I was fifteen when I first read Jane Eyre. My aunt gave me a copy -- along with a copy of Wuthering Heights -- for my birthday. I keenly felt the romance of reading really, truly grown up novels and, although they made for difficult reading at times, I quickly fell in love with the sweeping sagas and the strong female characters.
Jane Eyre was my favorite of the two, and I found myself revisiting its pages over the years. I read through it again in my twenties, and it was interesting to note how I had changed. Different aspects of Jane's character resonated with my own, and I found her strength and self control to be even more admirable than I had as a teenager. I still found Mr. Rochester to be a trifle old and brooding, but there was a delicious mystery even in that.
This month I once again felt the pull to read Jane Eyre. The span of years has changed a thing or two as I read, but I still envision Thornfield Hall as I did over twenty years ago, and little Adele still frolics about with the same youthful energy. The character that has most surprised me, however, is Mr. Rochester. I eagerly awaited his entrance into the narrative, recalling his dark presence and the vast gulf between his and Jane's years.
I was a bit shocked to recall that he was twenty years older than the eighteen-year-old Jane. Yes, that is a gulf. And yes, he's old enough to be her father. But no, dear reader, that does not make him the "old bachelor" that he declares himself to be. Mr. Rochester, at thirty-eight, suddenly seemed quite young in my estimation. Quite young indeed.