Friday, April 22, 2011

What Is It About Jane Eyre?

Mr. Rochester:
"Do you think me handsome?"


In a little more than a month's time, I've read Brontë's classic, and seen three film adaptations of the novel: the recently released BBC film adaptation, a nineties version so awful, I'm still trying to strike it from my memory, and another starring William Hurt and Anna Paquin, as a young Jane Eyre (my second favorite).

Guess you could say I've had a little Jane-on-the-brain.

I'm not complaining because I've enjoyed her visit. Just wondering why a literary character from 1847 England (an oppressive time for women, by the way) has stayed with me for so long.

For anybody who hasn't read JANE EYRE, it's about a young orphan girl who's sent to live with her aunt and uncle. On his deathbed, her uncle makes his wife promise to care for little Jane, as her "own." The opposite happens: instead, her aunt severely mistreats her, then banishes her to live at a special school for girls, where she's abused some more.

At eighteen, Jane leaves the school to accept a position working as a governess, at a large estate. For all of two seconds, I thought, "Finally, the girl can breath." Not quite.

Life changes for her at Thornfield, when she meets Mr. Rochester, a manipulative brute, several years her senior, who keeps a little secret in the attic, and uses every deception at his disposal to win her over.

Maybe it's the contradictions in Jane's character that make her so irresistible. She's sensible and intelligent, yet so starved for love and affection (a kind word!), that she nearly falls for Mr. Rochester's machinations, too easily. Yes, she should know better.

In the end, I respect her, but continue to wonder, why I can't get Jane out of my brain.

Any characters you've been trying to rid yourself of, lately?

Mr. Rochester
"Jane, be still; don't struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is rending its own plumage in its desperation."

Jane Eyre
"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will,
which I now exert to leave you."
(LOL -- love this! "Shove it, pal.")