Jane Eyre: the enduring nature of the classics

July 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

WHETHER IT’S A MOVIE OR A TELEVISION SERIES based on the classics of Austen, Dickens, Wilde or any of the Bronte sisters, that fact that these stories are still being adapted for the current consumer is testament to the enduring nature of these classic stories. Or is it simply a testament to the lack of imagination of the film and television industry? It’s possibly both, but either way they continue to appeal to the public, with stories filled with themes of love, loss, etiquette, societal constraints and intriguing secrets. The latest in the remakes comes in the form of Charlotte Bronte’s gothic novel Jane Eyre, which opens nationally on the 11th of August, with Palace Cinemas hosting an advance preview screening on the 7th of August at Barracks and Centro.

Jane Eyre, published in 1847 under the pen name of  ‘Currer Bell’, is the story of Jane Eyre, who is orphaned and left to live under the charity of her Aunt Reed. After living ten years of mistreatment and segregation in her Aunt’s home, she is then sent to Lowood, a boarding school for young girls. Jane grows up both physically and mentally at Lowood and becomes a teacher at age eighteen. She then advertises for the position of a governess and is called upon by Mrs. Fairfax at Thornfield. At Thornfield, Jane falls in love with the master, Mr. Rochester, and he with her. However, he yields a terrible and dark secret that threatens to tear them apart for good. The novel had already been made into six films prior to the new adaptation, between 1915 and 1996, as well as six television series’, the last one in 2006.  Her sister Emily’s famous gothic novel Wuthering Heights, published in 1947, has also been made into several films and a mini series.

So why do these stories written in the centuries past still interest us? Perhaps it is because they are not your run-of-the-mill boy meets girl ‘rom-coms’ that are so lacking in an interesting storyline they could be produced out of the car bonnet of a Morris minor. The classics usually incorporate some kind of love interest, but this is not the only thing that is going on in the storyline. Usually the love interest is interwoven into a plot that incorporates other themes that hold our attention, such as secrecy and betrayal. Think of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, published in 1913, along with the underlying romantic relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, the story includes issues of morality, upbringing and manners in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th century England.

Also if you consider Oscar Wilde’s brilliant novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, first published in 1890, the plot is intriguing and full of secrets, debauchery and even murder. The story has been made into several adaptations, the last one being in 2009, which somewhat lacked the thrilling quality of the original novel. This raises another point of interest; are these adaptations doing justice to the original novels? In some instances they might to some degree, but certain aspects are surely missed when you are trying to fit a 400 word novel into a 2 hour movie so that the audience won’t get bored and label it ‘a bit long’. Understandably, most movies are marketed to the general public and commercial interest has to be taken into account. Therefore for a more in-depth account of the stories it is always better to read the novel, and a lot of the time, more enjoyable. For people who are time scarce though, the movies are always a good way to get the basic idea.

Novel Lines stocks a copy of Jane Eyre, which includes colour illustrations, as well as a biography on Charlotte Bronte. We also stock a range of the classic novels, and biographies on literature which you can check out on our website.





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