Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jane Eyre... what the?

I know I am going to shock a lot of people when I say this, but I do not like Jane Eyre. For some reason when I tell people I like Jane Austen they assume I like Jane Eyre as well... but I do not. I read the novel before freshman year of college and didn't like it. Then a friend of mine told me to give it another try. I told her I would watch the new version (2011) because lots of people said it was the best version and if I liked it I would again try to read the book. I thought I must have missed something, since everyone I know who likes period pieces likes Jane Eyre so I was willing to give it a second chance but after watching the movie I still don't like it. So am I still missing something?

I just don't understand. Jane Eyre is a heroine who seems to have no faults and every good hero's journey story, a hero or heroine must have faults and over come them. But Jane just seems too passive. And let people tell her where to go, what to do, and she never seems to speak up for herself. I mean besides when she speaks up to Mrs. Reed (her aunt) but this willful girl does not seem to last. She just seems to accept all the wrongs in her life.

I also did not like Mr. Rochester. He spends time flirting with one girl, then declares his love for Jane, and all this time he is married to a crazy woman. How are we suppose to fall in love with a man who is purposefully leading Jane down a road of heart ache? After the marriage is discovered, Rochester still wants her to stay with him... what as his mistress? (Not cool Mr. Rochester.) He seems rather selfish.

But Jane cannot stand being in the same house as him and runs away. At least here we get some emotions from her as she breaks down and cries. But after that the plot starts to rush and eventually Mr. Rochester's wife dies and he is now blind. Jane goes back to love and care for him. When the credits rolled by I said "that's it?" "What?" I felt the conclusion was too fast.

After looking for pictures for this blog I have seen some mixed reactions to this movie, so I don't think I am the only one who thought this way. I must say props goes to the art director or location finder because the back grounds were beautiful and dark when needed to tell the story.

I think I will stick with my Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell and maybe explore the world of Dickens.

If you love this novel/story can you please let me know what I am missing.


Christina Karas said...

My dear, here is what I realized after we chatted about this yesterday. If you focus on Mr. Rochester's character, you will miss the point of the novel. It is Jane's story (the novel is essentially a Bildungsroman), so what really matters is how she reacts to everything that Mr. Rochester does. Now, I'm not sure whether you were referring to the film or the novel when you called Jane passive, but in the novel she is not represented that way; however, her assertiveness is subtle (and indeed quite different than we'd expect from an Austen heroine), and I think the film tried to portray that through her silences, rather than dialogue. Jane refuses to give Mr. R. what he expects/wants from the start, which is partly why he must pursue her in a different way than he might pursue a typical woman. She asserts her equality in the orchard (just before the proposal), and most important, literally drags herself away from Thornfield and from him, despite his rather desperate pleading, after the discovery of Bertha. She certainly does not allow herself to be manipulated by St. John, either. So, I'm not sure whether the film contributed to the view that she's passive, but I've always loved Jane for being strong and for claiming her own identity. And while I tend to go for the Byronic heroes like Rochester, Jane's journey is really at the heart of the story.

P.S. I assume you've seen Cranford, but I recently watched it and love, love, love! Probably more along the lines of what you like?

Christina Karas said...

One more thought - the episode with St. John is critical. He's the one telling her that her identity is essentially passive, that she wasn't made for true love but to be an obedient "helpmeet" blah blah blah. It's a key turning point when she "scorns" this idea of her and claims Rochester's view of her (which is complicated, yes, but he must see her as strong if he thinks she's willing to challenge societal conventions to be with him). xo

Blaire said...

Hello Christina- Thanks for reading even when you knew of my dislike for Jane Eyre.

Yes I have seen Cranford and love it as well. I have fallen in love though with Wives and Daughters another one of Gaskell's novel and want to read that (hopefully over the summer).

Melody said...

Well, I would certainly never assume that because someone likes Jane Austen they like Jane Eyre. No indeed, that is quite horrid, because I hate how the two are often confused; even more so because of how absolutely horrid Charlotte Bronte was about Jane Austen. *offended sniff*

That being said... I do think Jane Eyre The Book is amazing. I've never seen your blog before so I have no idea how long it's been since college for you to have read the book... but if it's been a while, do try again. There is so much more depth in it than ANY of the movies portray, and you can understand both Jane and Rochester a lot, lot better. And Jane doesn't seem so passive as she does in most of the movies either, especially when it gets more towards the end of the book. Although I think it's more of hiding her emotions than being passive, really.

As for Rochester... ha. Well, just the facts by themselves make him seem absolutely awful, and he is pretty bad. Although further exploration of his character leads to him being more interesting and not as bad... his main fault is self-centered-ness, I think, and that sort of led to everything else. But he does learn his lessons. Pretty much.

This movie should NOT have ended where it did. The ending in the book is way more descriptive of course! :)

Didn't mean to make this comment so long... I do ramble on so!

Anyways, Jane Eyre is really good... but nothing can hold a candle to my dear Jane Austen. :) And Charles Dickens is swell, too. Well, I'm more of a Dickens Adaptations Fan having read only three of his books, but I understand they are brilliant. (If you'd rather start with adaptations, go watch Little Dorrit. :D)

Anonymous said...

