Thursday, March 22, 2012

Good Story 030: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Episode #30 - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Julie thought Jane was right in asking Rochester about whether or not he loves another, while Scott thinks Jane needed to be a little more concerned about the dark goings-on.

Download or listen via this link: |Episode #030|

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner

Or subscribe via iTunes by clicking: |HERE|

More stuff:
Rose's email on YA Lit and Heroines (included by request)
6 Traits of a YA Dystopian/Fantasy Female Protagonist
  • She is independent to the point that she spends little time with her family (whom she loves) and relies little on family or her one or friends for help. She and her one or two good friends very themselves as outsiders and while that may be true for her friends, she is most likely held in high regard by others, simply inapproachable. 
  • She had a lack of self-awareness of her good qualities, including but not limited to physical attractiveness, intelligence, leadership, etc, which she generally possesses in abundance. Because of this, she is prone to self-doubt.
  • She has little to no interest in romance unless with a childhood friend whom she views as inaccessible. Because of this she is uninterested in her own beauty, never wearing makeup or a dress unless forced.
  • She is averse to a leadership position, but excels when it is thrust upon her, generally because of a special ability she discovers she has.
  • She is proficient (or aspiring to be) at a physical skill such as hunting, combat, survival, etc.
  • She is surprisingly unobservant or uncritical of society until shown its flaws by someone else, typically her love interest. However, she is perceived as being highly intelligent because of her tendency to speak her mind, something she attributes to how bad she is at lying.
These traits are obviously meant to define her as a Woman of Action, a strong, independent female protagonist who is worthy of admiration. However, the one trait relied on to make her strong is her physical skill and possibly leadership. An absence of these traits leads to a character who, like Bella in the Twilight series, is criticized as being weak and passive. While this simplistic view of strength is likely to appeal to the girls it is written for, these types of novels have a much wider audience and reflects the general rejection of the Domestic Goddess image that dominated literature for centuries.

The Domestic Goddess is stereotypically a weak, passive woman who waits for a man to save her and while there are numerous examples of this, there are many noticeable exceptions. Penelope, the archetypal Domestic Goddess from The Odyssey, demonstrates amazing strength of will in her determination to avoid a second marriage and wait for her husband to return, putting herself in danger not just from one, but a whole gaggle of men, every night as she unravels her dress, a traditionally female craft. This internal, feminine strength extends to female protagonists throughout literature including Jane Eyre, Fanny Price from Mansfield Park, Dorothea from Middlemarch, and Hester Pryne from The Scarlett Letter. They display a strength, both emotional and mental, that surpasses the Dystopian Protagonist’s physical strength becomes it comes with more conviction and purpose. These women do not need the false modesty of the Dystopian Protagonist because they have a true self-knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses that gives them the strength and maturity to affect their society in a constructive way and serve as an example to others.

So has the modern woman really lost her true strength to this pale imitation of masculine heroics? Are there any truly original, realistic women in YA Dystopian/Fantasy novels today or has the future really lost the wisdom of the past?


  1. Very interesting Jane Eyre/Hunger Games conversation. In the Jane Eyre vs. Katniss characters, Jane Eyre hands down. Liked the YA "strong" women outline which is only too true - though this goes beyond YA fiction and into Hollywood. The same type of things happen to male heroes now where males are more effeminate and females are more male. Certainly an indicator of the gender confusion so prevalent. John C. Wright has had some interesting posts on the subject lately.

    I read Jane Eyre for the first time myself a couple years back and thoroughly enjoyed it especially the Christian worldview.

    I also enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy, with the first novel being the best and the last being the weakest in my opinion. Though it is full of characters you just don't really love especially Katniss who you can admire -- but also can be annoyed at and there is little growth in the character as far as the virtues go. Quite the contrary to the Harry Potter novels which contained a plethora of admirable characters despite their very human flaws.

  2. I had the discussion about the feminized male in the YA heroine novels after the podcast ... with Rose, I think ... as we were talking about Peeta (sp?) vs. Gale.

    I think that the other point I'd have liked to have made, but forgot about, is that the admirable heroines in the classic novels are the result of a long period of writing. There are few classics in comparison to all the novels published. So perhaps it is unfair to put that question to that genre at this point.

  3. I really like the discussion you guys have about Jane vs. Catniss. Is there a chance you could post the text of Rose's email that you read in the show? I'd been wanting to post about Jane and some other female-main-character novels that I've read lately, and I'd like to link to/quote Rose's email if possible because it sums things up in a really interesting way. (Waiting on a copy of Hunger Games to come up for me on the library waiting list, so I haven't read it yet.)

    1. Done! I'll be curious to see the post ... do be sure to let us know when it goes up.

    2. Thanks, I will. Though at this rate, it won't be till after Easter.

    3. Post is up:

      I felt like I went so long with discussing the different characters that I didn't get as much in on the modern vs. classic heroine. Still, I really liked the modern heroine summary. (Hoping my sister who writes YA Fantasy will show up in the comments, we'll see.)

  4. 100% in agreement with Scott's recommendation of the Lucy Scott reading on Jane Eyre on Audible, BTW. That's the one I listed to as well and it was really, really good.

    1. Excellent! Glad to have a second opinion. She was terrific.

  5. Thank you for posting Rose's insightful ideas re: modern female protagonists. Unlike many (most?) I did NOT like Hunger Games, and hated most of the characters (and I read all 3). As I listened to your podcast asking about other YA protagonists, I couldn't help but think of Lara Croft/Tomb Raider. It seems to me that in the desire to capture both male and female readers, the female protagonist is sexy/kick-ass, but doesn't realize it so that male readers are drawn to her (many 13 - 23 year old males are thinking more "superficially") while girl readers don't hate her ("Mean Girl" style) because she is unassuming about her physical qualities.
    Just a thought.
    P.S. -- Want to read something by a *real* strong woman? Try "Letters of a woman Homesteader" by Elinore Pruitt Stewart about her life in Wyoming 1909 -1913.