Last night I viewed the newest rendition of the novel Jane Eyre. For those young ladies who are experiencing child abuse, this was one of the only novels available to us when I was a girl of pre-adolescence back in the early 70’s. Now there are many. Yet, I can’t imagine that any book could really capture the story of a child abused, being an orphan, growing into a woman, the choices she makes in men, her struggle for independence quite like Jane. Up until now, my favorite version would have been the one with Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, Peggy Ann Garner and Joan Fontaine.
The 1944 film was not as true to the book though and it was much more romantic than it should have been. The 2011 version (despite the initial scene where the cameraman is unable to steady himself – think Blair Witch Project), is a flashback starting from the moment she runs away and then the story is peeled back at the parson’s house. Remember the parson and his two sisters? Unless you read the book, you would not care but I have always felt the movies fell short by not including her journey back to Thornfield Hall.
The stage of enlightenment for anyone, is a process of pain, humiliation, suffering, and then the person lifts up to a new level of being. I am not saying this because she returns to Thornfield, but because Jane becomes a woman and is able to mature despite the horrible atrocities she faced as a child and even the choice she made as a governess, living in a dangerous home (unbeknownst to her). Yet even going back to Thornfield, not knowing what to expect or what would happen, she is still continuing to face a life she had run away from. A mature person must face the stain on their character at some point. As when we face that which has tormented us, can we truly say that it no longer haunts us.
Returning to Thornfield though, not only has Jane gone through a stage of enlightenment but so has Mr. Rochester. How often would that happen that male and female are reunited at such a mature level? Rarely. If Jane had married Rochester the first time, their life together would have been a constant struggle, with Jane doing all the heavy emotional work. Now at the end though, both are truly equals and their relationship will be more of a sacred arrangement of two individuals truly in love.
The book’s main character is a role model for young women but especially for those who have been abused as children. When I first read it, I was too young to really understand the depth of the struggle, it was romantic to me. The initial chapters spent with her aunt were where I felt in sync with the character the most. This author, Charlotte Bronte, understood what it was like to be a young girl given unfair advantages in childhood. Jane and I were sisters throughout these chapters. We could share our struggles together.
In the 2011 version, young girls will find a sister once more as the visual adaptation captures the emotions and the graphics of child abuse that know 1944 version would ever have divulged. This new version shows the painful struggle of a young girl becoming a woman. The relationship between man and woman, tested through time, is not romantic yet a relief in the end. If there is such a thing as a soul mate, this movie captures the essence of this definition by far.
This is a classic that every young girl should read, especially those from tragic beginnings and this movie is a must see after they’ve read this book, for the mere amusement of seeing your kin up on-screen.