Book thoughts

Jane Eyre and the Canon sucks

So, I recently reread Jane Eyre with a group of friends, or at least attempted to. It was so dry! Like a Popeye’s biscuit with no butter and no drink in sight! I choked down about half of it before I gave up.

As a teen, I really liked this book! It held a special place in my heart, although I have no idea why. I can’t relate with the main character that much, or at all really. I remembered liking it much more than any other Victorian novel, especially anything Jane Austen. I guess I remembered the plot as a whole, which is real juicy (one tiny speck of butter in that dry ass biscuit).

The monologues drove me crazy. Something that could have been said in one paragraph felt like it went on for pages. All of the characters were insufferable, either whiney, cocky, or selfish. Or so insignificant and were a waste of description.

I thought the pseudo-autobiographical style was inconsistent, and the events were waaaaaaaay too detailed to be realistically recalled in an autobiography. I almost wish the story was told strictly in first person or third person instead of this nonsense.

Basically, I am of the highly unpopular opinion that strongly dislikes Jane Eyre.

And I understand that taste is subjective, and people like what they like. But what I don’t understand is how books like these are the great literary canon. Why are these the only books held to this level esteem and infamy? Why are there these gatekeepers in the literary industry that like what they like, but expect and set the tone for the rest of these to hold these stories as the gold standard? (Well, racism, and to an extent, patriarchy, of course).

There is no doubt that the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen opened many doors for women (white women) writers to step through and prove that women could write great stories just as well as men. I am not taking that away from them. They were great in their own right. Where is the room for (like all) of Toni Morrison, who writes prose like poetry? Oh yeah, she’s been banned from school for talking about rape and how bad slavery was. Where is the room for Zora Neale Hurston? I’m honestly surprised I had to read Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school. That was one of two books that centered a Black female lead (the other was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry that I read in the fourth grade) I read in all of my grade school years.

Actually, they were the only books I read in all of grade school where Black characters weren’t relegated to the margins of the story. Huck Finn and The Cay don’t count as books about Black people. I also don’t count summer reading books, because we all know people didn’t actually read those. We need more authors of color in the curriculum and not just on a list for students to ignore.

But we could read The Awakening. TWICE.

I would have gladly replaced Catch-22 with The Color Purple. Maybe I would have actually read more books for class.

3 thoughts on “Jane Eyre and the Canon sucks”

  1. Your final statement hit hard. I 100% agree that books featuring black characters in the background don’t count as books ABOUT black people. They don’t help to amplify black voices…actually much of them do the opposite by infantilizing them instead.
    We definitely need more black and POC centred voices on our curriculums. I also really hate hearing kids say that they “had” to read about black people in school versus “I read this book called Beloved. It was really good!”
    The conversations around gatekeeping is a whole other thing but…man, you hit the nail on the head with this one.
    I myself have never read Jane Erye but I am a big fan of Dicken’s and other Victorian authors. As you said it’s all subjective. I wonder why classic writers like Frederick Douglass aren’t held to the same standard? His book was published 40 years after Charlotte Bronte’s?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes to the whole “had to read about black people”! Nobody ever questions how books get designated classics. Or at least the voices who questions why some books are designated classic over others don’t get amplified.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, about black characters being relegated to the margins of the story… I wonder if Victorian readers (or if Jane Eyre herself) would have been content to forgive Mr. Rochester’s behavior toward Bertha if she had been English instead of Caribbean.


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