Jane Eyre: Faith or Passion?

It is a universal truth that where there is a Jane Eyre adaptation, there are opinions… those who love it, those who disliked it, and so forth. I finally had a chance to see the new film and thought it was adequate but not brilliant. Maybe it is impossible to adapt the book completely, because it seems like all the adaptations have good and bad qualities to them. Each one to a large extent also leaves out the very core of the novel, which is Jane’s faith in God. But we cannot have God in anything nowadays so the thought-provoking emphasis on faith is all but stripped from the work, leaving only the horrid rigidity of dis-likable “Christians” behind. When you do that, the concept of why Jane chooses to leave Edward is wholly abandoned, and may leave many modern audiences wondering why.

Believers and those who understand history know why she cannot, why it is an immorality she cannot tolerate and one that would have forever made her an outcast. Such minor things as the housekeeper warning Jane to be careful as she knows so little of men are likely to drift over the heads of anyone unfamiliar with the times. In other words, “He’s not about to marry you, Jane… he’ll promise to do so only to an extent in which he gets you into bed, then he will conveniently remember former obligations and cast you by the wayside.”

But back to the adaptation at hand. The raging question on everyone’s lips is, does it overshadow or impress more than the miniseries? In my opinion, no, both because of its limited running time and its characterization.The story was condensed really well but so much so that all minor characters are completely left out and Blanche has five minutes of screen time. Mia is dull in the lead, which is a shame because with a more charismatic actress I think the film would have worked quite well. The flirting, sexual tension, and chemistry that made the miniseries so wonderful is absent, leaving the dialogue vulnerable to misinterpretation without a softening of underlining amusement and attraction. I am also bored with Judi Dench, since she does the same monotone performance in everything nowadays, regardless of the role.  (The only exception is Miss Matty in Cranford and to be honest, I would have preferred another in the part.)

What did turn out exceptionally well was the scene in the library, which is very raw and emotional and made me feel the enormous difficulty Jane has in choosing between her honor and the man she loves. This pretty much puts all other scenes in the film (and most of the other adaptations) to shame. It essentially captures what the miniseries did in a different (and far less controversial) way. What I love most about the miniseries is that it makes me want her to stay, even though I know she shouldn’t. I want them together so much it hurts. I can feel her anguish in having to leave. I don’t care if that scene with them resting together on the bed isn’t in the book, it clearly illustrates what she is giving up and how hard Edward attempts to persuade her to remain. I’m not a big fan of making changes that are out of character — but that scene exists in a gray area for me, because while it is out of character for Jane, it is not out of character for Edward. It is entirely within his character to attempt, even in such a small, delicate manner, to seduce her into remaining with him. It’s an incredibly sexy scene for many reasons that have nothing to do with him kissing her in it; it’s all about raw desire, and that for me makes it much more powerful when Jane chooses her beliefs over what she wants with her heart and body.

In that respect, this film captured the same desire and emotion that the miniseries did, but in a manner that does not taint Jane’s reputation nearly so much. (I know a great many young women who had a tantrum after that scene aired, since the “real” Jane would never consent to lying in a man’s arms and kissing him ever, much less knowing he was married!) That is the one instance in which Mia did an exceptional job, as she pried Edward’s hands off her and fled the library, after listening to his tearful appeal for her to remain.

This is why I like and admire Jane so much, because I would like to hope that in her situation I would have the strength to do as she does, to turn and walk away from temptation even though it almost kills her.  She is the saint of the story to Edward’s brooding darkness… a man who was dealt a bad hand in life and chose wrongly to pursue “pleasure” out of his bitterness. Yet even with his faults, and they are numerous, ranging from his immorality to his excessive rudeness, there is a good side to him as well — had he been a lesser man, a less kind man, he might have easily rid himself of the problem concealed in the attic, a problem that prevented his happiness with Jane and drove them apart, a problem she might have never discovered. Edward could have gotten away with it, an unlocked door, an open window. He would not have even had to push the problem off the roof — and he attempted to save her nearly at the cost of his life, his “problem.” What he attempts to do to Jane is almost unforgivable yet we find a sense of happiness in their eventual reconciliation.

What’s your favorite adaptation? Do you like Edward or despise him? Sound off below.  I’ll be in the living room watching the miniseries…

14 Replies to “Jane Eyre: Faith or Passion?”

  1. I know this is an old post, but I have a question about your typing of Jane Eyre on your MBTI blog (I don’t have a tumblr, so I can’t comment there). Would you be able to elaborate on her N typing? She’s obviously an Fi-dom, but I don’t see any Ne, only Se, but any typings of her tend to assume the Ne is obvious and skim over it.

    1. Once in awhile it crosses my mind that ISFP is possible — I haven’t read the book in a long time.

      Mostly, I see no Ni intuition in her, which an ISFP would show from time to time. She does not read him very well or comprehend his motives all that easily. She’s pretty naive about Edward in a way that Ne’s often are.

      What makes you lean ISFP?

