I just returned from a showing of the newest Jane Eyre movie and needless to say I’m currently bumbling about in cloud of Period Piece-Romance Emotional Excess. I’ve only ever seen one other Jane Eyre adaptation, the 2006 miniseries with a thin lipped Jane and almost excessive making out sequences.
This most recent translation of the novel is by far the more fulfilling of the two being gorgeously shot with spectacularly nuanced actors and delicious sets and costumes.
I, however, am not here to talk about movies. I am here to talk about Jane.
Jane Eyre and I have a confusing and complex relationship that dates back to when I first found out about her. I think I was eight or nine, maybe a bit older, but I was at church waiting for sunday school to start, standing in the hallway with my friend Jas. She always read through every meeting of church and I always admired her brazenness. That week she had a thick volume in her hand with an absurd cartoon cover. I can remember exactly what the book looked like, and it looked stupid.
“What are you reading?” I asked.
”Jane Eyre. It’s about an orphan who gets a book thrown at her head and then locked in a tower.”
It was not, so to say, my style. In my sad little child’s brain I figured anyone dull enough to warrant having a book thrown at her wasn’t worth writing a book about. Let alone a long book. (And I was no stranger to long books, having read Gone With the Wind multiple times before turning 7).
I forgot about Jane Eyre until I was a sophomore in high school. Most of my friends were juniors in Mr. L’s honors English class and it was required of them to read the book. We would sit in the choir room before school and they would read passages aloud that they found absurd (the book throwing received much repetition) and we would laugh and roll our eyes at the absurd English peoples of the past.
When the time came I found myself installed in Mr. L’s honors English class, and on the first day of school I informed him that there was, in no way, any scinerao he might present that would get me to like Jane Eyre. He smiled and made a note of my open defiance. One day everyone in our class class was presented with a fat book with an even uglier illustration on the cover than the copy Jas had had when we were kids.
Stupid Jane Eyre.
“I like Jane Eyre.” Mr. L announced, “I know no one else does, but I do. Either way we have to read it. So to make it more palatable I want you all to go home and cover the book with a picture of a book you DO like.”
The next day we had to share what book we’d rather be reading than Jane Eyre. I believe I chose “Wuthering Heights” because I am a brat. Mr. L covered his copy with a picture of another edition of Jane Eyre, one girl used “Everybody Poops” (that annoyed me). We were given our reading schedules, an introduction on the book and author and were dismissed for the day. On the way out Mr. L annouced that “By next class, our own little dissent party, Erin, will be enamoured with this book.” I scoffed, people chuckled and I left. It was a Friday and we had the weekend to read five chapters or so and my plan was to stick with the schedule.
On Monday I stormed into Mr. L’s room after lunch, slammed the book on my desk and informed him that “This isn’t fair.”
“Might I ask how far you got?”
“I finsihed it.”
“Of course you did. And?”
“I loved it.”
“Ahh. Told you you would. It is very much “your style” though you’ll deny it until your death, and I thought it might appeal to some of your more overt sensibilities.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mr. Rochester is older.”
While it would take another post just to explain this comment suffice it to say that I’ve burned a candle for older men my whole life, and have made no secret of it.
“But that isn’t the only reason… I mean Jane is kind of sad and awful but the language is just so, so beautiful and I can’t help myself when there is pretty speeches, big houses and moors. And I’m sorry, but it is rather ridiculous what with a crazy, hidden wife and the hero going all blind and deformed AND THEN magically becoming whole again. But I liked it. I did.”
And thus, a Jane Eyre fan was born. A reluctant one, but one nonetheless.
Since the first time I read the novel there have been subsequent rereadings, and they all start the same way; I see it sitting on my bookshelf and I scoff, call it rediculous and figure I’ll read a chapter or two to kill time before ultimately being sucked in and captured by the story.
It’s an endless, confusing cycle and one day I’ll figure out whether I like the book or think it is absurd but for now I’m happy to keep being surprised by it.
And just for the record, I hate Jane Eyre.