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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jane Eyre Pet Peeves

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The novel Jane Eyre is pretty much perfect (let's have no arguments on that)  - but I do have these pet peeves when it comes to the way the novel is often interpreted, which probably bothers me more than it should.  But that's okay, because after I vent in this post, I will feel much better! Theoretically.  (Apologies in advance for all the ranting!)

  • Pet Peeve #1: When Jane is not the focus
I understand from a marketing viewpoint why the DVD cover to the right happened but... that still doesn't make it right.  Honestly, "Jane Eyre" starring Timothy Dalton??  At least put Zelah Clarke's name with Dalton's!  I also understand that Mr. Rochester can often take over the focus of the story because of his personality and because many people swoon over the romance.  I too am guilty of this!  But I always go back to the idea that Jane is the most important aspect and the real reason I love this book so much.  The story is about her, filtered through her, and is most about her development.  I get a little sad when adaptations are referenced by the actor who played Rochester - even if the actor dominated in performance.  So when adaptations or cover images do put the focus on Jane (example, the 2011 film poster - not so much the DVD cover) then they are doing it right.

  • Pet Peeve #2: Mr. Rochester is a bad man
Alright.  This might bother me the most actually.  Yes, he does a terrible thing by keeping such a major secret from Jane.  He tries to manipulate her and make her jealous, and he didn't treat Blanche very nicely either.  Nobody said he was perfect.  (And btw Blanche does not treat him very nicely either.)  These are mistakes that are the result of a childhood with little affection, 10 years of an unhappy marriage, and arrogance bred from his social position.  He's a Byronic hero.  And if you read the novel carefully, he does not deserve Jane until the end when he truly repents and intends to live a better life.   Charlotte Brontë wrote this character with intention and the intention is Mr. Rochester is redeemed.  He is not bad, but he has done bad things.  And the whole thing about Rochester's poor treatment of Bertha is just ridiculous.  Keeping Bertha in the attic with a caretaker was more humane at the time than putting her in an asylum.  Her madness is genetic and "her excesses had prematurely developed the germs of insanity."  ("Excesses" perhaps meaning sexual, because she was not faithful, or perhaps her violent tendencies?)  And why are her homicidal tendencies so easily dismissed?  She's dangerous and needed to be locked up.  

  • Pet Peeve #3: Jane is not a strong character
I had a discussion with a friend once who did not like Jane for this reason.  And ultimately I think it came down to Jane marrying Mr. Rochester in the end, after he treated her so badly (reference: above).  Jane is obviously socially constrained, but she is much more outspoken and passionate than her rank and station allow.  She acts in accord with her own concept of morality and stays true to herself all the way through.  Only when she can be equal in all things with Mr. Rochester does she marry him - the man she loves.  Pretty much in everything, she does what she wants to do.  I don't know how else you can portray a strong character.

  • Pet Peeve #4: The Jane/Bertha
I think the idea of Jane and Bertha reflecting each other started with the 1979 literary criticism work The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.  It's a feminist reading which really took off, but I just don't buy it.  What do Jane and Bertha have in common?  They are both passionate and constrained by society.  Um, so is Mr. Rochester. (Okay granted, Rochester has like 80% less constraints.)  To my mind, I think it much more believable to see Bertha as a warning for what Rochester can become than for what Jane can become.  Especially since Bertha and Rochester are both flawed characters who share a skewed sense of morality.  They are much more alike.  And I think it telling that near the end, when Jane hears about Rochester's blindness, Jane thinks - "I had dreaded he was mad."  Hmm, like Bertha?

  • Bonus Pet Peeve! - This quote:
"Crying does not indicate that you are weak.  Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive."

Credited to Jane Eyre for some reason.  It's not in the novel anywhere, and also unlikely that Charlotte Brontë wrote it.  It's not even a quote from one of the adaptations.  So stop it tumblr.  

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  1. That movie cover is soooo awful! And just that tiny little picture of Jane. Ugh!

  2. Kayla @ The Thousand LivesJune 11, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    The TITLE is Jane Eyre... why in the world would the focus be on Rochester???

    As for #2: I was discussing this exact point with my students last year. They all HATED Rochester, and no matter how much we debated they were firmly against forgiving him. My heart was so broken!

  3. I know! And it's not even a nice picture of Jane - why is she running?? It's like she's chasing after Rochester! (That's something I would do, not Jane LOL)

  4. Exactly! I wonder if other people who have not read the novel, are puzzled by the title and the fact there's a big picture of a man on it!

    Aww, that breaks my heart a little too - especially since these students couldn't see Rochester's worth even after the discussion! I hope they won't always think that way though! But kudos to you for trying to convince them! :)

  5. Ugh, I hate misattributed quotes. Jane Eyre not a strong character?!? I think it's hard for us today to understand what it was really like to be a woman in the 19th century. Sometimes her strength was found in running away, but she had to do that in order to define herself.

