Friday, January 20, 2012

“Jane Eyre—Rewrite?”

         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!


  1. Jane Eyre was one of the first really "grown up" books I read. I was in 6th grade, and had been fascinated by a simple biography about the Bronte family which I read in school. When I found a copy of Jane Eyre in my father's Heritage Book collection at home, I took it upstairs to my room and dove right in. Many absorbed hours and several bags of jelly beans later (it must have been right after Easter), I was hooked for life. That book propelled me from Walter Farley (The Black Stallion, etc.) to Dickens, Austen, Eliot, Thackeray, and beyond. I still love it, and re-read it every few years just for the heck of it. Maybe it is about time to do it again. I can still remember the opening lines: "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day..."

  2. I love how different novels nurture memories! Thanks for sharing, Miranda!