So. Jane Eyre just happened to me. She’s blown me away and awoke feelings that’s laid dormant for a long time. I downloaded the Audible version brilliantly narrated by actor Thandie Newton because sadly, the book was collecting dust on my bookshelf. The endearing tale about a strong willed governess had me at : “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day….”
Generally, I am not a fan of romance novels, in fact, I find them silly and unrealistic, although once in a while something so enthralling comes along that it begs attention from even the most jaded of ladies. Does anyone recall the Twilight novels? How it infatuated women of all ages? Stephenie Meyer borrowed heavily from the classics to get her romantic narrative across and threw in some mystical creatures to enhance it and keep the attention of the YA genre. I mean, it worked, I was a fan, I’ll own it. Ugh, let’s just leave it at that.
The fact is, these classics penned by Austen and the Bronte’s have a universal appeal that stretch across centuries.
Why do we identify with it so heavily? Nothing in my life is relatable to that of Jane Eyers’? Yet, I fell for it; book, line and sinker, I swallowed the prose whole and subsequently chewed on it. Last Friday, about halfway through, unable to restrain myself any longer, I watched the 2011 film version starring Michael Fassbender as Mr Rochester. Side note: Leo was kicked to the curb a while ago by Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender as my new all time favourite actors. The fact that he portrayed the romantic lead on screen only heightened the palpitations of my heart. Early on Mr Rochester asks Jane if she finds him handsome and she swiftly replies no! I was like: “Damn woman! You blind?!” Which is ironic if you’re familiar with the plot.
The movie was not great, I think women watch them because they love the books. The best film adaptation ever done was the mini series of Pride and Prejudice in the 90s. Colin Firth, as Mr Darcy, who emerges soaking wet during the now iconic “lake scene” had millions of women swooning anew. These books are just too detailed, with an abundance of interesting characters, to bring a good abridged version to screen. So much was left out of the latest Jane Eyre adaptation if I hadn’t read the book, I would have struggled to follow the plot, even though Michael Fassbender held my full attention.
We cling to these stories because it usually depicts a woman, rather plain, with limited means, that manages, against all odds, to capture the heart of the broody and wealthy protagonist. Their love for each other is strong, intense and everlasting. I feel the bile rising in my throat just writing this.
Up until this week, Wuthering Heights was my absolute favourite Victorian era work of fiction. My dark side was always attracted to these toxic and entwined lovers who ultimately destroy then haunt each other. It was sad and tragic, nothing worthwhile aspiring to; one would think. But the way that Emily Bronte depicts them and the text that she assigns to them, makes this mere mortal yearn for a love like that.
I mean, it’s a tad dramatic and my self-perseverance would’ve surfaced and I’d have strangled Heathcliff about midway through for his asshole behaviour. Yet a love this consuming appeal to me, it’s fictional, unrealistic and not freaking sustainable at all, yet by and by, to have but a taste!! Haha!
In swooped Jane Eyre, and speedily dethroned Wuthering Heights. I suspect it has a lot to do with where I am in my life, and perhaps the novel was patiently waiting for me to get there. I am so done with the agonising, anxiety ridden tales of woe and love so eloquently depicted in WH. I tried to live that type of love story, and it ended up being unreciprocated and left me clinically depressed, with an alcohol problem and huge credit card debt. Suffering for love is not so glamorous in real life.
Our heroine, Jane, is a reserved character that displays maturity and has a good head on her shoulders. She is independent and makes extremely hard choices. Throughout, she conducted herself with dignity and refused to give in to the societal pressures of the time. Her integrity came to the forefront when faced with a substantial inheritance….. you should read the book… Of course, I am not as restrained as she, my heart resides on my sleeve after all and everything I feel eventually gets verbalised, and not always coherently. I also say fuck a lot.
I am definitely Team Bronte and a bucket list item that needs to be fulfilled is a visit to the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth. I imagine myself dressed in full Victorian garb clinging to my bonnet as howling winds sweep across the moors. If that happens I’ll be sure to post a pic and stick to my story that it was an enjoyable experience.
Now, to bring you back to romance circa 2018, where Tinder rules the dating scene and fuckboys are rife. You can’t swipe right without encountering some egotistical man that thinks he’s the first to propose the ingenious idea of a FWB “situationship” that will only benefit his sexual desires. That is, until he tires of you or once you’ve caught feelings and then he can casually state that you were NEVER IN A RELATIONSHIP. What in the actual fuck is that?
They want all the benefits of a girlfriend without calling you such. How is that okay?
I will not however, lay the blame squarely at the men’s door. We are living in the age of Sex and the City, where women can be promiscuous without judgement. Women can act as tough and careless as men. We fought for it, we’ve earned it, and so we will live it, the dream that is…..but most women are torn. What exactly is the dream? Because even in Sex and the City all the characters eventually end up with “the one”
Women are biologically designed different from men, we are not capable of doing what they do when it comes to the whole mating ritual, we are the nurturers and instinctively want to care for the object of our affection. We have a built in ‘giving’ reflex and will end up foregoing way more than what is expected or wanted from the wrong partner, make no mistake, they will still take it, benefit from it and leave you in ruins afterwards, as they move along to the next conquest.
I believe dating is a rite of passage and a way to sieve through character traits and behaviors of potential suitors to establish what you prefer and enjoy. It’s a way to discover where your boundaries lie and how to enforce them. That being said, you have to have hair on your teeth and a strong conviction because you will be tested, you will be coerced and manipulated, called a prude and mocked for your morals. In the words of Lauryn Hill: “Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem”
Men that are not concerned about your character and personality will lose interest quickly and move onto easier targets. You will be interested in men that are not interested in you, and vice versa. You will meet liars, cheaters and guys with baggage that they aren’t aware of. Some guys will be good on paper but you will feel no chemistry with them. You will become despondent and start to despair that cats and knitting will be your lifelong companions. It’s a dog show out there.
How much are you willing to sacrifice? How little are you willing to settle for? How long are you willing to live in a suffocating relationship? How scared are you of ending up alone? These are all questions that only the individual can answer.
My answer came in the beginning of the year when I deleted Tinder for the last time and I’ve made complete peace with the fact that I may end up alone. I was tired of the emotional roller coaster and the toll it was taking on my mental health. I was tired of having endless empty conversations. I was tired of waiting for the addictive chime that notified me of how much I was adored. I was tired of the inevitable disappointment when you actually meet and it becomes evident that a lot was omitted on purpose. It also started turning me into a bit of a man hater because of the repetitive actions by different men, and I like men, so that was me done with that shit. I’m all for meeting someone organically or not at all.
So you can understand why I was so taken with the story of Miss Jane Eyre. She was not willing to become Mr Rochester’s mistress or the wife of St John. She found her own path and vocation. She suffered of course, but on her terms.
This book (and Michael Fassbender) made my stomach flip, created butterflies and made me believe in good old romance again, for the first time in a while. It created hope and made me see the purity of love again. It made me realise that I can create my very own love story, one that I am comfortable, happy and satisfied with, and that the right guy will respect. Was there a happy ending? Definitely it’s a novel after all. Make sure you are the author of your own happy ending.
I leave you with a quote from the novel, I found it on Pinterest years ago, I actually printed it out, had it laminated and stuck it to my wall as a daily affirmation. I did this way before reading the book, the words resonated with me then, and even more so now. Little did I know that these words were spoken by Mr Rochester, not Jane. Him being disguised as a female Gypsy fortune teller…what???… Just read the book already!