I fell in love with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre when Mrs. Smith, my sophomore English teacher, assigned the novel to the girls in our class (the boys read Shane). I soaked in every detail of Jane and Rochester’s romance. The twists of fate that landed Rochester in to a foolish and destructive marriage with a madwoman appealed to my teenaged heart. I identified with young Jane’s rebellious indignation. A part of me felt sorrow that discipline and firm instruction at Lowood School distilled the spunk out of youthful Jane and left her a primly proper governess who bordered on being boring. Although I understood the contrast between Jane’s purity and good heart to the madwoman in the attic, I pondered the depth of Rochester’s devotion to Jane.
I found myself mentally rewriting a few scenes in the book, even from the very first reading. I made Jane less subservient and less timid. By the time I started teaching the novel, I imagined wonderful scenes between Rochester and Jane that—ahem, fleshed out their relationship beyond Jane pining from the security of a curtained window seat.
In my revision, Jane doesn’t run away from Thornfield Hall at all. She never stumbles into the Rivers’ household to receive the coldly practical proposal from St. John. Instead, I visualized a wonderfully sensual scene where the prudishly proper Jane pulls Rochester into her bedroom after discovering the truth about the real Mrs. Rochester. In my version, she lives in sinful lust with the man she loves.
I know, of course, that Jean Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea delves into the passionate and youthful Rochester, but I’ve often wondered if other fans of Jane Eyre imagine different scenes and events, or if it’s just me.
I have not seen this version of Jane Eyre, but I loved this clip!