YMMV / Jane Eyre

  • Accidental Innuendo: Some of the dated language can bring this effect on us modern readers. One part in particular:
    "The clock struck eight strokes. It aroused him; he uncrossed his legs, sat erect, turned to me."
    • Rochester at one point describes Blanche as an "extensive armful."
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Some have interpreted Bertha's "insanity" actually being social mores that contrasted with their current society. Her violent tendencies were actually caused by being locked up in relative isolation for several years.
  • Ambiguous Disorder Bertha. From what little we see of her (and from what Rochester tells us of her behavior), some symptoms suggest suggests hypermania, some severe dementia, and some is like very severe autism — though that was hardly going to have developed in adulthood. It doesn't help that her description sounds like she's badly neglected- however difficult she is, Grace could at least do something with her hair. Justified, as this was long before any modern language about mental illness was in use even by experts.
  • Designated Villain: Bertha. She's the main obstacle that stands in the way of Jane and Rochester's romance and she gets a Karmic Death at the end, complete with Rochester redeeming himself by trying to save her, yet her only "crime" is suffering from insanity.
  • Fair for Its Day: When taught as a proto-feminist work, some readers may find it disappointing, as the broad strokes of the story - ending in marriage - seem unsatisfying. But viewed in the historical context, Bronte's heroine ceaselessly fights for her agency and independence. As a small child she rebukes and corrects Mrs Reed, at a time when this simply did not happen. She runs an ad in the paper to get a job, and when her employer tries to make her his mistress she gets the hell out of Dodge and slogs through the wetlands, without recourse to known friends or places. When she gets settled she helps with a school for peasant boys and girls. She refuses to marry a man she's not in love with. And when she does settle down in marriage, it is a match of passion, and intellectual and fiscal equality. Everything Jane does, she does on her own terms, without compromise.
  • Fridge Horror: The realization that Jane was physically and emotionally abused through most of her childhood is a bit disheartening.
  • Hollywood Homely: Rochester and Jane are described as "unattractive" and "plain", respectively, but both pass up on more attractive potential mates to be with each other. Most adaptations cast attractive actors anyway, with Rochester played by dashing older gentlemen and Jane played by attractive women in somber attire.
  • Ron the Death Eater - Rochester, who is surly and somewhat morally ambiguous, is often lumped into the same category as Heathcliff. This completely ignores the fact that Rochester is a moral guy who has made some mistakes over the years, and only puts up a Jerkass Fašade as a defense.
  • Tear Jerker: Helen's death.
  • Uncanny Valley: Jane is the only person who recognizes that there is something wrong with Mr Mason.
  • Values Dissonance.
    • Possibly the most blindingly obvious instance in 19th century English literature. Bertha Mason is shown as being evil beyond redemption because she is insane. Worse, the very first really humane asylums for the mentally ill were being opened at the time and place the book is set (Yorkshire in the 1810-1820 period). Rochester could have afforded to send Bertha to one out of his pocket change with nobody knowing who she was. Yet he instead kept her hidden in his decrepit attic in rags with only a drunken slattern as company, quite possibly a fate worse than death. Jane's acceptance of this explanation shows that she (and her author) were out of touch with the times: during the Enlightenment people started to reject the idea that people who were insane were morally degenerate and evil and that it was an illness that should be treated, however bizarre the treatments occasionally became.
      • Rochester's attempt to be humane itself causing Values Dissonance. Rochester thinks the location of his forestland house, Ferndean Manor, where he'll eventually live blissfully with Jane anyway, could potentially be fatally unhealthy for Bertha, but locking her up in a sunless attic cell is perfectly fine. Nowadays, the roles of solitary confinement and wilderness therapy are reversed. Arguably a case of Science Marches On, but independent of scientific thought, it shows how we've changed our values to regard "being close to nature" as a glowingly wonderful catalyst of healing, instead of a terrifying, sickness-inducing hazard to women.
