Jane Eyre/Wuthering Heights
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I was surprised to find the two books so different: after all both were written by insulated and isolated sisters inexperienced in the world who died young. But it is clear that cool Charlotte's temperament is quite different from Emily's.
WH was overblown, overwrought, and is Heathcliff seriously supposed to be a romantic hero? Ugh! Give me Mr. Rochester any day. And I'd ten times rather spend an afternoon in Jane's company than Catherine's.
To be fair, the WH characters do find themselves in unfavorable circumstances (who else is Catherine supposed to marry but Edgar and Heathcliff couldn't catch a break once his benefactor died), but still, couldn't Heathcliff have found a better outlet for his emotions than abusing anyone who dares wander near? Actually, I found the story more implausible than your average work of fiction. If Heathcliff truly loved Catherine, why would he be so evil to Catherine Jr? Who purposely deprives a child of education as revenge on his dead father? Why bring your unloved and extremely irritating weakling son to live under your roof if there are other relatives willing to take him? And does anyone else think that the only way Isabella would have conceived Linton is through rape?
I wonder what Charlotte thought of WH.
I'd be very interested to hear from someone who did enjoy Wuthering Heights. What are we missing that makes it special?
I wouldn't want to spend time with either of the main characters. I think Cathy needed someone to tell her snap out of it and grow up. I'd much rather spend the day with Jane. Mr. Rochester I can do without--I find that man somewhat slimy. If Jane got out more, I think she could have done better. (I realize when you spend all your time stuck in a mansion your choices are somewhat limited.)
So, yeah, I prefer WH on a strictly emotional level, because logically it is the weaker of the two novels.
Hope that helps!
Edited to correct horrendous grammatical error
Cathy fell in love with him because she was attracted to his darkness. Have you ever had a female friend who was attracted to bad boys? They know their danger, but they can't help themselves. Think of Heathcliff as the Jack Sparrow of the 19th century.
I agree that Rochester could be viewed as a bit slimy, but there was always an explanation for his actions, even if they were the product of faulty decision-making.
A more problematic difference between the two novels is that Rochester was Jane's social superior, while Heathcliff was Cathy's social inferior. This suggests a disturbing degree of class consciousness on my part, but I've always been a sucker for Cinderella stories. I wonder if I would think differently about Wuthering Heights if it were told from Heathcliff's point-of-view rather than Cathy's.
I've also heard some people read Heathcliff as being the illegitimate son of Cathy's father, which is why he is the favorite and why there is such conflict between Heathcliff and Hindley. It also adds a nice touch of incest to the whole love story. I haven't re-read the book since hearing that interpretation, but it doesn't seem implausible to me.
And, margad, you're right. One huge difference between the books is that JE's love affair is based on intellectual attraction and WH tells the story of an amour fou.
As for the incest angle (as if there wasn't enough of that for those poor inbreds), maybe so. After all, Rochester's ward was very possibly his own child, so Emily may have used the same device in WH.
BTW, has anyone read Heathcliff: The Return to Wuthering Heights? I don't want to steal the thread's thunder... but what do you think of modern authors writing "sequels" or "prequels" to 'classic' lit?
Sorry, Victoria, I've got Wide Sargasso Sea waiting TBR, but other than that, all I have to go on is the Eyre Affair, which isn't a sequel. The Eyre Affair was much fun, I really enjoyed the liberties Fforde took with Jane's story. I read Scarlett many years ago and was not impressed.
How's Heathcliff: The Return to Wuthering Heights? As awful as it sounds?
Actually I enjoyed it very much. It bridges WH and JE together... if you can imagine. It takes place during Heathcliff's 3 year absence in WH. I don't want to give away too much. But you should definitely borrow or Mooch a copy to read.
As for the works themselves, WH is delightful when you read it for its unreliable narrator and for Nelly rather than for the ridiculous dramatics of the Heathcliff/Cathy dynamic. The narrator hates people yet delights in gossip, and Nelly is pretty much smitten with Hindley, which of course messes with her telling of the family's tale. It's one of my favorite unreliable narrations in literature. JE is much more straightforward and so I read it more for plot and for the characters directly involved in the plot.
