Saturday, April 23, 2011
I thank my 10th grade Gothic Literature teacher, Miss Otis, everytime I watch Masterpiece Theater's adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre. If it were not for Miss Otis, I might have missed what was to be the book of my youth (and would have missed Rebecca too). This month I saw the latest film version of the famous 1847 novel and it did not disappoint. Every frame of the film seemed like a painting. And while the Masterpiece version starring Tobey Stephens as Mr. Rochester, has remained my favorite, there is a lot to love about the new version and I endorse it highly. Judi Densch as gentle Mrs. Fairfax adds much to dark Thornfield Hall, the costumes are marvelous, and the moors never looked so lovely and glorious. They are a character of their own.
I have once again read Jane Eyre, this time after I saw the new film. Jane is still fresh, still startling. I also read a wonderful review of the film which talked of the story as a "spiritual journey" and a "place where people with great souls had to struggle with small lives". The reviewer also said (and I love this part) that Jane "had an innate sense of self-respect, and there's nowhere it should have come from....everything she achieves, it's because she made it for herself....It's a fairy tale for the insecure and unconfident - the ordinary woman".
Jane never wavers from her sense of self even when her abusive aunt banishes her to Lowood, the punishing and brutal school where she grows into womanhood. Although Lowood is cruel and cold, Jane manages to find a best friend in Helen Burns and her personal doctrine of humility allows her to survive the grim school. The noteriety of her "plainess" in a world where vanity and beauty are held in such high esteem, makes one sympathize with her plight as she mingles in Mr. Rochester's world. Throughout her troubles, Jane uses drawing and art to quell her fears. She knows how to soothe herself. Jane is a survivor who has an unwillingness to compromise her integrity even as her affection for Mr. Rochester grows.
We are still hungry for Jane and that is why this story has been reimagined so consistently through the years. Jane is a flower that grows through a crevice in cement. An astonishing lone blossom that manages to root and find its way into the light. She's a heroine for everywoman and there's a little bit of Jane in me. Is there a little bit of Jane in you too?