I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a snippet of news which brought me up short. It seems that the idea is being mooted that children should no longer be allowed to read Jane Eyre, as they might find the events described therein distressing to their tender minds (?)
This idea seemed to me so absurd that it made me think. I remember reading Jane Eyre as a child and how I loved it. I remember how it brought up in me feelings of pity and sympathy for the poor little orphan child, how I read on with breathless enthusiasm to find out what was going to happen next; how one event led to another, now good, now bad. The thrill of reading how Jane overcame all her difficulties, her meeting with Mr Rochester, and the blossoming of her love for him. The terrible fire, who was the strange woman who lived in the attic? The ending of all their happy plans, separation and desolation, and then the final denouement when they came together again, both wiser and sadder, but nonetheless complete in their love.
It is a wonderful tale. It is in fact a classic, as it should be. Which is why all children should read the classics. They need them to further their own education, to find out what life is all about. Life is messy, it is not perfect, it is not all sweetness and light. And in fact all the fairy tales which are frequently read to children show this.
Of course fairy tales have a happy ending, and Jane Eyre too does have a happy ending. And there is nothing wrong in that. Which is why I find this idea of forbidding children to read Jane Eyre so entirely delusional, just another example of the thinking that seems to be prevalent these days. Of course I may have got the wrong end of the stick, and only heard one half of the story.
To end on another note. All great literature, all great art, brings about catharsis. That is to say it releases emotions in us which may be unexpressed or concealed, and therefore brings about a release in us which is healing and restorative.
Which is exactly what Jane Eyre did for me.