Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Jane Eyre Film Reaction

            I find myself at a conflicting crossroads. I have now read Jane Eyre, the novel, and seen its film counterpart. Both presented their own unique strengths and weaknesses in presentation of a particular story. Now I am torn as to whether I appreciated the novel or its film interpretation more. Certainly, I wholly recognize the hard work and craftsmanship which went into Bronte’s novel, as much as I recognize the time and effort which fueled the creation of the movie. However, I cannot determine which one I enjoyed more, whichever I found more pleasure in experiencing. The dilemma of novel or film is a timeless one, though I did not believe I would feel it for the literary work of Jane Eyre.
            As I stated in my prior reaction paper for Jane Eyre, I found the book to be incredibly lengthy and rather dry at parts. The superfluous thought and documenting of insignificant events taxed me heavily during nights of reading. Yet when I watched the movie, in which I was expecting to find a pleasant streamlining of much of the Jane Eyre plot, I felt rather odd. Suddenly, I began thinking that some scenes were executed too curtly: perhaps certain dialogue was left out, or an arc was not fully developed, or an emotional scene was cut out or altered drastically. “Preposterous!” I thought to myself. “You loathed the lengthy passages of the novel!” I sneered internally.
            A widely acknowledge truth is that film adaptations will never be wholly true to their literary counterparts. I did not expect this in the slightest with Jane Eyre, nor did I desire it. As stated, I looked forward to witnessing a more streamlined plot and development. I did not anticipate that I would find anything to be lacking in the film, and yet that is entirely how I felt. Of course, I will need to provide examples.
            One piece of plot which was partially overlooked was Rochester’s playing host for his friends at Thornfield. While I was mostly pleased with the portrayal of the upper class and their treatment of Jane, I felt as though the apparent relationship between Rochester and Miss Ingram could have been more sincere. In the book, several events virtually seal the marriage of the pair, and thus it is all the more shocking when Rochester proposed to Jane. Although, it is possible that as I knew the outcome of events nothing could have surprised me.
            The interactions between Jane and her discovered cousins at Moor House could have used a bit more development. Within the novel, a fairly strong sense of the relationship amidst the group as it develops is provided. With St. John, his piety and steadfast will are made quite evident and add much to the overall theme of Jane Eyre. Jane’s final real confrontation with St. John feels all the more heated and conflicting because of the dynamic which was created between the two in their studies, work, and living together. The film, due to its more concise nature, could show as much expansion or character interaction as was possible in the book.
            Really, the only true, notable grievance I have with the film is its portrayal of the final scene between Jane and Rochester. In the novel, their ending union is arguably the most romantic passage in the book, one filled with emotion. Their entire meeting within the movie seemed rushed and a bit clumsy. I still found it to be a fairly beautiful scene, but it did not meet the par which I had established mentally. If I had to place my finger on a single factor, that factor would be build-up. Jane’s sudden happening upon Rochester contrasted with the novel’s portrayal and was slightly jarring to my mental depiction.
            I quite enjoyed the film. The cinematography was well-done, and many of the shots and locations used brought a great moodiness to my heart. A wonderful aesthetic and atmosphere was captured through the adaptation, and it matched my perception through the novel rather well. Ultimately, I am unsure as to whether I enjoyed the novel or film more. Both have their own specific boons and drawback. Suffice it to say they are both reasonably well-made pieces of artistic expression. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Jane Eyre Reaction

            Jane Eyre is not a piece of literature I would read on my own. After pouring through its pages, digesting its material and contemplating its overall themes, I can say with certainty that I did not dislike the book. Yet Charlotte Bronte’s eminent work is certainly not a text I would have ever engaged in without prompting for class. The emotions I feel towards this book are difficult to coherently express. Essentially, Jane Eyre, like Wuthering Heights or any of Jane Austen’s works, are a stark departure from any writing which I happily consume. However, I do not regret the time I spent with the book, and I have left it with gripes as well as rewards.
            Bronte’s work is a long, continuing, seemingly infinite hunk of literature. There were many nights where I sat on my bed and attempted to speed-read (at which I struggled) in an attempt to meet the reading deadline. I narrowly finished the novel, but not before its walls upon walls of text effectively marred my attitude towards it. If I had to proclaim my one single issue with Jane Eyre, it is length, with numerous instances of a plodding pace and unnecessary passages. In many ways, Bronte establishes a fairly strong atmosphere and competent verisimilitude with the amount of description and accounts which she provides. At the end of the day, though, how much do I really care about Adele’s preparedness for a party or the current state of affairs in Whitown? The answer: very little. But that is, of course, my opinion.
            I suppose one of the main factors which draw the length of the novel to such an extent is Jane’s first-person perspective and her incessant interior monologues. Do not misunderstand me: I am fine with Jane reflecting and thinking about her experiences during the plot. However, Bronte writes Jane’s thoughts as in-depth inquiries into the most miniscule and unimportant of subjects. An example follows: “whereas, I distinctly behold his figure, and I inevitably recall the moment when I last saw it; just after I had rendered him, what he deemed, an essential service, and he, holding my hand, looking down on my face, surveyed me with eyes that revealed a heart full and eager to overflow; in whose emotions I had a part.” (Bronte 128) That is some quite lovely prose, sure. Yet I, as a teenage male who rarely entertains such thoughts or considerations as those expressed by Jane throughout the book, have quite a conflict with it. Certainly, I may be sexist or cynical or both in this opinion. But when asking myself why progression within Jane Eyre was so sluggish, I continually came back to a conclusion of intensely feminine monologues and subject matter.
            In some passages, Bronte writes a fair amount of inner thought before finishing with a mundane and commonplace action. Jane “lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house…” (Bronte 86). Such thought continues for a time. Finally, at the end of the dreary paragraph, Jane “opened a side-door, and went in.”
            I suppose I keep getting tripped up at how Bronte’s writing seems to compound its effects over time. Though I am having difficulty expressing just how unnecessary portions of Jane Eyre’s passages are, I affirm my statement with certainty. Bits and pieces of text over the prolonged course of Bronte’s work, occasional observations of Mr. Rochester’s “raven black” hair, and Jane’s espousing of personal philosophy and dogma all combine into an unwieldy reading experience.
            I was definitely engaged at times by the text. I came away from Jane Eyre pleased. I had received a hearty dosage of Bronte writing, with moody environments and emotional characters. I had experienced an interesting social circumstance, though one which I have difficulty relating to (the life of a nineteenth-century governess). The romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester, of all things within the text, kept me reading and mentally occupied. The dynamic of their relationship, their interactions and conversations, provided the greatest amount of enjoyment for me. With the ending pages of the book, I left Jane Eyre on a positive note, happy to have seen such an extensive, if not arduous, piece of literature to the end.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Paradise Lost Reaction

