Book Vs. Film: Jane Eyre

I hate the term “classic.” It’s insane for one group of people to declare that certain films and novels will forever be masterpieces. Why shove clunky books down poor schoolchildren’s throats and proclaim certain films are “must-sees” to any film buff? If a piece of art is so special and great, shouldn’t it be able to stand and thrive on its own without people constantly shoving it forward? Though critics, professors, and misguided viewers and readers like to toss around the word “classic” too, why is one major entity – schools – stating what should be classic for the entire world? You HAD to read To Kill a Mockingbird in 9th grade; any serious movie buff HAS to see Psycho or Taxi Driver or Citizen Kane, etc. Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice,The Great Gatsby, even children’s books are stamped as classics. Where the Wild Things Are is probably one of the worst kid’s books I’ve read – but since a bunch of people said, “CLASSIC!”, people go out in droves and buy the book or film or any piece of art declared as a beloved classic.

Perhaps these novels and movies were magnificent for a different era – the current generation is to produce new “classics”, not artistry that has died (or should have died) a long time ago. Because someone does something first does not make it wonderful, especially if a host of other people did it entirely better.

So why in the world did I read Jane Eyre?

Other than it was free on my Nook and, (listen here) REQUIRED reading for school, I didn’t want to.

“But Alley, was it good, overrated, masterful? Does it deserve to be called a “classic”?”

In short: Yes. And no.

But let’s take it slow: what does Jane Eyre do right? For one, the strong willed heroine Charlotte Bronte presents is a breath of fresh air – even for the 21st century. Jane does not  take any stuff – blunt honesty and strong spirits is the name of her game. It might be more normal to see the ‘strong woman’ type in entertainment today, but this well-rounded female character is essential for women for any era. The writing is absolutely enthralling – Bronte chooses words that zooms the reader right into the scene. The characterization and diction is wonderful, a symphony of gorgeous words.

Wow, that was quick. Now for the bad…

Honest to God, though the writing is pretty, at least half of this novel could have been chopped off, two-hundred pages at minimum. SO MUCH of it is unnecessary purple prose – grandiose descriptions already detailed in the before paragraph. This is not setting up a scene – this is overindulgence to the max. Bronte also gives a typical, ‘happily-ever after’ story in Jane Eyre. It’s not deserving of a detailed synopsis, so here’s the rundown: poor girl an orphan in a rich family; poor girl a governess to a rich master; poor girl wife to rich master; poor girl just poor and homeless; poor girl suddenly made rich girl; rich girl marries rich master.

Isn’t it wonderful?!

The relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester is sweet, touching, then BAM!, almost verging on a saccharine mess. Throw in some contrived plot devices and you have a “classic.”

But perhaps we’ve learned a lesson here. What may be good for you, may be horrible for another. Only the person can decide what’s “classic” for themselves.


My, oh my. Does this movie have it all… Rushed pace, unneeded scenes, important scenes given the ax, and since we’re in England…Judi Dench!

Pretty cinematography cannot save this movie. Is it a dark thriller, a romance, a character study, etc.? Because this film doesn’t balance the three elements well like it’s source novel does.

Just, no.


19 thoughts on “Book Vs. Film: Jane Eyre

  1. I haven’t seen this recent adaptation of Jane Eyre, but there’s an excellent one by the BBC from 2006 starring Toby Stephens. I think it captures the characters better, and builds up to the twists quite well. Stephens makes a troubled Rochester, while also maintaining his charm.

  2. I don’t have a problem with the concept of classics, and I liked Jane Eyre and Where the Wild Things Are, but otherwise I completely agree with your post. Who gets to decide which books and movies are essential for *everybody?”*

    Furthermore I think many great books are ruined for people because teachers force them to read those books. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird (both the book and film) was spoiled for my daughter, largely because she was forced to read it in a class. It might not be the right book and movie *for her,* or it simply might not be the right time in her life to appreciate it.

    I didn’t enjoy most of those classics that high school and college English teachers swoon over until I was well into my 30s. Sorry, but the themes in Ethan Frome and The Scarlet Letter just didn’t resonate with me when I was 16. Twenty years later, it might’ve been a completely different experience.

    As a homeschooling mom, I try to encourage my teens to explore more challenging books and films, but I also trust them to choose things that are right for them. I don’t really care whether their choices are on somebody’s high school reading list or someone’s list of 100 Books to Read Before You Die. :-)

  3. Definitely agree with your sentiments in the opening about so-called classics. Since I didn’t study media criticism in school, I frequently run into prejudice for not having seen certain films deemed to be can be quite annoyingto have people insisting that you need to see or read specific works to have an appreciation for later ones or to claim later ones can’t be as good simply because they came after. That being said, I’ve never read Jane Eyre, so I can’t compare it to the recent film. I don’t recall loving the movie, but I don’t think I hated it either. I remember enjoying the acting from Mia Washikowska and Michael Fassbender quite a bit.

    • Regarding the book, I think I was too harsh. Jane Eyre is beautifully written and the relationship between Rochester and Eyre is charming. Then the cliches seeped in, and it began to bother me. If this book is so masterful, why does it contain all of the elements we know disown today? These feelings were transferred over to the rushed, thin movie adaptation.

  4. A bit late for me to join the party, but I thoroughly agree with you! Jane Eyre’s one of my favourite books actually, and yes maybe the some parts (where she’s in the boarding school, or with friggin St. John) can get a bit too much. But Rochester – swoon – is such a brilliant dark hero and the gothic elements in the book were pretty exciting as well.

    And yes, the movie was severely disappointing. I’m a fan of Fassbender, but his version of Rochester was rather…blah. One of the above comments mentions the BBC series, which I would definitely recommend too!

  5. I didn’t get to read To Kill a Mockingbird in my school, but since I was a bit of book lover back then and I love the classic movie, I think I would’ve enjoy it. But everything labeled as assignment can be a burden.
    Yeah, I agree with the term ‘classic’. I watched The Graduate and didn’t understand the love. But perhaps it was considered youth rebel movement back then.
    About Jane Eyre, I did read the short version of novel years ago. And I did feel it was a little bit too long and exhausting. But I did love the 2011 version of Jane Eyre, and loved Fassy ever since.
    Great topic, by the way

  6. I’m completely with you on so called “classics”. I was forced to read a number of Bronte, Dickens and Austins for school and university and I was never a fan of any of them. I understand how much they have contributed to the language and like you say, they’re all well written. I just find them incredibly dull!

  7. I love the book and think that the film was pretty good. It could have been a little bit darker but otherwise I think it was spot on. The casting in particular was excellent.

    • Actually, here’s a huge alert to every future commenter: I loved Jane Eyre. The writing is beautiful, the story chilling, and the characters are superb. So, please ignore this really mean review of the book review of Jane Eyre. I was probably a little moody that day. :)

  8. Pingback: Visited a Haunted House & Rock Star Mansion | Books in the Burbs

  9. I really feel they screwed up with the emotions that the story should provide. May be because Jane is a character who has much thoughts to keep and less to share. She is a character that has created the highest amount of empathy in me and of course I am talking about the book. Where the book makes you cry, the movie makes you do the same, for you feel it wasted your good imagery from the book. Cinematography is indeed brilliant, but I don’t know why, when Jane Eyre is considered as a portrayal of true love, in the new theories of realism, I just feel hollowness and lustful feelings from this movie.

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