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"Jane Eyre" is about independence, not romance

From Iris Spoor:


I enjoyed your review of Fukunaga's "Jane Eyre" and am awaiting an opportunity to see it (the limited release has klimited my opportunities!). Anyway, I do think you are a little too doctrinaire when it comes to your interpretation of Bronte's classic. First, it is certainly not any standard gothic novel (see "The Mysteries of Udolpho" for that). Bronte weaves in many gothic elements, but I think it would be better to regard it as a work of high Romanticism with its free expression of emotion and penchant for descriptions of the natural landscape.

I also wanted to comment on the following quote:

The novel is actually about forbidden sexual attraction on both sides, and its interest is in the tension of Jane and Rochester as they desire sex but deny themselves. Much of the power comes from repressed emotions, and perhaps Charlotte Bronte was writing in code about the feelings nice women of her time were not supposed to feel.

While I agree the sexual tension and repressed emotion is a large part of the story, I think it would be an error to consider it the fundamental power of the novel. It is, at heart, a novel about independence, personal autonomy and self respect. Jane did not reject Rochester's proposal because of social morays, she rejcted him because to deny her prsonal principles and deeply held religious views in such a way would have made it impossible to respect herself. I think this quote nicely reveals this complexity:

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“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation. "

Indeed, the romance between the two characters is, at heart, far more than a mere sexual attraction as evidenced in this quote:

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!--I have as much soul as you,--and full as much heart! . . . I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, or even of mortal flesh:--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! (p. 257).

Anyway, I enjoyed the review and hope to see the film. I understand that you cannot go into all these details in your blog, but I think it would be nice for first time viewers to see that "Jane Eyre" is about a lot more than a forbidden love or lust between two very compelling characters. It is a very philosophical and a very rewarding read.

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