Taylor Swift Book Tag seemed like an obvious choice. Let’s answer some Qs with some As then!

1. We Are Never Ever Getting Backing Together: Pick book you were sure you were in love with, but then wanted to break up with

I really liked the Twilight series as a young teen – I read them all in less than a week. In hindsight, I’m not sure they were the best books ever written. Plus, the franchise on a whole gets a lot of criticism, so it can be a bit embarrassing to admit that I liked them. (So I’m combating this by telling 300+ people that I liked the Twilight books… sure)

2. Red: Pick a book with a red cover

I’d have to choose my beautiful edition of And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (1939), which features the characters as portrayed in the 2015 BBC adaptation. If you haven’t read the book, you need to! If you haven’t watched the TV series, you need to! They’re both brilliantly made and very enjoyable.

3. The Best Day: Pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic

This question reminds me of my My Life In Books Challenge, where I talked about different books I read and loved as a child. I would probably have to say The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911) because I loved it as a little girl, and I feel like I can connect to the book’s characters and events, given its Yorkshire backdrop.

4. Love Story: Pick a book with forbidden love

I really don’t read many love stories, and none with a sense of “forbidden” love. I’d probably have to choose the classic, Romeo and Juliet (1597) – which is also referenced in Taylor’s song!

5. I Knew You Were Trouble: Pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love

There are so many! I love a good villain. I’d definitely say Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (1847). I’d also say Count Olaf, from the Series of Unfortunate Events books, O’Brien from 1984 (1949) or Camille’s mother from Sharp Objects (2006). Then there’s always Macbeth and Lady Macbeth too…

6. Innocent: Pick a book that someone ruined the ending for

I’m notorious for avoiding spoilers at all costs (unless I accidentally find out something myself). My brother ruined a lot of books and films for me as a child, although no specific memories spring to mind. He probably told me a lot of the Harry Potter storylines before I’d been able to read them for myself…

7. Everything Has Changed: Pick a book character who goes through extensive character development

My knee-jerk reaction is Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (1813). At the start of the book, Elizabeth is headstrong, but shows she can be sassy, judgmental and prejudiced (all three of which towards Darcy). In the same way, Darcy is proud, arrogant and reluctant to show his true feelings. Both characters learn to open up to each other, as well as other people, and they round out as characters towards the end of the book.

8. You Belong With Me: Pick your most anticipated book release

At the minute, I’ve heard Crystin Goodwin is working on a fourth book in her Blessings of Myrillia series. I’ve read all three and reviewed them (UnBlessed, Fire Blessed, Ice Blessed) and I really like the fantasy / young adult path Goodwin has taken the books down, and I can’t wait to read the next one!

9. Forever and Always: Pick your favourite book couple

I would either say Mr and Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (1813) because they’re such hilarious characters, or Henry and Clare from The Time Traveller’s Wife (2003) because they have such a wonderful, loving relationship.

10. Teardrops On My Guitar: Pick a book that made you cry

I don’t cry at books! I don’t cry at films either. I guess I’m just a cold-hearted, meanie of a blogger…

Those are my answers! Would you have picked different books?

That’s all for now!

– Judith

Monster Book Challenge Day #4: Ghosts

Monster Book Challenge Day #4: Ghosts

Hi! This is Day 4 of my Monster Book Challenge. If you’ve missed my first three posts (where have you been?) you can catch up on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 here. Today’s chosen monster is… Ghosts!

  • Title: Northanger Abbey
  • Author: Jane Austen
  • Published: 1817

Northanger Abbey is a satirical Gothic work. The protagonist Catherine, travels to Northanger Abbey and imagines her life as parallel to the plot of a Gothic novel, although her real life brings her back down to earth.

Although Northanger Abbey isn’t strictly a Gothic novel, or in fact wholly a ghost story, I wanted to talk about some more Jane Austen, and I didn’t feel like discussing Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was entirely appropriate in the run-up to Halloween!

I’m a huge fan of the Gothic genre, and so I went into reading Northanger Abbey with great excitement, eagerly waiting for Austen to satirise the genre as much as she could.