I first read Jane Eyre after watching on tv the movie adaptation by Franco Zeffirelli, which I think is the best, even if there are those who say it's too old, or dark, or incomplete (since it's a movie and not a mini-series). I don't care: I
watched all the adaptations around (even those from the 70s and before) and found them wanting.
But that is not the answer to your question, is it? I'll try to explain not why I like (or don't like) the novel, but why I think the hero and heroine are far from perfect (yes, both of them) and why they need each other to be complete. Also, if you want to give a book another try, you should re-read it. Adaptations are becoming more and more like fanfictions (you wrote it yourself that in the 2011 movie version the time Jane spends with her cousins after her aborted wedding is very short), and their limit is trying -often unsuccessfully- to catch the essence of the book.
That said, Jane is not perfect. Not physically, since she is plain and abscure. Not socially, since
she is an orphan practically disowned by her family and she is penniless and a governess. While
these are not faults according to our modern standards, they were, as you know, serious drawbacks when considering friendship and
marriage. Take Mr. Thornton, from North and South (which, if I assume correcly, you like): he is
a self-made man, honest, loyal to his family and those dear to him, honourable to a fault, since he
won't risk a speculation for fear of losing his employees' salary... An yet, Margareth refuses him
because he is not a gentleman, the idle one she thinks respectable. Margareth may seem mad to us, but her very Victorian beliefs prompted her to act as she did, and I'm sure a young lady back in
1850 or so would have done the same thing. Of course, we -living in the 21st centure- wouldn't
countenance such a behaviour.
Back to Jane. She has nothing particular to recommend her. Of course, she is kind to her charge and to the housekeeper, but that's hardly surprising. She is capable of good and intelligent conversation, but that's to be expected, since she went to shool and is working as a governess. She
plays the piano tolerably but has talent for art. I'm deliberately listing all attributes young ladies were supposed to have to be considered elegible, and you'll admit Jane have very few. So, she is far from perfect.
- to be continued in a comment below -

Anonymous said...

- continued from comment above -
Mr. Rochester is obviously a villain or, as some critics call him, a "Byronic hero", meaning he is the epithome of the anti-hero. He is ugly, short-tempered, often unkind. He is also rich, so his
faulty character really doesn't matter. Then he falls in love with Jane, of course, and has to be jealous. He doesn't become a better man for loving Jane (as Darcy for loving Elizabeth), he becomes worse and worse until the turning point, which is the fire
at Thornfield. He tries to deny his feelings, but when is finally sure of them, he courts Blanche
while Jane is watching, hoping to ascertain her feelings. They become engaged, and he smothers
her with his affection and expensive gifts, never trying to listen to her or planning their future together. He only wants to shower her with riches and basically make a trophy wife of her. He doesn't even care that to have her live with him would be immoral, while morality and dignity and self-respect are all Jane really has. She may be poor, but the virtue of her character is her greatest richness.
The whole point is that their relationship lacks equality. Jane and Rochester are not on the same
level for almost the entire novel: she is still plain and obscure and penniless, he is still rich and
elegible (even though he is married). She is passionate, but he will treat her like his own doll to dress and show off. He doesn't even care for her reputation. He doesn't respect her for what she is or what she wants. He selfishly needs her to bring
light to his life, and thinks a few trinkets will be enough of a reward for her. He won't treat her like his equal. Love is not enough when there are those kind of obstacles yet to be overcome.
Then the fire happens and destroys Thornfield. Or better, it destroys all thorns from the field where
Rochester is. He is humbled morally, because he ultimately tries to save his wife, thus absolving himself; physically, because he has disabilities to
face; socially, because he is no more the rich and perfectly elegible gentleman, but a maimed, blind recluse.
In the meantime, Jane acquires all the personality she had lurking behind her surface. When told that
she is not worthy of passion and true love, that her destiny is to be rational and content, to be a mere helpmate, she rises to the occasion and goes back to where her heart is, this time as an heiress with a loving family of her own.
Rochester doesn't want her back, he thinks HE is unworty of her, because there's been a reversal in
their circumstances. Now he is a poor shadow of the man he was before and Jane is the youthful,
healty, rich young lady. Rochester won't be able to cosset and worship her. She won't feel overwhelmed by his social standing and power. So there's the end, only when they are equal, when they have suffered and felt what the other must have felt at some other point in the novel. Their
story is one of slowly coming to completion, of facing their imperfections and smoothing them
over, to clear the path they will walk in the future, together.

P.S. If you still want to try Dickens but haven't yet, remember his novels are more about rational ending then happy ending. A friend of mine described his books as "bitter". Some bad characters are given the chance to redeem themselves but don't take it, for others it's too late and they will bear the consequence of one mistake forever, someone will find happiness, perhaps at great price, perhaps easily enough. Some villains will never get their punishment but their victims will be suffering for a long time. Dickens' world is somewhat more real, less brilliantly perfect than Austen's: it can be dark and unforgiving. Just brace yourself.

Anonymous said...

Feel free to ignore the post scriptum of my previous comment, since I obviously didn't remember or take into account your last paragraph. Sorry for that!