I kinda like the Wuthering Heights with Juliette Binoche as Cathy and Ralph Finnes as Heathcliff. At least I thought the casting was good. The problem with WH, book or movie, is that all the story happens in the first half of the book, and the second half is "just words" (as someone here at LT once said).
I didn't mind the version of Jane Eyre with Charlotte Gainsbourg, but I hated William Hurt as Rochester. There's something about American actors playing period European roles that irks me (unless the American actor is someone I don't know). Last winter I recorded a new version that played on TV, but I lost the tape before I watched it. Does anyone know if it was good?
I haven't seen the Juliette Binoche-Ralph Fiennes movie, but am intrigued. Both are among my favorite actors.
I do recommend the Masterpiece Theatre version of Jane Eyre. It was faithful to the novel and quite well acted.
** SPOILER ALERT ** When I first read Jane Eyre, I too felt her Christian morality was too conventional for my taste, although I appreciated that it reflected the period in which the novel was written. (Actually, the novel was criticized for being scandalous when it first came out.) I did want Jane to run off with Rochester. But now I think she made the right decision. Though it reflects well on Rochester that he did not consider Jane to be his inferior, either socially or intellectually, it was also quite disrespectful to Jane for him to ask her to marry him while keeping the truth about his situation a secret from her - perhaps an echo of the episode in which he disguises himself as a gypsy fortune-teller in order to trick Jane into revealing her feelings about him.
Haven't actually seen any film versions.
>15 margad:, Oh, I totally agree with you on the point about Rochester being an a** asking Jane to marry him when he was keeping things from her. I just think that he sort of always remained an a** and she would have done better to never be with him again. I'm vengeful like that. :)
Oh, I totally agree with you on the point about Rochester being an a** asking Jane to marry him when he was keeping things from her. I just think that he sort of always remained an a** and she would have done better to never be with him again. I'm vengeful like that. :)
And so am I. :)
I was beginning to think that I was only person that had that opinion.
Actually, the Masterpiece Theatre Jane Eyre was pretty faithful to the book. The main departure I noticed was that in the book, it's Rochester himself who dresses up and pretends to be the gypsy fortune teller, while in the movie they have him bring a woman in while he hides behind a screen.
Rochester was indeed sexist, viewed from the perspective of our own time. However, in the context of Brontë's time, he was extraordinarily broad-minded, not only to consider marriage with his governess, but simply to converse with a woman on intellectual topics. He is condescending indeed - a teacher rather than an equal intellectual partner, but in his time women were not considered capable of learning the kinds of subject matter he discusses with her. Jane Eyre is decidedly not a romance novel; Brontë depicted her characters, including Rochester, realistically, and his selfishness is integral to his character - he gets his just deserts at the end when his first wife finally succeeds in burning his house down; his blindness, which makes him dependent on Jane to a degree, balances the superior education he has had that their society would never allow Jane to have.
Charlotte Brontë, who worked as a governess herself and was miserably unhappy with the way the family she worked for treated her, resisted marrying for a long time, but finally married when she was around 30. She died of severe morning sickness after becoming pregnant. Rochester represented her dream of what a relationship with a man who respected her intellect and independence could be like.
It's interesting that Jane Austen never married. Perhaps she would have been as unhappy as Charlotte Brontë if she had. I wonder if Darcy is really less sexist than Rochester, or if Elizabeth was simply more accepting than Jane Eyre of the social structure of her society, so that the conflict does not loom as large in Pride and Prejudice as it does in Jane Eyre.
Thanks, Margad . . . that all makes so much sense. I *thought* that it was Rochester that dressed up as a gypsy, but I thought maybe I had misremembered. Actually, the way it was in the movie makes more sense. Would YOU fall for that trick? He interviewed all the guests too--someone would have recognized him.
Yes, everything you say is completely logical. However, I am thoroughly 21st century woman, and I still can't stand Rochester. In addition to all the logical comments you made, he also crossed class boundaries by falling in love with the hired help. So I give him a point for that too. But I still hate him.
Speaking of Jane Eyre, the 2006 Masterpiece Theater version was broadcast on PBS Sunday night (at least in the Carolinas). So I got to see it. I'm not familiar with the actor who was Rochester but I do prefer William Hurt's portrayal.
