After watching The Sound of Music recently, I was impelled to write this post. I know that seeing the similarities between Jane Eyre and The Sound of Music is not new. It seems to be common among Jane Eyre fans to wonder at the similarities, and although I have seen this posted about on other blogs, I thought it would be fun to point them out on my own. And perhaps go more in depth (because I have thought about this far too often!) I do wish I could find out whether or not the writers who created the stage show for Sound of Music or rewrote it for the film did get some influence from Charlotte Brontë's novel. Because even though The Sound of Music is based on a true story, there are a couple Janian elements to the musical that are not true to life. And I would love to know if it's all just coincidence or if there really is a connection!
-- Jane/Maria and Religion --
Maria was a postulant at the abbey before she was sent to take care of the Von Trapp children, and Jane Eyre was a teacher at a devout school before she went to teach Adele. A strong faith in God and Jane/Maria go together. I'm sure that's more of a coincidence though since the real Maria was a postulant. And Jane and Maria were also both governesses, unconventional for their time, and they were both strong, intelligent and graceful women.
-- Mr. Rochester and Captain Von Trapp --
I know that the role of the Captain was enhanced for the film, and I think in the film we get a stronger sense of the Captain as being a little overbearing, sardonic and proud. Qualities that Mr. Rochester has. Of course the Captain is much more of an honest character (it would have been too much of a coincidence if the Captain had been hiding his wife in the attic of that beautiful house LOL). And both Jane and Maria soften their men so that they are less dour and forbidding. And don't forget the age difference! (For the real life Von Trapps the age gap was 25 years, while the gap for Jane and Rochester was 20. I'm not even sure how old Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer were supposed to be in the film - probably the same as their real life counterparts - but can you believe that Julie was 30 years old when she did Sound of Music? And Plummer was just 36.)
-- Blanche and the Baroness --
There is the distinction that Rochester was deliberately courting Blanche to make Jane jealous, while the Captain was intending to marry the Baroness, but both women were snobbish and imperious and unfortunately unlikable for it. They are also seen as rivals by Jane/Maria and obstacles to their happiness by the reader/viewer. Their characters add a bit more drama and romantic tension. (I just love all the instances in The Sound of Music when the Baroness is watching the Captain looking at Maria!) I feel ultimately though that the Baroness is more sympathetic than Blanche, since who can blame the Baroness for not wanting to give up the Captain? And she was very classy when she had to go. Blanche was probably not very classy at all when she learned Mr. Rochester was not as rich as supposed.
-- The Proposal --
For me, this is the biggest point of resemblance between Jane Eyre and The Sound of Music. Especially since the true story is no where near romantic. The real Maria was not even in love with the Captain when she married him! But anyways there are some interesting similarities here -the proposal takes place in the garden AND at night and Rochester/Von Trapp tries to get Jane/Maria to admit their feelings by making them think about leaving. Jane/Maria are both very sad and try to hide it (Jane with considerably less success but then again Mr. Rochester did push her very hard.) And then a glorious moment when Jane/Maria realize Rochester/Von Trapp loves them. And thankfully for the Von Trapps there was no ominous thunderstorm of foreshadowing. Although.... it would have been fitting for the way things went for them.
-- Jane/Maria Leaves --
The order and the reasoning does not match up between the two characters, but they both do choose to leave the place they love behind and it is an important dramatic, plot point.
-- The Third Act --
This is another sort of tenuous connection, but just in terms of story, I think Jane Eyre is intriguing because what should be the climax - Jane and Rochester's marriage is delayed, and we get another third of the novel that builds to another climax. And in The Sound of Music, we get a similar sort of story structure with the other climax being the escape from the Nazis. I feel like that is interesting to note, although it isn't unique to Jane Eyre, it is just one more thing that Jane Eyre and The Sound of Music have in common.
I hope I remembered everything I've thought about this! Thank you for reading through such a nerd-tastic comparison between two of my favorite things!