You are killing me with the 400 word count, Ms. Howard. I feel so clipped. I ended at 449 words. I hope this transgression may be forgiven.            

Years of repeated religious doctrine have forged a very strict image of Satan, one which is difficult to dislodge from the mind. Throughout my childhood, the fallen angel was labeled as a beast, the very guide by which not to act. Satan has been forever molded as the source of humanity’s downfall, the serpent that tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit. Wickedness and evil are his playthings. Yet Milton, according to modern literary circles, accidentally created Lucifer as a tragic and sympathetic character within Paradise Lost, a being whose values and personality are aligned to the societal standards of the twenty-first century.
            In many ways, Milton’s Satan may be interpreted as a modern-day anti-hero. His plight is one of individualism, free-will, and a desire to seize something greater than one’s self. Satan raises an army of loyal angels, who oppose the reign of God, in rebellion against the established Kingdom of Heaven. The very situation is one that sends off an alarm for individuals with Christian upbringings. To believe that Satan, of all beings, could garner any amount of sympathy or lamentation is ridiculous and sacrilegious. Within a moral society, God is good and Lucifer is bad. However, for true literary students and enthusiasts, suspending the rigid binary opposition of Heaven and Hell and Good and Evil presents a rather intriguing and challenging study of Milton and his Satan.
            Several of Satan’s speeches within Paradise Lost carry a hefty weight. Milton wrote him in such a way that his actions and their consequences ensnare and captivate the reader rather than immediately repulse. Satan laments his exile from Heaven’s “happy fields/Where joy forever dwells”, yet he does not surrender himself to his situation. Instead, the fallen angel proclaims aloud that “The mind is its own place, and in itself/Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Satan tries overthrowing a ruler who he truly believed to be falsely placed (and when have humans never strained under the yoke of an administrator, boss, or leader?), yet he himself is displaced and punished for his attempts. Downcast yet not downtrodden, Satan affirms his legions that in Hell “We shall be free”.
            Such a character as Milton’s Satan has become fairly familiar in modern literature. The anti-hero, or the tragic figure who is misunderstood for doing what he believes in, are regularly dealt with. In addition, Milton’s Satan coincides strongly with a modern emphasis on individuals, freedom, and defense of ideals. Certainly, at the end of the day Satan is still the Satan of evil acts and corruption. But in Milton’s writing one can find halting verses and haunting passages that question an individual’s sense of right, wrong, and just action.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Tempest: Caliban Intro

I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me. When thou camest
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me,
Wouldst give me
Water with berries in’t, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I loved
And show’d thee all the qualities o’ the isle,
The Fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king: and here you
sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o’ the island

Paraphrase: Let me eat. My mother Sycorax owned this island, and I thus inherited it. You have stolen it from me. When you arrived, you behaved like a friend, treated me well, and taught me to understand the sky. I loved you, and showed you every inch of this island, all its secrets. It was a mistake! I am your only servant now, you who was my first king. If only the spells of Sycorax, of toads, beetles, and bats could plague you! Now you keep me stored in confinement, and keep my rightful island from me.

Analysis: This passage gives an introduction to the character of Caliban within The Tempest. It is a first glance at Caliban’s history, personality, and motives. As is described within the passage, Prospero assumed control of the island when he landed upon it. However, Caliban had already been present on the island as an offspring of the witch Sycorax. Caliban, under his conditions, believed himself to be rightful heir and ruler of the land. Thus when Prospero began to exercise his own authority, Caliban grew enraged and offended at having lost his property and gained a sort of subjugation.
            Caliban believes that he was deceived by Prospero, who had lured Caliban into a false sense of security with kindness, friendship, and a fatherly education. When Prospero treated the island as his own, Caliban viewed all their previous interactions together as false and foolish, and became indignant to Prospero’s presence. At this point it can be inferred that Prospero had to treat Caliban more sternly, almost to a point of servitude, so as to maintain peace and stability and avoid violent conflict. Part of this may be derived from Prospero’s desire to protect his daughter, Miranda.
            The treatment as a servant is another blow to Caliban’s pride. Beyond being stolen from, he is now a subject. It is difficult to discern who is truly right and just in the matter. A sort of pity may be felt towards Caliban, whose plight of loss and subjugation is not without merit. Of course, the situation may be skewed in his eyes. Prospero might have treated the island as under no single rule, but with a shared inhabitance, until Caliban blew the situation into conflict that could have been avoided. The introduction definitely serves to display the strenuous relationship between the two characters, and could foreshadow future events or clashing between them.