Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Has anyone missed me? I'd say I missed you too but it would be a big fat lie. I haven't even missed my children. I haven't missed cleaning, cooking, answering the phone, blogging, pretty much anything. Where have I been, you ask? On some fantastic Island cruise getaway? No, but I might as well have been for all the good I've been around here. I have been blissfully residing in the world of Jane Eyre. My sister called me several weeks ago and asked, "Have you ever read Jane Eyre? Not just watched the movie versions, but actually read the book?" Ha! How could I not have? It is a classic, and I am all over the classics, so surely I have read it... even though I don't actually remember reading it. So she starts telling me various things from the book and I realize to my shock that, though I own a copy, I have not actually read it. I had to wait to finish my other books but then promptly delved into Bronte.

Be still my beating heart. I love Austen and her subtle yet heartfelt romantic situations. I love Dickens and his tragic honest life situations. Now, combine the best of the two and add in some heart palpitating passion and you have Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre meets all my requirements for great literature and makes a great romance novel at the same time.

I also adore the moral truths given through the story. Here are some of my favorites:

For anyone who has been given a hard calling from God himself: "But, then a voice within me averred that I could do it; and foretold that I should do it. I wrestled with my own resolution: I wanted to be weak that I might avoid the awful passage of further suffering I saw laid out for me..." How often I've wanted to be too weak to do what I knew I had to do in life.

I've often noticed this difference: "Pity, Jane, from some people is a noxious and insulting sort of tribute, which one is justified in hurling back in the teeth of those who offer it; but that is a sort of pity native to callous, selfish hearts: it is a hybrid, egotistical pain at hearing of woes, crossed with ignorant contempt for those who have endured them. But that is not your pity, Jane... Your pity, my darling, is the suffering mother of love: its anguish is the very natal pang of the divine passion. I accept it, Jane..."

When deciding whether to hold on to her morals or accept the only possible way to be with the man she loves (as a mistress outside of marriage) and to save him from pain, Rochester asks her:

"Who in the world cares for you? Who will be injured by what you do?"

She responds in her heart, "I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad-as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth-so I have always believed;and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane-quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster that I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, forgone determination, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot."

Oh yeah, I'm going to make all my kids read that last one before every date they go on!

One of the greatest pleasures, though, in reading this story, was realising that I was reading an adult version of the well beloved story of Beauty and the Beast. I kid you not, this is a literal retelling of that classic fairy tale. Not in the sense of Disney's B&B, but in the old, classical tale. I would draw out all the particulars for you but I think it is more fun to find all the parallels on one's own. So, go find the most original version of Beauty and the Beast that you can. Read it and THEN read Jane Eyre. It is fantastic.

Just make sure that your family knows they won't be seeing you or hearing from you for a few days. Hire a maid. Stock the kitchen with ready made food. Kiss your children goodbye. Yeah, it's THAT good.
P.S. I haven't seen the new Masterpiece Theater version yet, but I have to say that my favorite film version (for being true to the book) is the 1996 William Hurt version. But I don't see anyone ever being able to truly capture this book on film because most of the story happens in Jane's mind as she shows a stoic face to the world.

21 comments:

Jeanette said...

Oh Jane, Jane, Jane. I just read this book for the second time a few weeks ago. I loved it the first time I read it. Loved it! Changed the way and what I read.
I Hated it the second time. I think it must have something to do with my frame of mind each time I read it. Or something...
Maybe in another 10 years I'll read it for the third time and see what happens.

Amy Y said...

I have never read any Austen! Not one single book! How pathetic is that?? I'm almost ashamed to admit it!

I'm glad you loved it and though it's on my "to read" list, I don't know how soon I'll get to it... but when I do, you'll be the first to know! :)

Michal said...

i discovered jane eyre last summer and, like you, couldn't believe that i had never read it. how did that happen? it is such a great book. i loved all of the quotes you included. and you are absolutely right about the beauty and the beast bit. seems so obvious, and yet it had never occurred to me.

