Thursday, July 10, 2008

a classic 'classic'

When most readers hear the word 'classic' they are quick to stifle or hide a yawn.

Fortunately I never knew this.

I encountered Jane Eyre before I even knew what a 'classic' was. It was the summer before I was going into high school and my conscientious mother marched over to my new high school and asked the administrative staff for a summer reading list for me. In those long ago days, they might have been surprised by the request, but being the good school that they were, they recovered quickly and pulled together a quick list of suitable reading material for a young Catholic woman of the early 1970's. They didn't distinguish between classic or contemporary, young adult or youth, feminist or traditional. Books probably had labels even in those days, but I wasn't burdened with them.

To me they were just books. All I cared about was if I'd like them.

One I enjoyed above all the rest: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë.

It was set in 'olden times' (my term in those days). Nowadays it would be labeled as Gothic if it weren't already saddled with the more lugubrious epitaph, classic.

But to me, anything that happened back in 'olden times' had a magical, mystical quality. Ladies wore long skirts and swished when they walked. People lived in dark, musty tower-like buildings and talked in hushed whispers. Children, of course, were hopelessly misunderstood then as now. And low and behold! I discovered I was right! Jane was my kindred spirit. (I learned that term from Anne of Green Gables who was also kindred to both of us!) Jane was hopelessly misunderstood too!

Ah! It was a match made by a book! And in those long ago days of my delusional youth, it was the closest I came to heaven-on-earth.

From Jane's tortured girlhood, she moved into an unattractive and poverty-stricken womanhood. Well, I say, from that perspective, who wants looks and money after all anyway? Anyone can have those. Better suffering and drama, right? It's so much more, well, literary, right?! Ah! Books! If only real life were books.

And then there are the mysterious goings on in Thornfield Hall! Oh there is so much more I would say about Jane, her life, and her book, but I might spoil the story for those who have never had the first time pleasure.

So instead, I offer you this delicious invitation. Go back in time--both yours and the story's--to a simpler time when life moved at a slower pace. Enjoy the feel of those long ago days of innocence, wonder and swishing long-skirted women.

No comments:

Post a Comment