Friday, April 22, 2011

Thinking About Jane Eyre on Good Friday

Yesterday, I planned to write about Jane Eyre, since it was Charlotte Bronte's birthday.  But the day ran out ahead of me, and kept running, and I never got to it.  Some of you might be saying, "Good.  You've written about Jane Eyre quite enough, thank you."  One of my favorite post titles, which I almost used again yesterday before I realized I had already used it, is "What Would Jane Eyre Do?".  I've written about both Charlotte and Emily Bronte here and I wrote a birthday tribute to Charlotte Bronte here.

Today is Good Friday, and I still have Jane Eyre on the brain.  I confess that I have seen the movie.  Why is this a confession?  My local friends will know that various groups of us have tried to find a good time to see this movie for weeks now.  One friend called me on Wednesday and said, "Let's go to tonight's 7:00 show."  In an act of impetuousness that I don't think of as like me at all, I said, sure, why not, my spouse will be at choir rehearsal."  I thought it was the best adaptation yet.  I did wonder if the movie would make as much sense to someone who hasn't read the book numerous times the way that I have.  Still, I loved that the movie stayed faithful to the book.

As I was watching, I thought that most modern audiences would not know how perilous Jane Eyre's life (and the lives of so many nineteenth century women) was.  Jane Eyre had so very few ways to make a living.  And as an impoverished woman, she had very little hope of marrying.  That Jane Eyre was able to hang on to her integrity and to live her life according to her core beliefs--how miraculous that was!

And this being Good Friday, I can't help but consider Jane Eyre as a Christ figure, although in my literary criticism, I haven't focused on this angle.  I think about her childhood beatings, both at the hands of her cousin and at the Lowood School.  I think about how she made her way in a hostile world, gathering small bands of compatriots around her, much like Christ did.  Like Christ, she had a different vision of how human life could be, a vision of people treated fairly and justly, even if they're poor and/or plain.

In the book, and less in the movie, Jane Eyre is also in touch with some higher power.  Literary critics have differed over whether or not the voice that she periodically hears is God or her dead parents or a guardian angel or her own inner wisdom.  But she moves through the world knowing that she must live differently than most people, like Christ did.

Like Christ, Jane Eyre must suffer.  She discovers Rochester's wife, and she tears herself away from him, a crucifixion of sorts.  She wanders across the wilderness, only to discover some family members that she didn't know she had.

In the end, Jane Eyre redeems all the people in her world.  Her cousins will have money, because she shares with them.  St. John will go off to save the savages in India.  She forgives her aunt (the mother of a different, abusive, set of cousins), who can die peacefully.  Most important, she returns to Rochester, who is a ruin of a man, and she brings him back from his living death.

So, on this Good Friday, I will be thinking about Jane Eyre and the crucifixion of Christ.  I will spend some time at the labyrinth, where some people will come to do a self-guided walk with the Stations of the Cross, if they desire.  I will be writing a book review of Ren Powell's Mercy Island, which I will post tomorrow.  I'll be reading Walter Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination and Mark Pierson's Curating Worship.  I'll be thinking about the questions I want to ask Justin Evans and hoping that you go here to read the reasons why you should buy his latest book.  I'll be hoping that you buy it--it's a gorgeous book, which I'll be reviewing in more detail in May.  I'll be getting ready for a creativity afternoon tomorrow, after a phone interview with Ren Powell and Dave Bonta.  I'll be plotting the bunny cake that I plan to make for Easter Sunday, since I'll be with a group of people which will include several children.

I hope you have a wonderful day planned.  Or a contemplative day.  Or a day that reminds you of the miracles of resurrection more so than a day that reminds you of what the powerful do to those that challenge the status quo.  Unless of course, that's what would please you most.

For those of you who would like a more theological meditation on Good Friday, I invite you to visit my theology blog here.


Kathleen said...

Great to know all these things you are doing, down to the bunny cake! I so want to see Jane Eyre! RE: what the powerful do to those who challenge the status quo: hubby just watched a documentary on auto engine design & fuel efficiency, etc. Answer: these innovative designers end up 1) bought out, their inventions lost forever or 2) dead, in an untimely way.

Wendy said...

Awesome. I think I'll link to Facebook for all my former students who had to sit through me explaining why Jane Eyre is just about the most complete novel I know.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

Thanks Kathleen and Wendy! A shame we can't all see the movie together and spend hours discussing it and the book. But thanks for responding and linking!

The Poet's Lizard said...

Just came back tonight from watching the Cary Fukunaga adaptation of Jane Eyre - was thoroughly pleased with everything! It's lovely that you have been able to weave Lenten reflections on your engagement with the movie. Thanks, Kristin.