Lynell said...

I was just looking for a good book to read. I think I will take your advice. I read Pride and Prejudice a few months ago and loved every minute of it. Thanks for the overview. I am excited to "escape" with a good read.

Jen said...

I love Jane Eyre. It was my favorite book when I was 11...it's been a few years since I reread it, I may just do that this week. Thanks!

Tirzah said...

Thanks for the suggestion, though a distraction of that magnitude is the LAST thing I need right now! I'll have to read it!

mom huebert said...

I loved Jane Eyre too when I read it, though it's been quite a long time since I did. Another great "get lost" read is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I read it as a young bride, and learned from it how painful marital unfaithfulness is, and resolved to never go that route.

Family Adventure said...

I missed you!!!!!

I've only ever seen the filmed versions, now I'm intrigued...maybe once we return to Canada :)

Heidi

Amber M. said...

LOVE Jane Eyre. Fabulous quotes...thanks for including them. Loved Anna Karenina, too. But it took me almost a whole summer to read it!:-)

Edi said...

I love the book "Jane Eyre"! I think I actually watched the movie first.

To me, the only Jane Eyre movie watching is the one with Orson Welles. I tried watching a recent version - and it had the little girl Jane is nanny-ing much too old and silly and they made the movie too creepy. I watched less than 15 min I'm sure.

Anywho I love the one w/Orson Welles - I remember first seeing it Christmas Day when I was about 18. I could watch it about 1x per yr.

Childlife said...

Ah, what a fabulous world to be lost in! I visit Jane once every two or three years and she never grows tedious :)

An Ordinary Mom said...

Should I be ashamed to admit I haven't read this book either? It sounds like a definite winner!

Mrs. Annie said...

I'm so glad you read it. It's lovely in a chilly sort of way. My favorite film adaption is the one with Toby Stephens and Francesca Annis...sigh...

Richelle said...

I think the only Jane Austin book I have read is Sense and Sensibility... and that was way back in high school. I think I liked it though. I think I'll have to read Beauty and the Beast and Jane Eyre.

Becks said...

Yes. Amen and amen.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Jane Eyre is up at the top of my list of all time favorites...only surpassed in my mind by Wuthering Heights. Such classics...

Amber said...

And that is exactly why I don't allow myself to read anymore. I get so obsessed and wrapped up with my books that I HAVE to finish them in as close to one sitting as possible.

I keep consoling myself I can start back up when all the kids are in school!

Sea Star said...

I finally read Jane Eyre about 2 years ago and was surprised at how good it was. I had to read Wuthering Heights a few times in college and it turned me off of Bronte but Jane Eyre is SOOOOO Good.

I love the comparison to Beauty and the Beast. It totally fits.

The new Masterpiece Theatre production is pretty good. It at least gave the St John story line a bit of air time which I appreciated. So many of the movies I have seen skim over that part of the story. But it was what made the whole story work for me so I was thrilled to see it.

Sea Star said...

I finally read Jane Eyre about 2 years ago and was surprised at how good it was. I had to read Wuthering Heights a few times in college and it turned me off of Bronte but Jane Eyre is SOOOOO Good.

I love the comparison to Beauty and the Beast. It totally fits.

The new Masterpiece Theatre production is pretty good. It at least gave the St John story line a bit of air time which I appreciated. So many of the movies I have seen skim over that part of the story. But it was what made the whole story work for me so I was thrilled to see it.

Sonja said...

"...it's anguish is the very natal pang of the divine passion."

Genius! I get so excited about brilliant writing like this. I love all the emotions it brings out in me. I love being part of the characters' lives and to feel natal pangs of passion.

Makes me feel like a big palooka when I try to write, but if anything I appreciate Charolette's gift all the more.

Welcome back! :)

Happy face said...

I had never thought of the parallel to Beauty and the Beast, but I love Jane Eyre. (I have never seen any of the movies, but I loved the book! Maybe I need to reread it!) Second thought, I can't disappear right now!