Having dismissed Mrs. Dalloway in a prior post as a book only an English Ph.D. could love (and having been chastised for said dismissal by no less than MalloryHerself), I run a serious risk in the present entry of creating the impression than I am a Literary Barbarian. But, courage is a Virtue. Would Odysseus shrink from battle?
As noted before, in my tutorial this Spring, everyone picked a book. That is why I read Mrs. Dalloway. I thought I would like it, but…alas. Another student picked Jane Eyre. At that suggestion my heart sank. I had read it before. And hated it. So, now I have read it a second time. I still can’t stand the book. We talked about it yesterday in the tutorial. Everyone else in the tutorial loved the book. We start every tutorial with the simple question “What did you think about the book?” Such paroxysms of joy have ne’er been heard by mortal ears. Jane Eyre is a role model, a stunningly great example of womanhood and a daring, brave, courageous, independent woman. I would have thought that Jane Eyre was the woman being described in the brochures for Mount Holyoke from listening to the students in the tutorial. And all of them loved her. Loved her.
So, here I have a problem. Jane Eyre is a Great Book. Lots of people have read it for pleasure and profit for many years. Five bright, intelligent women in my tutorial love the book. And I hate it. Something is wrong here.
Jane has got to be the most whiny protagonist in a book ever. I mentioned this in the tutorial. Everyone there told me I was wrong, that she isn’t whiny at all. I opened the book at random, read the first sentence—Jane was whining. I thought, “Aha!” I was told she wasn’t whining in that sentence. I was stunned. How could nobody else in the room notice that this sentence I choose at random was an example of being whiny? Something is wrong here.
I then tried on Rochester—the guy is the least lovely romantic love ever. Oddly, they all agreed. I thought “Aha!” I was then told it didn’t matter that Jane was in love with a Loser. Jane is still amazing. How can this be? Something is wrong here.
And so on. For two hours, I made the case this book is terrible and for two hours I was told that I was wrong. Every inane, silly thing about the book simply didn’t matter. Yes, the plot is contrived. But Jane is still amazing. Yes, in the end she ends up playing the servant anyway, But Jane is still amazingly independent. Yes, she didn’t really have that hard of a life. But her cousins were really mean to her, and Jane is really amazing. On and on and on.
I have no idea what to make of this. Either I am wrong and this book does have merit or the rest of humanity is wrong and it is a really idiotic book, a penny romance novel masquerading as literature. Just to be clear: I’d rather read Mrs. Dalloway again than this book.