Disclaimer: My memories of Jane Eyre in book and film form are admittedly a bit sketchy, as it’s been a while since I viewed them. That said, I feel everything I’ve written below, however well-intended, should be taken with a grain of salt.
Additionally, please be aware that Jane Eyre does deal with some mature subject matter along the lines of marital fidelity, and I’ve referenced some of it in this post.
A couple of years ago, I read the abridged version of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I loved the story so much, especially all the parts about the creepy lady who haunted the Fairfax manor in the night, that I wanted to read the original. There was much more to the story than creepy ladies, though, which drew me in even further. Then, out of curiosity, I decided to watch one of the film adaptations – I chose the 1997 British TV movie version, starring Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds.
It was a cute, albeit condensed narrative. We really don’t have much opportunity to see Jane shine as a character onscreen, in this version or (I’m assuming) others. I understand, we’ve only got just under two hours to convey 178,404 flowery, drawn-out written words (which is approximately 356.808 pages). And we all know movies can never stay 100% faithful to the books upon which they’re based. Somewhere along the way, we’re going to be disappointed.
What I enjoyed so much in the original, unabridged Jane Eyre book was seeing the world through Jane’s eyes. She witnesses so much injustice and hypocrisy: in her early childhood, where she’s neglected by her foster family; in school, with that hypocritical monster of a headmaster who abused religion as a basis for persecuting others of lesser means; in her childhood friendships, taken away from her by illnesses contracted in deplorable living conditions. Even if Jane was held back by circumstance from doing anything significant about the injustices she witnessed, there was a beautiful intelligence to her perceptions. I found that intelligence appealing, which is why I continued to read this long, classic novel with some romantic overtones.
I think Mr. Rochester found it appealing too, which is why he wanted to marry her and be with her for the rest of their lives. All that gets glossed over in most movies – instead, the focus is on Jane’s seemingly bizarre romance with the much-older Mr. Rochester. After all, who doesn’t love a nice, romantic movie where the gullible young woman marries a creepy old bigamist, and they all live happily ever after?
….Which brings me to the main point of this post: defending Mr. Rochester. Continue reading →