To preface my week of Jane Eyre, as I am now calling it, I will admit this: after the first few days of my newfound obsession, I realized that I usually only become this emotionally and/or creatively enthralled during certain “times” of the month. You know, if I’m going to be crazy about something, classic British literature is not at all a bad choice. I’m going to share my new obsession for posterity because this may be a moment I remember for a long time, not unlike the first time I watched Pride and Prejudice.
On New Year’s Eve of my junior year in high school, I watched the 2005 Pride and Prejudice and became a little obsessed. I read the book and watched the movie over and over again. I valued the love story, of course, but also the characters and their personalities. The dynamics of the Bennet family and those they encounter, and the comparisons that arise from those dynamics, are what make me love Austen’s stories. Pride and Prejudice has had the most lasting impact on my life, and I still regularly watch the movie.
The Wednesday before last, I was scrolling through a Jane Austen Instagram account when I saw faces that I didn’t recognize. I HAD TO KNOW WHO THOSE CHARACTERS WERE and, consequently, fell down a YouTube rabbit hole of clips of the 1983 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s, Jane Eyre. How I had never managed to read Jane Eyre, I have no idea. I loved Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. How had I missed out on her sister’s famous novel? How had I not seen the 2011 movie adaptation with Michael Fassbender?
The next day, I found the 1983 miniseries on Amazon Prime. I watched all of it. I realized there were a dozen film adaptations and decided to pick a few to binge. The 2006 BBC miniseries was also available on Prime. I started that on Saturday afternoon and finished it Sunday morning. I then purchased the 2011 movie and finished it before lunch. I spent the rest of that Sunday afternoon rewinding and finding my favorite scenes and quotes between the two latter versions. My week of Jane Eyre had only just begun.
Sunday night, I downloaded an Audible created in 2016 to commemorate Charlotte Bronte’s 200th birthday and started it on my Monday morning drive. I figured it would take me about 19 days. I was wrong. I finished it Friday evening on my drive home from work. I didn’t only listen when I was driving to work. I listened when I was making meals. I listened when I did laundry. I listened while walking my dog in the dark.
Imagine me walking around a park in the middle of the night listening to a random British woman – out loud (because I can’t find my earbuds) – laughing, smiling, and sometimes yelling, “Oh girl… I know how you feel,” or “He’s such a jerk.” Yep. That’s me. I’ve written about my love of audio-books before, and this Audible reading did not disappoint. Since this novel is written in the first-person, the reading made Jane feel like a close friend telling me her story. I loved hearing a British narrator read a British novel. It’s easier to understand some of the antiquated words and become immersed in the story when the accent is accurate.
Since I had watched not one but three film versions by the time I listened to the book, I was surprised to find that very little was new to me. All three versions together had covered most of the book. I found it interesting to discover which versions had included certain scenes and omitted others. The 2011 adaptation was an excellent 2 hour story, but movies are so short. We miss so many details. I can’t with Fassbender though, his voice, his eyes. He is too damn dreamy. The 1983 version was probably the most accurate, and I did love Timothy Dalton’s Mr. Rochester. I had a lot of words for his version since it was the first I watched. My sister and cousin got to see a lot those reactions via Snapchat. I was having a lot of fun with it at that point.
I liked the 2006 miniseries the best out of the three screen versions I watched. I think it was easiest to identify with as well as a more accurate adaptation. People who get so upset about directors adapting novels are much too sensitive. I don’t think an author would mind at all that an adaptation would differ slightly to appeal to a contemporary audience. I mean here I am 200 years after Bronte was born, discussing the very personal impact the story has had on me. That would be an incredible accomplishment as a writer. I am curious to know which would be Bronte’s favorite adaptation — which Rochester and Jane were the closest to her vision.
I’m upset I had to wait so long to know these characters. Mr. Rochester is dramatic, sensitive, harsh, and romantic. He asks questions of Jane as an equal and tries so hard to get her to say the things she wishes to keep in “that head that sits upon her shoulders.” To be honest, he’s 100% my type. Additionally, although Jane is only 19 in the novel, we are so similar. We share the same sentiments. I am single, living “independently,” and in the midst of a sudden job change. So often when I am upset or feeling down, I have to remind myself that I am my own person and that I can live on my own and have a great life. It can be difficult to be solo and be proud of the life you’ve built when there is no one with whom to share it. Jane reminded me to continue to be grateful for my life and hold out hope for “my equal and my likeness” but to never be afraid of living life the way I want to live it.