Thursday, 14 April 2011

A Cup of Tea with Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre
 I've read about a billion other reviews about Jane Eyre. I think of these billion, about half of them turn into comparative essays about Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen: who the better author is,what type of tea they drink, and why Lizzie Bennet can totally kick Jane Eyre's ass (or vise versa).

Why can't Team Austen and Team Bronte get along?  Both of these ladies are great authors. Both of them write great characters, great plots, and really mean social commentaries. Of course, both of them offer something a little different; reading Jane Austen is like sipping a fruity martini cocktail--sweet, refreshing, and no matter how bitter things get, you always hit a nice juicy cherry at the bottom. Bronte, on the contrary, takes a darker, heavier approach-- like a shot of espresso on a rainy day. I also have to add that Mr. Rochester and Mr. Darcy are literary hunks. I'd let the two of them tag-team me any day. Jus' sayin.

For the people who haven't read Jane Eyre, without giving away too much of the plot, here is the low down. The narrator is Jane, a woman who survives a rough childhood living with her miserable Aunt Reed and three very spoiled cousins. She's sent away to boarding school where she overcomes sickness, humiliation, and epic tales of woe. Eventually, our beloved heroine accepts a post as governess and captures the heart of Mr. Rochester-- an eccentric rich guy with a dark secret locked up in his attic.

I remember taking women's studies classes in college. When we did the unit on feminist writing, I remember reading that Jane Eyre was one of the earliest examples of a feminist hero (Lizzie Bennet was also one of them by the way.) When I had taken this course, I had memorized Pride and Prejudice front to cover, but I had never read Jane Eyre. I completely know what the buzz is all about.

Jane Eyre is plain. She's poor. But she's also intelligent. She has strong self-awareness. People that have criticized Jane's character have called her a "doormat" or a "prude". I don't think she's a doormat at all. I think that she is so tied down by her sense of duty as a teacher, and then later as a governess, that she restrains a lot of what she has to say. And yet, since the book is written through her perspective, we know how intricate and deep Jane's thoughts are. There's always an inward battle between what she wants, and what she has to do. This plays such a significant role later on in the novel when she has to choose between the man she loves and her own  convictions. If sticking to her guns is what makes her a prude, then I applaud her for being one.

Mr. Rochester---oh Mr. Rochester!  Bronte does such a great job with establishing Mr. Rochester's character-- through his speech, through his mannerisms, through his swag (yes, I  said it, swag)-- that soon after he's introduced, there's already a sense of intimacy with his character. If passionate declarations of love and wild kisses are your thing, then Mr. Rochester is the bachelor for you. There are several parts in the book that just gave me chills because of the chemistry between Edward Rochester and Jane. The intense passion between them puts  modern romance novels to shame-- and not a corset was ripped, or a skirt hem raised.

5 cups of tea. This is one I will reread over and over again. Just like Pride and Prejudice.
Oh and here is one of my favourite scenes from my favourite adaptation of Jane Eyre. Seriously, I wish my boyfriend will take a cue from Edward Rochester, and say poetic things like this to me:

The Perfect Atmosphere

In order to create the perfect atmosphere for Jane Eyre, you need only a gothic mansion, an Edwardian gown, and a housekeeper to stoke the fire while you're reading. Of course if none of the said items are available to you, you can escape to Thornfield with a perfect cup of tea.

Dublin Cream from Teaopia embodies this gothic romance quite well. The bitterness from the roasted coffee beans creates a darkness in the flavour, while the sensuous jasmine plays on the femininity and the passion in this book. A black tea binds the bitterness with the florals, and creates a wonderfully complex taste.