  6. I agree about Mr. Rochester. Being a bad person or just making wrong choices in your life are two different things. I also believe that putting his woman in the attic is far better than shipping her away to an asylum. At least she is taken care off the best way he can. I like his character development (at least based on the version with Timothy Dalton, I have yet to read the book. Shame on me)

  7. Lol I so agree especially about jane not being the main focus of the story...huge pet peeve to me as well!! That cover is terrible..butt chin ahoy lol

  8. I haven't seen the movie or read the book :/ I really need to get on that! But dang, sounds like the whole focus is on the guy. That movie cover makes me so mad and I haven't even seen the movie. And just his name!

  9. It's so strange that misattributed quotes get started - you'd think the first person to put the quote up would just double check where it came from! I agree, it is hard to imagine how restricted and how bad it was for women in the 19th century. What Jane does might not seem like much to us now, but it was pretty radical for her time - especially with some of the passages in the book where she speaks out against what was expected of women.

  10. Oh well, at least the Dalton version is pretty close to the book, so I'm glad you saw that one! But I do think you should read it (of course! :D) And I'm glad you agree with me - Rochester bashing just makes me sad.

  11. LOL! Oh I begin to understand - the designer of the cover must of really had a thing for Dalton's chin! :D

  12. It's pretty outrageous! I hope you read the book first and then see the movie! :D Or the mini-series - you have a lot of options when it comes to adaptations! :)

  13. I agree so, with #3. I think she is a very strong character. She did not tolerate her life with the Reeds, she did not succumb to becoming a teacher, she did not stay with Rochester as a mistress. She was very strong indeed for a time when women had very few choices.

  14. Exactly right! I definitely need to have another discussion with my friend! :)

  15. I just love you! This whole post is awesome! I mean, they couldn't even put her NAME on there? Anywhere? I love the poster for the 2011 adaptation. I love the colors, especially. The DVD cover is pretty lame, though, and so generic. Mr. Rochester does way more for Bertha than any asylum would have done at the time. She may have been locked in an attic, but she was well fed and taken care of. And Jane is ridiculously strong for someone in her time and position! Maybe by our standards today she's not the norm for a "strong character", but she's so true to her convictions and beliefs.

  16. *high five*! I'm glad you feel the same too - although I think most of my pet peeves are no brainers for true Jane Eyre fans! The 2011 post is so gorgeous - I have it hanging in my room and love to look at it! Maybe by today's standards are different on strong characters, but I still like to think 'What would Jane do' when I'm unsure about something! :)

  17. Haha, Mr. Rochester is certainly a dominating force, but still "Jane Eyre" starring Timothy Dalton"?? LOLOL. And what?! Mr. Rochester is NOT a bad man. He is trapped in a bad situation and he should have told about Bertha to Jane, but I TOTALLY get why he didn't. He was afraid he would lose Jane. Poor Mr. Rochester :( And Jane IS strong and not like Bertha AT ALL.

  18. I know! They are really rubbing it in - featuring Dalton on the cover AND only crediting him by name! Poor Zelah Clarke!

    I'm so glad you also agree about Rochester (cause if you didn't, I don't know what I would do! LOL) And especially that Jane is not like Bertha, because it does perplex me when I see that interpretation everywhere, that I wonder if most people think it!

  19. Kristine Rosiana Faith RochestJune 22, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    Thought this might make you happy; I found this Japanese cover of Jane Eyre 1983, and I thought it would redeem the Jane Eyre played by Timothy Dalton version :)

  20. LOL thank you Japan! You prove your awesomeness yet again! I am surprised that they didn't want to showcase Dalton as well, but I think Jane Eyre is really popular in Japan so maybe this makes perfect sense. :D I guess I can forgive the top billing given to Dalton too!

    Interesting to see Jane Eyre written in Japanese too!

  21. Kristine Rosiana Faith RochestJune 23, 2014 at 1:44 AM

    Well, there is another one of Dalton and Clarke together, but personally, it just looks like they slapped three separate photos together and called it a cover; I like this one a lot better.

    And from what I've read around the internet, I think the Brontës and Shakespeare are the most well-known English authors in Japan, though Emily's Wuthering Heights is the most popular Brontë novel.

    The Japanese script(s)'s really pretty, I think! I'm trying to learn it, so what better way to do it than with Jane Eyre? Even though as of right now, the only word I really recognized from the excerpt was "Rochester" ;)

  22. Well my admiration of Japan has decreased a *tiny* bit knowing that Wuthering Heights is more popular than Jane Eyre... :) But Shakespeare and Bronte - they really have great taste in English authors!

    It's so cool that you are trying to learn Japanese Kristine! 'Rochester' has more different letters so it makes sense that you focused on that word first. LOL

  23. Great points about Bertha and Rochester!