Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Compare and Contrast on LOVE, English Lit style...

 As some of my facebook friends already know by my recent status update, I watched Jane Eyre today.  That would be the 2011 version, with Mia Waska-whatever-her-last-name-is, and Michael Fassbender.  I can remember his last name because I keep seeing trailers for all his upcoming independent films every time I visit a Denver Landmark theater.  One of the new movies is even rated NC-17...say it with me...ooh.  The movie is appropriately named, Shame.  Hmm.  Gonna be skipping that. 

Anyway, Jane Eyre...

I must say I really enjoyed the film.  I was never much of a Charlotte Bronte fan growing up.  Emily had all my morose attention steadfastly fixed on Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.  Looking back, I think it was just my crush on Lawrence Olivier which started it all.  I grew up watching black and white movies, first on AMC, back when the channel used to play classic movies all the time, and then on Turner Classic Movies.  Probably weird for a kid, but my dad loved classic movies and introduced me to some amazing films.  I saw the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights before I read it, and grumpy, dramatic and dark Heathcliff won my 12 year old heart completely.  By the time I went off to college, I had practically memorized the entire dreary, written masterpiece.  I found it completely fitting that Stephanie Myers had Bella read and discuss Wuthering Heights in her vampire SAGA...only Cathy and Heathcliff's melodrama could match those vampire/werewolf/human teenagers.  More on that in a minute.

I was required to read Jane Eyre in college and vaguely remember writing a paper on the material.  My most vivid memory is reading my paper to the class and mispronouncing St John's name, which led my professor to conclude I hadn't thoroughly read the book.  Hmm, I did skim some...I had a full classload and found my sociology classes to be much more time consuming. If you are unsure how I could mispronounce that name, then you clearly skimmed the book in English Lit too.  (Hint- "Sin-Jun".  Okay, I feel I am completely offending all my British friends right now, so no more talk about his name.)   I did end up with a B on the paper and put the book back on my bookshelf where it stayed, for sixteen years, until my mom decided to bring it to me this past August.  I have not re-read it yet.  But I am intrigued now.  Where I found Rochester to be mean and strange when I was twenty, I now see him in a different light.  Great character study there.

Heathcliff's jealous rant at the end of the story has stayed with me all these years, since I first heard the words out of Lawrence Olivier's mouth:

  "'And I pray one prayer--I repeat it till my tongue stiffens--Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you--haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!'"
- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Ch. 16

I think Bella should have screamed those last lines as she ran across the square in Italy attempting to save Edward's life.  But the words are very dark, echoing of a selfish love, a love that only looks at what SELF is losing, not what the loved one is losing in death.  Very true of Cathy and Heathcliff's love.  I must give Bella credit here though, she was willing to die to SAVE Edward's life.  She put his well-being above her own.

I will not give away the story, but in Jane Eyre, Rochester sacrifices himself bravely on more than one occasion. Where Heathcliff's words above froze me in melodramatic angst, Rochester's words to Jane won my heart with their simplicity and respect for her:

" Sometimes I have the strangest feeling about you. Especially when you are near me as you are now. It feels as though I had a string tied here under my left rib where my heart is, tightly knotted to you in a similar fashion. And when you go to Ireland, with all that distance between us, I am afraid that this cord will be snapped, and I shall bleed inwardly. "

Yes, I like Rochester very much.  Some will say his love was selfish also at points, but we are all selfish at times in love, aren't we?  I am no longer a Wuthering Heights fan.  As Edward points out in Eclipse, Cathy and Heathcliff are mean, selfish and small...their love for one another seems to be their only redeeming quality.  But I feel their love does not redeem them at all, for it is pure selfishness, wanting only to own the other.  No giving, only taking.  That is not an admirable love. 

This is true and lasting love:
" 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  I Cor 13:4-7.

I see that in Jane Eyre, whatever version you choose to watch or read.  Good stuff.  

My brain is tired now.  Off to watch my second Netflix DVD, The Adjustment Bureau.  Heard great things about this one.  Peace dear readers.  :)


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