However, I was disappointed in how long it took Austen to start talking properly about the Gothic; I was halfway through the novel and Catherine hadn’t even arrived to Northanger Abbey yet! I did appreciate the references to some more Gothic classics though, such as Matthew Lewis’ The Monk and Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The character of Henry was also really amusing – he painted fantastic Gothic images in Catherine’s mind, images which reminded me of Brontë’s Jane Eyre, of haunted rooms, and hints at mysterious family deaths, raising the question of ghosts.

It’s particularly ironic to read Northanger Abbey as a Gothic-loving English student, because it makes me even more aware of the stereotypical Gothic conventions. I can only imagine how Austen’s readers felt at the time, when the Gothic genre was so popular.

All in all, I did enjoy Northanger Abbey but it’s definitely not my favourite Austen novel.

Do you have a favourite ghost story? What book would you have chosen? Share some thoughts in the comments!

Stay tuned for the final day of my Monster Book Challenge tomorrow!

– Judith

Monster Book Challenge Day #3: Witches

Monster Book Challenge Day #3: Witches

Welcome back my Monster Book Challenge! We’re on the third blog post in a series of book reviews, each one of a book based on a different monster! Today’s chosen monster is… Witches!

  • Title: Macbeth
  • Author: William Shakespeare
  • First Performed: 1611

Naturally, my favourite literary witches are the ones from Macbeth, but it seemed silly to write a “book review” of a play meant to be performed, and I have talked about Macbeth before on ReadandReview2016. Instead, I thought I’d share some thoughts on Shakespeare’s Witches, and why they are so iconic.

1. Are The Witches male or female?

At the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, the fear of witchcraft was rife, and this perpetuated many stereotypes that we still have today. Mainly, it continued the belief that witches are old women, with a warty complexion and a companion of some kind, usually a black cat or a toad.

Interestingly, we can’t assume that Shakespeare intended his Witches to be female. Although certain pronouns and descriptions could suggest they were female, plays were performed by all-male casts, making it more difficult to work out the intended gender of certain characters. Furthermore, Banquo himself says in in Act 1 Scene 3, “You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so.”, emphasising how difficult it was to pin down gender.

Personally, I don’t believe it matters whether The Witches were meant to be male or female. However, it is really fascinating to watch various adaptations of Macbeth, and see how different directors choose to portray the appearance of The Witches, so if you’re interested, I encourage you to compare different versions for yourself.

2. How powerful are The Witches?

After reading the play, it is clear The Witches have a lot of different powers: they can control the weather, they can see the future, they can create potions and spells, they can cause sleep deprivation and madness, and communicate with animal familiars.

There are numerous interesting theories that it was The Witches who granted Lady Macbeth her lack of remorse, and sent Macbeth visions of the dagger, to indirectly influence both characters and lead them to their downfall. Indeed, there are even theories that The Witches are not even real, but merely hallucinations and symbolic of the evil and sin in the world, which would have resonated with Shakespeare’s Jacobean, strongly Christian audience.

3. Who is Hecate?

We only meet Hecate once in the play, in Act 3 Scene 5.

She is essentially the Goddess of Witchcraft, and she can be seen as the leader of The Witches. However, I take issue with this: if Hecate is such a powerful character, why does she only really appear once? Why is it the 3 (lesser) Witches who cause Macbeth’s downfall, rather than Hecate?

Furthermore, we don’t really experience any of her powers, making it curious as to what her significance is. In addition, there is a theory that Hecate is not even Shakespeare’s creation, due to the rhyme and rhythm of her lines, so it is believed Hecate was added afterwards by another playwright. Again, this is just another theory and I don’t believe it adds or detracts from the play either way.


Those are my 3 key thoughts about The Witches in Macbeth – I hope you enjoyed this slightly different style of book post! These are not meant to be comprehensive, hard and fast answers, but just some initial thoughts and ideas.

If you have any other questions, ideas or suggestions, leave them in the comments below!

That’s all for now!

– Judith