Friday 5 December 2008

Victors to their spoils

Congratulations... Jane Eyre!
To be honest, I had a suspicion that the vote would swing that way. Jane Eyre received 23 votes, Wuthering Heights only 10, with a couple abstentions. This time my vote isn't the deciding one, as it was to put Dickens over Hardy, but I still can't come to a quick decision...

I suppose I should have phrased it differently. If I was asked which novel I favoured, it would be Jane Eyre. If I had to choose which novel I thought was better, it is unquestionably Wuthering Heights. In terms of writing ability, especially the way in which passion is presented, I think WH is one of the best novels I've ever read. But I hated it. Or, rather, I hated Heathcliff so much that I was unable to enjoy the novel - the book is filled with hatred and the powerful, passionate force it can have.

JE on the other hand... I confess I don't know why it's so popular. Good, yes, but... I couldn't see anything more than good. Mr. Rochester is a man who (erm, spoiler ahead, for those who don't know) tries to lie to marry illegally, keeps a wife imprisoned in the attic, dresses up as a gypsy to fool Jane... but at least he doesn't go around hanging dogs. I know these novels have merits far and above their romantic aspects, but they are still renowned for those - will someone please explain to me what is remotely appealing about Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester?! Perhaps I'm destined not to understand...

I'm going to vote for secret option no.3 - Agnes Grey. If I'm forced to choose one of the other novels, I'll pick Wuthering Heights - out of admiration rather than adoration.


  1. Very interesting! I have defended my choice of Wuthering Heights on my blog.

  2. Where do you stand on the Tenant of Wildfell Hall?

  3. Hmmm... You have a point about Wuthering Heights perhaps being the better novel; Jane certainly has narrative lags that even its most devoted fans complain about. But I think Jane wins out for so many people, myself included, because Jane herself is so easy to relate to.

    And, yes, Edward is absolutely rotten, but he knows it (unlike the hateful Heathcliff, who feels justified). As for why women like Edward so much---I can't explain it. It's the whole bad boy thing, which we can fall into without understanding it. The thing is, when Jane realizes how truly awful he's been, she leaves, and I appreciate that. Her going back could be seen as giving up her principles for truuu looove, but I don't quite see it that way. She hears his voice as an answer to prayer, possibly a sign of God. It's lovely---and it's a sort of wish fulfillment, which is what I, for one, look for in my comfort reading, and that's what Jane Eyre is for me.

    Sorry to ramble on so, but you ask some good questions, and I want to give a complete answer.

  4. Hmmm...I've never read Wuthering Heights but the day that I picked it up at the library in an attempt to read it, my English teacher told me it was one of the few books she disliked so I promptly turned it back in.

    Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books though!

  5. Erm, although I can't explain why women like Heathcliff (as a character, he gives me the right pip), I think I know why women tend to have a bit of a thing for Mr Rochester. It's because we identify with Jane (small, plain) Rochester, with all of his undeniable character flaws, is passionately devoted to her. We like Rochester because we like Jane and trust her judgment. But, more importantly, because we identify with her, we tend to *feel* Rochester's passionate devotion too. I reckon that's why so many teenage girls like Jane Eyre...and surely Mr Rochester is the prototype for all of those flawed, passionate, older men that litter the Mills and Boone novels...signing off now, ever-so-slightly embarrassed.

  6. Ah, Jane. A victim, seemingly powerless. Poor, plain and hard-done-by. Rochester - powerful, passionate, unpredictable and completely vanquished by Jane's quiet determination. Then of course, there's St John Rivers - he nearly swept her away. Sacrifice that would have been oh so virtuous... but love conquers all and Jane is revealed in all her strength and determination.
    Reader, she married him... and it worked! No wonder women like reading it!

  7. Can Dark Puss volunteer for the role of the "flawed, passionate, older men" mentioned by Dulce Domum? I'm all of those things (well perhaps in the interests of accuracy you should substitute "passionate about physics" for "passionate")!

  8. I enjoyed your post and the great comments that were made. I've read Jane Eyre at least a dozen times and have trouble understanding those who only see Rochester's faults. He paid a heavy price for his biggest sin, which was concealing his secret. But I digress...

    How could Jane fall for him? She was starved for affection and he paid attention to her! Jane herself(via Charlotte Brontë) wrote that had he been less gruff at first she wouldn't have been comfortable with him. She was used to ill-treatment. But the relationship doesn't continue in that vein. Later Rochester tells her "I knew you would do me good" and constantly jokes about her as a fairy creature with powers of bewitching. What young, love-starved girl could resist that?

    And to top it off, Jane is true to her principles and STILL gets her man. It's the best adult fairy tale around!

  9. For all his 'baggage' and character flaws, I like Mr. Rochester because he treats the people around him with compassion and kindness. He may be uncivil and rough, but his heart's in the right place. He has a manly sense of duty, even towards those whom he once held affection for and had deceived him (his mad wife, Celine). As for Heathcliff, I don't know how anyone can even consider him as a romantic hero. He is just creepy and twisted to me.


I've now moved to, and all my old posts are over there too - do come and say hello :)

I probably won't see your comment here, I'm afraid, but all my archive posts can also be found at