Jane, Rochester, and an abundance of Edwards
Following on from Rivenheart’s review of Jane Eyre, I’ve been gathering a few JE-related thoughts. It’s been a long time since I read the book, but only about a fortnight ago, I watched the BBC 2006 adaptation of it. And, apart from the dodgy haram bits, I was blown away. It was quiet, understated, lovely and intense.
I know one of my fellow writers has her own thoughts and mentions to make, and I don’t want to be a stealer of thunder, so I’m plundering from my emails a few thoughts I had while watching.
‘Take care, Jane. Don’t look too closely inside of me. You might not find anything within at all beautiful.
…and then, where would we be?’
…he does the Edward Cullen thing of warning her away and drawing her closer. Or I suppose Edward Cullen does the Edward Rochester thing…? And then Edward Rochester does the Edward Ferrars thing…or perhaps Edward Ferrars did the Edward Rochester thing? In any case, Jane Eyre does the Elinor Dashwood thing to allow the Edwards to do their Edward thing. Although Bella most certainly did not do the Elinor Dashwood thing, because she did the Bella Swan thing (which was swan around falling apart and then rebounding on Jacob while still falling apart and hallucinating about Edward. Cullen.).
…you get the idea. Does anyone else notice the abundance of Edwards? Not to mention the Edwards that go by other names.
Mr Rochester is singular, self-centred, intent on his own entertainment…and what you notice is that in some weird way, all of that self-centredness inverts into his singular attentiveness to Jane, his being intrigued by and wrapped up in her. And of course it makes you like him. Arrogant cocksure blackguard.
There was an early scene with Jane and Rochester at the river. He speaks to her, tells her a story about himself, his past. She listens.
‘That look – no judgement, no pity. That look pries secrets from the blackest souls.’
And so much of the conversation is in pauses and silences and looks and mannerisms, and you can see Mr Rochester being created by her listening. It reminds me of that quote, from Karl Menninger: ‘When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand’.
And I wondered, is that all it took for him to be undone? To be listened to? But that is part of Jane’s extraordinariness – it is a simple thing to listen, but nobody does it. Jane is someone who had until then been at the fringes of other people’s lives, a listener by default and through lack of opportunity to be anything else, and so, Rochester creates her, too, by seeing her as she really was when no one else did, and talking to her as no one else did, and above all, treating her as his equal. The following is an exchange between Jane and St. John Rivers:
‘I owe a debt to my friends at Thornfield Hall – in many ways I started my life there. I…became Jane Eyre.’
‘God made you Jane Eyre! You surely do not give this man Rochester any credit for that?’
‘Of course not! I’ve always known myself. But he was the first to recognise me, and to love what he saw.’
And he certainly considered himself less than equal to her, morally:
‘When I was a young man, I was your equal. I had a clear conscience, unpolluted by sin.’
In a later scene, Jane is in Gateshead after leaving Rochester to visit with her dying aunt, where she is describing her friend:
‘When I talk to them, they understand everything I say…they’re so in tune with me; they know my thoughts even before I think them, certainly…before I put them into words.’
How carefully she does not use the pronoun and betray herself.
And look at the anguish here, on their faces:
‘We’ve been good friends, haven’t we Jane? It is difficult…to part from a friend and know you will never meet them again. And you know I…it’s like we’re a pair of Eshton’s twins – bound together in some unworldly way – sharing a spirit, we’re so alike. When we are parted – when you leave me – I believe that bond will snap. And I will bleed inwardly…you’ll forget me, after a while.’
And all the while, her face doesn’t change – until he says she would forget him. And then she rips into him gloriously and I can’t talk about this scene more because it is one of the thunder-stealing ones I must leave for my fellow writer.
And damn him, he hits all the right buttons:
‘I want you to live with me, to pass through life as my second self…my best earthly companion.’
It was ‘my second self’ that finished me. Because that is what it’s all about, isn’t it? That desire for accord, and the intuition about each other which you can’t explain, but exists without doubt.
There were so many points in the Jane-Rochester scenes where if I were a crying type (even if I did cry, I wouldn’t admit it. Because I’m macho like that XD), I surely would have cried and laughed – at the same time, because it was at once hilarious and endearing and heartbreaking. Rochester is funny – very funny – in that dry laconic way, and he’s quipping himself to hell while you curse him for being everything that he is, and then doing what he does – and not doing what he might have done.
And in the end, she was the saving of him. Although in contemporary translatable terms, I think it might be largely irrelevant, as most people are, for lack of a better word, more straightforward than that, and their needs less complex, their souls less harrowed.
Haram Advisory: Several pointless gratuitous bits that aren’t even ‘real’, so you have to do some artful skipping ahead. Don’t worry about missing bits, it isn’t worth the haramness. Just read the book.