      • "Humane" may be a relative word here—a lot of nineteenth and even twentieth century institutions still turned out to be pretty grim places. Hence, even if better asylums were starting to open, it's not inconceivable that some people would still think it preferable to keep an insane relative at home. Even today the decision of whether or not to put a family member in an institution can be a very difficult one.
      • It's actually Moral Dissonance, internal to the novel, if you read some of the Brontë sisters' social essays. You have to keep in mind that Rochester is explicitly pretty much evil for most of the novel.
      • Actually, Jane does call Rochester out on his behavior:
    "Sir," I interrupted him, "you are inexorable for that unfortunate lady: you speak of her with hate — with vindictive antipathy. It is cruel — she cannot help being mad."
    • Rochester insists that he doesn't hate Bertha because she's mad, she was just (apparently, if you believe him) that wicked.
    • Some of that was Brontë trying to make it clear that Bertha wasn't to be reviled because she was crazy. In later years Brontë spoke in several letters about wanting readers to feel pity, not revulsion, but never quite being able to create that in the writing.
    • When Jane suggest to St. John Rivers that he need not be a missionary to the East: "Relinquish! What! ... [My hopes] of carrying knowledge into the realms of ignorance — of substituting peace for war — freedom for bondage — religion for superstition — the hope of heaven for the fear of hell?" St. John is a Holier Than Thou crusader, and definitely not a well-adjusted individual - but still, he gets the last word in the book.
      • St. John is perfectly aware he is not well adjusted to his proper place in early nineteenth century society. He describes himself as fiercely ambitious, aggressive and lacking in the milk of human kindness. He sees missionary work as quite literally his salvation allowing him to make constructive use of his bad qualities. He sees that Jane is also mal-adjusted to their society and makes the mistake of believing the solution that's worked for him will be good for her too. The fact that he resumes correspondence with her after her marriage is a tacit acknowledgement that he was wrong and Jane accepts it as such.
    • Rochester dressing up as a fortune teller involves him darkening his face with makeup. This detail is removed in most adaptations and is a likely reason why the scene is often removed entirely.
    • And then there's this casual anti-Semitic slur:
    Jane: What do I want with half your estate? Do you think I am a Jew-usurer, seeking good investment in land?
  • Mr. Brocklehurst, in his over-the-top way, illustrates a change in how we see child development. When he sees Jane at Lowood, he singles her out and gives an impassioned speech to the entire school about how Jane is a liar and must be shunned. To modern readers, mendacity in a child (while not good) is not generally counted worse than, say, regular violence or sadism (which John Reed shows). But to the Victorians, lying was the worst vice that you could find in a child, a marker of an inherently evil character. (Leaving aside, of course, that Jane isn't a liar to begin with, that Brocklehurst immediately took Mrs. Reed's word as the final word, and that even a liar has the right to a fresh start and a chance to start over at a new school).
  • The Woobie: Jane and Helen Burns.


Film adaptations:

In general:

  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Both the 2006 miniseries and the 2011 film seriously downplay the violence and savagery of Bertha Mason. In 2011 film she looks more like The Ophelia than an Ax-Crazy.
  • Hollywood Homely: Given that movie stars tend to be above average in the looks department, while Jane and Rochester are described as "plain" and "ugly," this is pretty much to be expected. Although it takes a particularly strong Suspension of Disbelief to see actors like Orson Welles or Timothy Dalton described as "hideous." Other examples below...
    • The classic film starring Joan Fontaine as Jane and Orson Welles as Rochester. Co-adapted by Aldous Huxley, after his work on Pride and Prejudice: It's a bit hilarious seeing Joan Fontaine, one of the most gorgeous actresses even to grace the screen, declaring herself "plain and little." To say nothing of a young Orson Welles calling himself "as ugly as sin".
    • ITV's telefilm starring Samantha Morton (the 1996 Emma) as Jane and Ciaran Hinds (the 1995 Persuasion) as Rochester. Perhaps inverted this with casting the rough looking Mr. Hinds. However, Samantha Morton plays "plain and little" Jane while being arguably a world-class hottie.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/JaneEyre