Thursday, July 13, 2023

Do Teenagers Read Jane Eyre?

My favorite adaptation of JE
I've been thinking about Jane Eyre recently, which led me to ponder whether or not teenagers read it and whether or not it is promoted to them as YA.

I first read Jane Eyre when I was a teenager and wasn't that fond of it. Most people recall the madwoman in the attic or the house on fire business from Jane. I recalled Jane sitting off to the side at a party. That probably speaks volumes about my adolescence. I didn't read it again until after The Eyre Affair. Then I was very taken with it. 

How I came to read it as a teenager, I do not know. It definitely was not part of a class in either high school or college. YA was just getting started in my youth, and I barely recall being aware of it or reading it. Thus, I stumbled into things like Jane Eyre and adult thrillers. 

I recently found this article arguing that Jane Eyre is a YA novel. I think that's a very tough sell.

YA is a creation of the late 20th century, when very few people of a YA age had to make a living and life for themselves, and that's still the case. The whole coming of age cliche that's such a big deal in YA--some event in an adolescent life that marks the realization of entering adulthood-- probably comes early in Jane Eyre when Jane is left to fend for herself at school. She's well past that and is a flawed but highly principled adult woman through most of the book.

Holding out for a husband who doesn't require you to lower your standards of conduct or enslave yourself to him is not a classic YA situation. Neither is coming to terms with loving a far from perfect man. I come down on the side of Jane Eyre being an adult book that teenagers read, which is much different from being a Young Adult book. 


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