Okay, did you read the book then watch the movie? What did you think? There are books and movies that I know I love (Pride and Prejudice) and then there are ones that I forget how much I like them until I am reading/watching them again. Jane Eyre is one of the latter for me; it is only when I am immersed in the story that I remember how much I love it. The version of the film I am talking about is the 2006 BBC miniseries.
We can’t discuss Jane Eyre without talking about the Gothic elements that are spread throughout the entire story. It starts with the visit of the ghost of Jane’s uncle in the ‘red room’, frightening her to the point that she tears her hands up beating on the door. I have to admit, that act alone made me despise the aunt–even before she turns Jane over to the horrible school–and I struggled to reconcile with Jane for forgiving her aunt in the end and helping her aunt when no one else would (but then, I am not nearly as forgiving as Jane is).
Other Gothic elements include the crazy wife in the tower who comes out to try and kill everyone else and the weather as a sympathetic reflection of the Jane’s emotions. When Jane and Mr. Rochester meet it is a misty dreary day where everything is obscured and in turmoil. As the summer progresses and their relationship develops, the summer turns pleasant, and when Jane leaves and is left on the moors, the weather again becomes dreary. Do you love the Gothic elements or think they are a trifle over done?
Mr. Rochester, after getting to know Jane and obviously being attracted to her, brings a party of guests to the house most of whom don’t treat Jane very well. Why do you think he did that? I have a couple of theories, let me know what you think.
One theory, he could have brought the house party, especially Blanche Ingram, in an attempt to remind himself of the world he resides in. Also, as a way to show Jane in a bad light, she is not a social creature, she doesn’t understand the manipulations that Mr. Rochester plays upon those around him who seek him out for his money, and because Jane isn’t pretty–whereas most of the women in the house party are like butterflies (beautiful without much substance who flutter about)–he brought them to remind himself of the beautiful women available to him.
My second theory is that Mr. Rochester brought them to the house in an attempt to justify spending more time with Jane. If he had the guests at the house he wouldn’t feel so guilty about spending time with her and enjoying her company. Also, bringing the vain shallow women who were only after his money into the house showed how very different Jane is in temperament and ideals. What do you think, is one theory better than the other or do you have your own theory?
When I first read this book in my teens, I cried when the wedding was interrupted and it was revealed that Mr. Rochester was already married. My heart broke for both Jane and Mr. Rochester and I was so mad at Richard Mason for interrupting the wedding after Jane and Mr. Rochester worked so hard to save his life after his crazy sister attacked him. Do you think he should have kept quiet after helping to trick Rochester into marrying his crazy sister in the first place? Or did he do the right thing because Rochester was married?
Money vs. Family & Character
One recurring theme is money vs. character and money vs. family. From the beginning of the story Jane is forced to do without both, the only relatives she knows force her to attend a horrible school where she is abused and starved. Mr. Rochester repeatedly mentions how handsome he is because of the money he has. Finally, Jane is left an inheritance by an uncle she never met and instead of keeping all of it for herself she shares it equally with her River cousins. This is one of my favorite themes of the book, the value of family and how most people don’t appreciate it because they have never had to do without those bonds.
Mr. Rochester is one of the most complex males in literary fiction (at least in my opinion). He is charming and charismatic while at the same time being selfish and arrogant. One minute I want to beat him for the way to treats those around him and in the next hold him and promise to love him forever. Obviously he is incredibly cynical because of the greedy people who flutter around him and because of the marriage he was tricked into making by his own family members. As a result of the manipulation he endured, he sees no problem with manipulating those around him. I think he does try to be the bigger man in the beginning of his relationship with Jane, treating her well and finally offering her marriage because he loves her and he wants to be loved in return. I think his baser nature gets the better of him when he tries to convince Jane to run away with him and pretend to be his sister, as if that relationship would remain the platonic one he described for very long. However, for all his faults I still love him and sigh in happiness when he finally gets his Jane back. I would love to read the story from his point of view, all we get is Jane’s. How does he feel when his Jane leaves him, what does he do and how does he adjust after losing everything?
My last question, do you think that Mr. Rochester had to be humbled with his house burning to the ground, his wife dying with him unable to save her and him being permanently injured to be able to have a happy and long time relationship with Jane or do you think he could have been happy with Jane with everything except the wife intact? Or do you think it was just punishment for him to have to suffer without Jane, lost in the dark by himself, for the pain he caused to Jane?
I love this story and am very glad I got to enjoy it with a critical eye, too many times I tend to just enjoy any story without analyzing it but half the greatness of this story is in analyzing it’s many layers and elements. When the 2011 version is released we will have to do a comparison to see which we like better.