Friday, September 7, 2012

Best Damn Book I've Ever Seen: Jane Eyre!

by Sofie Couch

Back-to-School? I didn't know we ever left.

School – It Ain’t What it Used to Be. I’ve been doing the college search thing with my oldest child, driving insane distances to have a gander at schools that I know won’t be a good fit for my bohemian girl. I already know they’re too lock-step for her, but we make the trek, groan over the costs, dream about the ones we/she can’t afford… dream about a college that we design...

But there’s an alternative on the horizon. I won’t go into great detail, because I believe one of my fellow-W3ers is going to tell you all about the phenom, but let me just insert here, college classes, free, through ‘Nough said. Go check it out. (I’m currently taking the SF/Fantasy class with the aforementioned W3er and it is a hoot!)

Here on the chicken ranch,
 we lead a pretty fringe existence. Our kids, 16 and 13 yrs. old, don’t go to school. What? Nope. We homeschool. Rather, we don’t even homeschool. We do something even more fringe in that we “un-school”. There is no curriculum. The kids follow their own interests and I just sort of seed their environment with the resources they may need to help them along their way. What does a typical day look like here? Typical? What’s that?

Some days we stay in our jammies and read. Some days we all go swimming. Most days, my son plays with other unschooling gamers on-line, sharing game cheats and things called mods, and skins, and something called “easter eggs”, while my daughter pursues her dream of becoming an architect. (We just got back from Biltmore Estate where we took the “architects’ tour”. Fabulous!)

Or we watch movies. It’s election season, so we’re currently watching re-runs (for me they’re re-runs,) of West Wing and we just scored tickets to hear President Obama speak in our hometown.

But just a short while ago, we, (the kids and I,) did a Jane Eyre marathon and this brings me back on point:

“Best Damn Book I’ve Ever Seen”
This month, I take a poke at Jane Eyre, the book and all of the many permutations of the moviessssss!

There is little left to the imagination in this book, although you might want to take a bite out of the sequel, WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys. Told in the voice of the first Mrs. Rochester as well as Edward Rochester, it is a fabulous take on Mr. Rochester’s dark side.

However, for the sake of this month’s topic, I refrain and stick to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It is written in third person, and told through narration by the main character. The reader has little need to doubt the veracity of the narrator. In other words, what she says is taken at face value. And thus, have all of the movie renditions portrayed the same story. There are wonderful movie adaptations, each one choosing some minor scenes to include or delete, (although personally, I feel the version starring Zelah Clark and Timothy Dalton, directed by Julian Amyes, is the most complete version. Despite the poor video quality and a poorly concealed migrating zit that becomes mesmerizingly distracting, it is still my favorite version.)

In essence, all of the movie versions recount the same story. However, the version, by director, Cary Fukunaga,  shakes things up a bit in that it alters the order of events, beginning at a point near the end, and ending at the, er, end.

Why? Well, one possible reason is because the book, as it was written, would fail to make it past the editor’s slush pile if written today. There’re the 50 pages of backstory – Jane’s childhood of oppression – for starters, which is no way to start a mainstream movie. There’s the irredeemably damaged hero for seconds, and finally, there’s the ending of convenience, (worthy of an entire paragraph all to itself.)

In particular, the last quarter of the book, (SPOILER, SPOILER, SPOILER,)  after Jane has left the home of Mr. Rochester, a series of convenient events occur. 1) Jane, upon fleeing Mr. Rochester, happens upon a rescuer 2) her rescuer(s are saddened to learn that their uncle has died and left them only enough money to purchase mourning rings, 3) Jane learns that she inherits a fortune from an uncle who has just died, and 4) by the transitive property of equality, Jane finds out she is first cousin to her rescuer, (who, by the way, wants to marry her. Ewww.) Oh yeah, and 5) when she returns to the home of Mr. Rochester an “independent woman of means”, his crazy wife has conveniently cacked herself, leaving them free to live happily-ever-after.

But you know what? I don’t care. This book was the book that made the difference between my being a non-reader vs. a reader, a writer rather than an illiterate. It is a romance that endures, a classic that set a tone, pushing the envelope, creating a hero who was more than moderately flawed. Mr. Darcy might have had pride, but Mr. Rochester, he’s got balls.

That’s me hushing up about Jane Eyre, the BEST DAMN BOOK I’ve ever seen… or read… or inhaled. I’ll be taking a hiatus from WEST WING for a while to get caught up on some assignments for my coursera class. And along those lines, next month’s blog contribution will discuss one of the books I just read for the class, and a brief discussion of the movie version: Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN. And might I just make a suggestion? If you decide to read the book or re-read the book, will you consider this what-if? WHAT IF Victor Frankenstein suffers from split personality disorder as a result of his inability to accept his own homosexuality? See if that puts a different spin on your reading! Until next month… Sit back and crack open a good movie/book/book/movie.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, you're bringing back such memories of college-search jaunts. And of Jane Eyre! (Wow, I'd forgotten an awful lot of that story!) You've inspired me, though, to rent a few old movies!