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YMMV / Jane Eyre

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  • 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."
    • Like in many books of the time, the word "ejaculate" (and derivatives) is used extensively as an alternative for "said".
    • 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. Some of her actions may be seen as hinting at a better nature than Rochester attributes to her: She admittedly does try to kill Rochester (who has kept her locked up in the attic for years) and her brother (who, to the best of her knowledge, sided with Rochester and abandoned her), but she doesn't actually hurt Jane even when she has every opportunity do so, and she only sets Jane's room on fire after Jane has already left.
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    • Is Helen an example of Incorruptible Pure Pureness, or is she an Extreme Doormat too concerned with the afterlife to bother trying to accomplish anything in life?
    • Is it right and admirable of Jane to leave Rochester rather than be his mistress while his wife is still alive? Or does she misguidedly throw away her happiness for the sake of oppressive conventional morality, and does the fact that she goes back in the end show positive growth?
    • What would Jane have done if, when she came back to Thornfield after hearing Rochester’s voice calling for her, she had found it intact and Bertha still alive? Would she have left again once she was assured that Rochester was well, or would she have become his mistress after all?
  • 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 and being understandably furious with Rochester for imprisoning her and her brother for failing to help her. That said, Bertha is portrayed with some sympathy and Jane even calls out Rochester for vilifying her so much, because her mental illness isn't her fault.
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  • 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 was not done. 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 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.
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  • Hilarious in Hindsight: St. John's first line in the book is "All men must die".
  • 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.
  • Iron Woobie: Jane. Her parents died when she was very young and she's initially raised by her horrible aunt, who excluded her from the family and let Jane's cousins (especially John) ruthlessly bully her. And when Jane tries to stand up for herself, she's punished in a highly traumatic way. She is sent away to a school for poor/orphaned girls where she is again bullied by the school's director, who humiliates her in her public and falsely declares her a liar. During an outbreak of typhus, her best friend dies in her arms. At nineteen, she gets a position as a governess and falls in love with her employer, but spends a great deal of time suffering as she believes he doesn't feel the same and he's openly courting another woman. Then she finds out he does love her and is all set to marry him...only to find out he's already married and nearly tricked her into committing bigamy. So she leaves, becomes extremely ill trying to hike across the countryside without adequate food and shelter, and would've died if the Rivers siblings hadn't taken her in. She generally takes all of this in stride and keeps her dignity and self-worth intact.
  • Precision F-Strike: For the era in which it was written, the use of the word "Damn" as an expletive was on par with a book today using the F-word. Doubles down by also having a woman be the author in an era when such language was never heard coming from females.
  • 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 acts aloof and like a jerk to people who more or less deserve it. To wit, he looks after a young girl despite doubting he's her biological father after her mother abandons her, is respected by his servants, keeps his violently insane wife in the attic, with a caregiver and basic amount of care, where she cannot hurt herself or anyone else, instead of sending her to an asylum, which were not nice places at the time and risks his life trying to save all the servants and the wife he can't stand in the fire. The worst thing he does is trying to dupe Jane into marrying him whilst he's still married to Bertha which he pays dearly for. Seeing as Heathcliff has committed kidnapping, forced marriage and extreme abuse, Rochester is practically saintlike in comparison. It's also easy to forget that the popular Fanon that Bertha wasn't really insane before Rochester locked her up, and that he only really did it to control her and lies to Jane about it, is pure Alternate Character Interpretation, not actually implied in the novel.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Possibly the most blindingly obvious instance in 19th century English literature is the case of Bertha Mason being locked up in the attic for being mentally ill. 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 pay for getting Bertha a place in one out of his pocket change with nobody knowing who she was. Granted, "humane" is 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, though Rochester clearly could have made some more effort into taking good care of her. And Jane calls him 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 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.
    • 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. He lectures all of Lowood about how Jane is a liar and must be shunned. To modern readers, mendacity in a child, while not good, is not as bad as 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: Helen Burns. She's a young orphan who is humble to the point of self-deprecation. She is verbally and physically abused by Miss Scatcherd, including whipping her for letting her mind wander during class. She never stands up for herself or protests, because she believes in Turn the Other Cheek. And then she gets sick and dies a painful death from consumption in the arms of Jane, her only friend. The main comfort she clung to in her short, miserable life was that things would be better in Heaven.

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 the 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.
    • The 2011 film basically puts Mia Wasikowska in plain clothing with very little obvious makeup. She still looks luminous. Rochester is played by Michael Fassbender.


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