Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And Ode to Jane Eyre, or I discuss Jane

Before I dive into my discussion of Jane, by April Lindner, I need to explain my almost life-long (and going strong) relationship with Jane Eyre. I first encountered Jane Eyre as a comic book (this was before, I'm sure, the term graphic novel was coined!), and I remembered being fascinated by the orphaned Jane and how she wanted (I thought) to be a teacher. My brother and I were obsessed with orphans (our favorite make-believe game to play was entitled "Orphanage", heavily influenced by my reading of historical fiction and complete with evil orphanage owner and an escape across the sea), and even then I dreamed of being a teacher (for some reason my brother was less than thrilled when I wanted to play school, probably because I assigned homework that I expected him to complete...). Not much else (surprisingly) stuck, however, so when the novel was assigned in my sophomore English class, I came to it knowing very little about the story.

To put it bluntly, I fell in love. Aside from Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre was the first assigned book that I loved in high school. I loved the novel for so many reasons, and it was one of those reads that was just perfectly timed and pitched for where I was as a fifteen-year-old high school student. The thing that I loved most about the novel was that Jane was loved, truly loved, for WHO SHE WAS, not for WHAT SHE LOOKED LIKE. As a teenager who put herself firmly in the brains camp (not the beauty camp), I daydreamed about a boy falling deeply, madly in love with me once he got to know me(do you see why Jane Eyre resonated so strongly with me?). I loved that Rochester loved Jane and chose her for who she was. I also loved that Jane did the right thing (left Rochester after finding out about Bertha), even though it was hard, even though she didn't want to, but she still won in the end: she and Rochester ended up together in forever, eternal bliss. Again, there is an obvious connection to my life: I had (and still have) a strong sense of right and wrong, and I have always been a rule follower. High school, however, at least on the social front, is not always kind to the rule follower who stands up for what is right and isn't afraid to call out those whose wrongdoing is affecting others.

In a nutshell, Jane was my hero.

All that being said, I have high expectations when it comes to any sort of adaptation of Bronte's (like Simon, I have NO idea how to add the two little dot thingies, and I don't even know what the dot thingies are fail...) wonderful novel. The first film adaptation I saw, the one with William Hurt as Mr. Rochester, did NOT impress me because Jane was altogether too pretty. I liked the adaptation with Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds, and I found the version with Timothy Dalton as Mr. Rochester ridiculous (newsflash: Jane and Rochester were NOT fashion models, so why did this adaptation cast ridiculously attractive people in the roles?). Then I discovered the most recent adaptation by the BBC and Masterpiece Theater. It is brilliant and passionate and everything that the book was.

Again, I'm pretty harsh on adaptations of Jane Eyre, but when I found out about Jane, I was really excited. Jane is translated into a college freshman who, due to circumstances outside her control, must find immediate employment, and Mr. Rochester becomes Nico Rathburn, hot rock 'n roll star who is making a comeback after a meteoric (and not entirely innocent) rise to fame followed by a spectacular, drug-induced downfall. The premise is very believable, and there were moments that really pulled me in.

Overall, however, the book didn't really deliver for me. It wasn't Jane Eyre for me, and it left me wanting more. It definitely had its moments, and I think it would definitely point readers to the original (I know it made me want to read Jane Eyre again!), but it really paled in comparions to the original. While the novel was (for the most part) well written, I was disappointed that Lindner didn't create a successful voice and vocabulary for Nico when she had been so successful in creating such a vivid, engaging Jane. There were moments when I was reading Nico's dialogue that literally jolted me because it was so close to the original dialogue in Jane Eyre. I appreciated that Lindner turned to the novel when she needed inspiration, but there were several times when what Nico said just didn't fit into the context that she had given him.

I'm glad that I read this novel. It was fun to see a modern twist on one of my favorite stories, and I look forward to reading Jane Eyre again and pointing some of my students to Jane and (hopefully!) to Jane Eyre.

P.S. I sort of collect editions of Jane Eyre. This is the next one I hope to acquire:

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