The University of Chicago Magazine

February 1997


Living the heroine's life

I read over 60 books each summer, but I never really thought about them. I was more concerned with the act of reading and with finishing the books. I remember reading about the adventures of the Borrowers and Nancy Drew, but I don't remember what those adventures were. For me, reading was a skill simply to be acquired and maintained. Then, the summer before seventh grade, there was a novel listed in the advanced part of the suggested reading list they handed out that year. It was calledJane Eyre.

I had never spent so much time involved with a book as I did with Brönte's classic. It was difficult reading at that age, and I may not have been able to read every word correctly, but I felt like I

was living through Jane Eyre's life with her. I pitied her when she suffered under the severe conditions of the girls' school. I was jealous for her when Mr. Rochester brought that beautiful woman home with him. I understood the love that a blind, crippled Mr. Rochester felt for Jane Eyre, a young woman with hardly any striking qualities and average intelligence. I understood his love because I, in my simplicity, saw that this girl was good.

How could these strings of words created by Charlotte Brönte elicit such a reaction from me? After reading Jane Eyre, I began to reread a lot of novels that I felt I had enjoyed but had not really thought about. Reading became a pleasure rather than a competition--a reward rather than a function.

--Kathy Liu, '97, English major from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

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