Maybe if I'd hated Rochester, I would have had more satisfactory relationships when I was younger. Times have certainly changed for the better in many ways.
My 10-year-old self definately went with JE - especially the first part, my cousins and I used to fantasise about being down-trodden orphans in a bleak, inhumane boarding school, which must have been so nice for our parents - but the 15-year-old me was 100% wild romantic Cathy (and I too blame the Heathcliff fixation for a lot of the dysfunctional relationships I later got into - Evil Bastard #1, Evil Bastard #2, Evil Bastard #3, etc).
Need to make a trip to the library - wonder what I will make of both books now at the giddy old age of 24 (currently "being" the narrator from Notes From Underground, btw).
However, after reading the group therapy scene in The Well of Lost Plots (I'm pretty sure it was in that Thursday Next novel), I figured out a way to appreciate WH: as Emily Bronte's way of making fun of her sister. She took the brooding hero, the passionate young woman ill-advised about the world, and the quasi incest and cranked them up to 11.
Are you in the mood to give us a quick comparison?
Anyway, I just wanted to say that now that I've had to do some research on Jane Eyre, I'm finding tons and tons of scholarly pieces that compare it with Wuthering Heights. In fact, critics and readers have been comparing them since the day they were published. From what I've come across so far, it appears that Jane Eyre was the bigger hit and better seller. However, critics over the years seem to come down in favour of Wuthering Heights--mostly, it seems, because it is more ambiguous. The critics seem to like the unconventionality of WH.
There is actually an article and a book that talk about that. The article is titled "Why Charlotte dissed Emily" or something like that, and the book is called The Bronte Myth. I can't remember what exactly the story was, but I'm sure I'll reread the article over the next few weeks, and I'll let you know.
But that is the heart of the story. They have feelings and desires that are "bigger than life", in the wrong environment, wrong circumstances and wrong time. Doomed lovers is what they are, and remind us that great love stories not always end happily, but in tragedy.On the other hand I think Emily Brontë maybe, in a timid way, was very attracted to the metaphysical and gothic literature. She might have read some gothic authors of her time, because Cathy becomes more than a ghost, a semi-vampiric creature, coming back to her beloved to ake him with her, in a sort of determined way, like the she-vampire coming to passionately kiss her lover to deah, and beyon. Jane Eyre, ends her story wih a husband, her nonour restored by the death of the "mad first wife of Mr. Rochester", the poor lady seems to me an echo of Catherine's wild moods and doom. While Heathcliff and Cathy need more than this life to release their love.
Anyway I love Jane too.
One of the posts talked about Mr Rochester being an *** for trying to marry Jane without telling her about his wife. That made me think that it's interesting that Jane is not angry about him keeping such an important secret, but that she runs away because she can't be his wife because he already has one. So then JE wouldn't really work in a contemporary situation, because he would be able to get a divorce and they could still get together. Then I think the lie would be more of a problem.
Or does she run away because she fears that she will end up as a 'mistress' if she stays and loose his respect, like Mrs Fairfax warned her? I'm still wondering about that move - this explanation would make more sense to me. I'd love to hear thoughts on that!
About the film versions: I really like the 2006 version of Jane Eyre with Toby Stephens, it renders the story very well. I recently saw the 2011 JE film and was pleasantly surprised by it - I feared it was too short, but I actually quite liked it. And in one instance even an improvement of the book, because in the film the family connection with Mr Rivers and his sisters is not there, which I find much more plausible than Jane wandering on the moors for days (or weeks) and happening to be found half dead on the doorstep of her cousins! Now she is found by a family, gets to know and like them, and then decides to share her wealth with them because she cares about having people around her - and so makes them family. I liked that!
(Sorry for the long post!)
I'm currently reading The Bronte Myth and the author notes how the popular romantic notions of Heathcliff and Cathy have mostly come after the Laurence Olivier film version of the book (which ends after Cathy's death and doesn't go into all that other messy stuff with Heathcliff's bad behaviour. Apparently, since I've never seen the film).
I've been following this thread since the beginning and I've just read it through. I'm surprised at some of my earlier thoughts, so it's good to see myself grow!