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"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre is available in illustrated and free editions from the ebook catalog.

Jane EyreCompared to the stuffy romances of the time, Charlotte Brontë's most famous novel is a surprisingly gripping read. Even in comparison to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which was previously ranked top of my list, Jane Eyre excels. Of note is that our heroine isn't beautiful or rich or of any social consequence. She's a poor, plain working girl whose concerns and feelings are so expertly portrayed that we almost feel they are our own.

Part of Jane's attraction is her ordinariness. Who wouldn't connect on some level with her? Through her eyes and ears we see the displays of the upper classes as an outsider--giving the social mores of the time an even more ridiculous tone. The purpose of the "genteel" characters seems no more important than the drapery. Indeed, the rolling moors and fields of scented heather claim more of our attention.

The fact that Jane Eyre sees the brooding Rochester for who is really is, and vice versa, gives both of these characters the beauty they lack physically. Jane Eyre's lower socio-economic situation makes her assertion of equality even more potent because we know she'll suffer for this knowledge. This theme ultimately and symbolically takes us to the story's conclusion. Earth, wind and fire conspire to reduce our characters to the equals they always were. Perhaps they just needed a little reassurance that they were right all along.

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