I grew up with Jane. I can still remember watching Jane Eyre with my Mom. It was one of her favourite rainy day/sick day/winter day movies. Timothy Dalton was a scary looking Mr. Rochester, but I loved the story of the young, creative, independent, willful woman who stood up for herself when everyone around her tried to bring her down.
When Jane Eyre was released into theatres with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender (and of course Judi Dench), I was ecstatic! This version of Jane’s story was beautifully told (well, expect for the ending . . . ). In this film you saw her independent spirit, her creativity, her ability to stand up to others, her determination to make a way for herself in a “man’s world,” and her capacity to hold true to her values and beliefs. What a woman. I remember coming home after the film, pulling out the book, and looking up the scene where she turns down St. John’s marriage proposal. What force. What strength. What confidence. I fell in love all over again! This is a woman I can respect!
Jane and St. John’s conversation:
” ‘Nonsense, again! Marry! I dont’ want to marry, and never shall marry.’
‘That is saying too much: such hazardous affirmations are a proof of the excitement under which you labour.’
‘It is not saying too much: I know what I feel, and how averse are my inclinations to the bare thought of marriage . . . I want a kindred: those with whom I have full fellow-feelings.’ ” (Chapter 33)
Jane’s words about marriage are inspirational! Charlotte Bronte’s words, actually.
Bronte created a character that I was able to connect with, and can still connect with. A woman who doesn’t show off, a woman who stands up for her rights and freedom, a woman who sees herself as an equal to men, and a woman who longs for independence. I think it is that call for independence that has continued to echo in me over the years.
” ‘It would, indeed, be a relief,’I thought, ‘if I had ever so small an independency; I never can hear being dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester’ . . . ” (Chapter 14)
Yet like Jane, I do want a relationship of equals, someone of “fellow-feelings.”
” ‘. . . it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal–as we are!’ ” (Chapter 8)
One of the highlights of going to see my cousin get married in England (the highlight being that I got to see her get married!), is that I got to visit the Bronte’s house. I saw the room that Charlotte wrote in and the clothes she wore and the moors where she walked. I felt an even greater connection to Bronte and Jane when I saw the moors and the house and the Church.
All in all, I would say that Jane Eyre is one of the most (if not THE most) influential books I have ever read. I love Victorian Literature, but in Jane I found more than a character. I found a spirit, addressing my spirit!
Oh, and for a nice book end, I went to Haworth and the Bronte Museum with my Mom! 🙂
“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)