      1. I don’t see any Ne in her. She never tried to speculate on Rochester’s past and motivations. She shows very little curiosity over the weird stuff happening, like Rochester’s bed getting set on fire, accepting his explanation of the crazy servant. When she’s waiting for him to come back that night, she doesn’t try to explain it to herself, just waits, thinking about the cold and her tiredness rather than the possibilities of the scene (Se vs Ne). Also, I didn’t see any Si. She remembers the people in her past as they were (proven by her visit to them when her aunt died). She never seems overly bothered by her past, and doesn’t need to get over anything concerning it; she’s confidant in her opinion despite everyone treating her otherwise. Part of that is Fi I think and part is lack of Si. She doesn’t have many preformed ideas when she meets someone new, she sees them as they show themselves.
        She also shows Se. When she meets Rochester formally for the first time, she goes into great detail how he looks with no metaphors, just starting the truth. She’s good at acting on the chances she sees, such as applying to become a governess, leaving Rochester… She’s an artist, naturally talented, but her pictures are strange and drawn completely from her mind (Ni). Her Ni often gets overshadowed by her Se, but I see way more Se than Ne or Si. Does that seem right, or am I misunderstanding something?

        1. True.

          The only fallacy is that Ne would be inclined to use metaphors to describe someone (that can be the case, but it is often not) but other than that, your argument is sound. You could also throw in her abandonment of the house — fleeing into the darkness to escape temptation and Edward, as being a somewhat reckless Se decision.

  2. I'm torn when it comes to Rochester. I can understand the loneliness, the desperation, etc., etc., but still…IDK. I guess it's the same attraction that people have for the Phantom.

    Personally, I don't quite get the idea of Jane Eyre being an epic romance. When I read it, I got more of the idea of it being “Jane's story”, the whole “her struggles and triumphs” kind of thing than a romance novel.

    1. To be honest, I think you have to relate on some level to Edward in order to understand him. More enthusiastic personalities won’t really get his bleak sense of humor or his self-punishment.

      I think the novel is both an epic romance and the story of Jane — in the sense of how she changes the man she loves. It really is quite beautiful.

  3. Natallie — you have permission, as long as you link to the original file and/or our website.

    The Costume Chronicles had its final issue several months ago, exploring the works of C.S. Lewis. However, many of the writers have shifted over to my new magazine located at http://www.charitysplace.com. I do accept submissions — our next issue will be out August 1st.

    A Tolkien issue is planned for Nov/Dec 2012 to coincide with “The Hobbit” release. Upcoming issues for the rest of this year include Literary Men, Fur & Fangs (anything with a supernatural twist), and Sleuths, with a Charles Dickens issue early next year.

    If you have any further questions, please contact me privately through the website. Thanks! =)

  4. Hi, remember me?
    Again, I'm asking you permission to translate and publish in my blog some articles from Costume Chronicles. This time, I wanna translate the articles from the two editions about Jane Austen. I will give you the link to post when I publish the translation.
    By the way, what are the subjects of the next issues of Costume Chronicles? I would love to see special editions of Tolkien and Harry Potter. Do you accept contributions?
    Bye, thanks.

  5. I have a love-hate relationship with the Edward Rochester character. On the one side, he's the perfect gentleman. On the other side, he's a liar and he can be a bit of a bully.

  6. Haven't seen the miniseries yet. When there's classic literature, there's about several different film adaptations that come along with it (I've seen about 5 different film versions of Shakespeare's Hamlet but that's another story) that offer different takes on the story.

    With that being said, I haven't seen the miniseries with Toby Stephens yet but I have seen clips of it from YouTube, especially the “cuddly wuddly” scene that you mentioned. I have seen the current Jane Eyre from 2011, the one from the 40s with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles, and the 1973 BBC version.

    Michael Fassbender's Edward Rochester is definitely handsome (because of this movie, I now have a crush on Michael Fassbender), moody, and at times, soft spoken. Unlike the book, he appears to be very nice to Adele, his ward. I actually liked Mia's performance as Jane Eyre. Not an Oscar-winning performance, mind you, but a good performance.

    The 1940s version of the novel was pretty good but Joan Fontaine was a little too old to be playing Jane Eyre. The proposal scene was devoid of emotion and passion.

    The 1973 BBC version was pretty good but it was really, really slow. Edward Rochester (Michael Jayston), in my opinion, comes across as a spoiled brat in some parts; when he doesn't get his way, he gets snappy and he ends up throwing a temper tantrum at the botched wedding. Unlike Fassbender, Jayston's Rochester comes off as sardonic and snobby at times.

    I tried to respond to your response in my blog (re: Comic Con) but for sone reason, I can't post a response in my own blog so I'll just post it here 🙂

    The Con will continue to be in SD for a few more years up to 2015 (during that time, there will be discussion about expanding the San Diego Convention Center where the convention is held). Unfortunately, it's sold out this year and all the hotels in the San Diego area are booked. Fortunately for me, I live 30 minutes away from the convention center so I can just use the trolley system to get there (takes longer than a half hour but parking sucks in downtown San Diego).

    If you do decide to go sometime, let me know and yes, I will see if there are any Vampire Diaries freebies 🙂 Last year, I was at a booth that had Doctor Who tote bags and I almost got you one but they were $15.

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