Without a doubt, Jane Eyre is my favorite classic novel. It may even be one of my favorite novels period. I relate to Jane on many, many levels. Primarily, I always felt just like her: poor, obscure, plain and little. Beyond that, I respected her for not compromising herself to obtain something she desired. It was one of the first (adult) novels I fell in love with. As I’ve grown older, I’ve decided that, if you read the classics, you are either a Jane Eyre fan or a Wuthering Heights fan, I’ve met very few people who love both.
As an alternative for a review, synopsis, or anything of the like, I decided to create a soundtrack for the book. Please note that quite a bit of this is intended to be playful and irreverent. I’m rarely serious and this post is no exception. Because really, do I believe that Jane Eyre should lead off with Nirvana’s cover of a Meat Puppets song? No, but I like it all the same.
“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he began, “especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?”
“They go to hell,” was my ready and orthodox answer.
“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”
“A pit full of fire.” “And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?” “No, sir.” “What must you do to avoid it?” I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: “I must keep in good health and not die.”
Only one thing, I know: you said you were not as good as you should like to be, and that you regretted your own imperfection;–one thing I can comprehend: you intimated that to have a sullied memory was a perpetual bane. It seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve; and that if from this day you began with resolution to correct your thoughts and actions, you would in a few years have laid up a new and stainless store of recollections, to which you might revert with pleasure.”
“Justly thought; rightly said, Miss Eyre; and, at this moment, I am paving hell with energy.”
“I am laying down good intentions, which I believe durable as flint.
“I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me.”
Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.
It is one of my faults, that though my tongue is sometimes prompt enough at an answer, there are times when it sadly fails me in framing an excuse; and always the lapse occurs at some crisis, when a facile word or plausible pretext is specially wanted to get me out of painful embarrassment. I did not like to walk at this hour alone with Mr. Rochester in the shadowy orchard; but I could not find a reason to allege for leaving him. I followed with lagging step, and thoughts busily bent on discovering a means of extrication; but he himself looked so composed and so grave also, I became ashamed of feeling any confusion: the evil–if evil existent or prospective there was–seemed to lie with me only; his mind was unconscious and quiet.
“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!
“Yes, so, sir,” I rejoined: “and yet not so; for you are a married man–or as good as a married man, and wed to one inferior to you–to one with whom you have no sympathy–whom I do not believe you truly love; for I have seen and heard you sneer at her. I would scorn such a union: therefore I am better than you–let me go!”
“Oh, Jane, you torture me!” he exclaimed. “With that searching and yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!”
“How can I do that? If you are true, and your offer real, my only feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion–they cannot torture.”
“Gratitude!” he ejaculated; and added wildly–“Jane accept me quickly. Say, Edward–give me my name–Edward–I will marry you.”
“Are you in earnest? Do you truly love me? Do you sincerely wish me to be your wife?”
“I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it.”
As I rose and dressed, I thought over what had happened, and wondered if it were a dream. I could not be certain of the reality till I had seen Mr. Rochester again, and heard him renew his words of love and promise.
I rose up suddenly, terror-struck at the solitude which so ruthless a judge haunted,–at the silence which so awful a voice filled. My head swam as I stood erect. I perceived that I was sickening from excitement and inanition; neither meat nor drink had passed my lips that day, for I had taken no breakfast. And, with a strange pang, I now reflected that, long as I had been shut up here, no message had been sent to ask how I was, or to invite me to come down: not even little Adele had tapped at the door; not even Mrs. Fairfax had sought me.
“Not in your sense of the word, but in mine you are scheming to destroy me. You have as good as said that I am a married man–as a married man you will shun me, keep out of my way: just now you have refused to kiss me. You intend to make yourself a complete stranger to me: to live under this roof only as Adele’s governess; if ever I say a friendly word to you, if ever a friendly feeling inclines you again to me, you will say,–‘That man had nearly made me his mistress: I must be ice and rock to him;’ and ice and rock you will accordingly become.”
May you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonised as in that hour left my lips; for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.
Then he stretched his hand out to be led. I took that dear hand, held it a moment to my lips, then let it pass round my shoulder: being so much lower of stature than he, I served both for his prop and guide. We entered the wood, and wended homeward.
Sooooo. What do you think? Do you ever create a soundtrack (albeit a inappropriate one) for a novel? Is there any song that absolutely must go on a soundtrack for Jane Eyre (I’m not expecting much from this one, but I’m all ears)? And, finally, Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre? Which Brontë sister will it be? You can even nominate Anne if you’d like…