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One of the adaptations of Jane Eyre is directed by Susanna White in 2006 for BBC as a TV series. There are some prominent differences from the previous adaptions we have studied in terms of character and scene interpretations, which affect the meaning of the story.
The first episode starts with a scene in a desert. Young Jane, dressed in red, walks through the desert. Then the scene changes and audiences understand that she is dreaming while looking at the exotic pictures of a book named Voyages and Travels – Illustrated. We get the impression that wherever she is, she is not happy to be there and she wants to escape. Just after this, her cousin, John Reed comes and attacks her with this very same book. That makes it obvious that even thinking of escape is a dangerous thing for Jane in this house.
With her attack to John, her aunt, Mrs. Reed wants her to be locked in The Red Room where Mr. Reed passed away. This Red Room scene is notably emphasised with the colour red and with a music making the audiences nervous. There, she openly sees the ghost of her late uncle, which is a difference from the other adaptations and it makes us understand her situation more easily.
After The Red Room scene, we see The Reeds having their portrait painted. The artist asks Jane to join the picture but The Reeds remark that, ‘‘She is not a part of the family.’’ Then, Mrs. Reeds talks to Mr. Brocklehurst and wants him to accept Jane to Lowood School. The interpretation of those scene has destroyed one the important messages of the novel. Like the directors of previous adaptations, Susanna White excluded the doctor and that gives the idea that Mrs. Reed just wants to get rid of Jane by sending her away. However, in the sense of novel, she achieves her freedom from Gateshead thanks to her disobedient, passionate and wild nature.
The interpretation of Mr. Brocklehurst also fails because of the actor. He has such a nice and kind face that he suprises the audiences when he mistreats Jane as well as the other students. The choices of Zeffirelli and Fukunaga are better if we compare all Mr. Brocklehurst figures.
There are so many deleted events and characters in Lowood section. For example, the double of good and bad teacher, Miss Temple and Miss Scatterd are missing. Miss Temple is one of the early role models of Jane, so this adaptation deletes a role model of the protagonist. There is still the idea of being a good or bad teacher but we cannot understand whether Jane finds a person whom she loves, respects and idolises. I believe, Zeffirelli’s adaption shows this important aspect of the novel the best.
Helen Burns is included in the adaptation but she is not as religious as she is supposed to be. She talks about education, being obedient, patience and hard-working but not very much about religion and accepting anything. That deletes one of the messages of the novel, as well. You cannot survive if you accept anything, as Helen does. You should be contencious like Jane if you want to survive in such a world.
The positive difference of the Lowood section is that we see many children die due to an epidemic, just like in the novel. Previous adaptions do not include this epidemic.
When Jane leaves Lowood, it is not very clear why she wants to do that. Apparently, she does not like the other teachers but we see her studying with her students happily. This gap is caused by the removal of Miss Temple.
Jane arrives in Thornfield at dawn, she knows the exterior of the building but when she comes in, it seems dark and dangerous. This is suitable for novel’s course. Also, there is a highlighted scene that camera shoots a specific part of Thornfield, the room Bertha is locked. Furthermore, throughout the film, we have important scenes that show Bertha’s window and a red scarf of hers which symbolises her West-Indian character.
Mrs. Fairfax of this adaptation is too young. I think, the actresses of the previous adaptations are far better choices than this one.
During the very first meeting of Jane and Mr. Rochester, the atmosphere is suitable for the novel. It is gloomy and misty. However, the adaptation of Fukunaga makes the audience feel more nervous. Mr. Rochester treats Jane neither kindly, nor rudely while he is supposed to be unpleasant and even severe. In that sense, Fukunaga’s interpretation of the first meeting is better again, however this one is better than Zeffirelli’s interpretation.
Moreover, Mr. Rochester of BBC adaptation is sometimes too kind if we think of the novel. For example, he compliments Jane’s drawings although he is supposed to scorn them. Rochester generally does not treat Jane very rudely, he is more likely to be flirting with her, which creates a symphaty in the audiences. However, this is not appropriate for the novel. Mr. Rochester should not be intended to be a romantic hero. What’s more, the dialogues between Jane and Rochester are not as harsh and clever as the previous ones because they both talk politely. Those all make a false idea of Mr. Rochester.
Another important difference is that BBC adaption has some additional scenes about the relationship between Bertha and Rochester as well as the relationship between Celine, who is Adele’s mother, and Rochester. These help us to understand the emotional situation of Mr. Rochester and his background. Nevertheless, I believe, this understanding is from the perspective of men. The adaption shows Mr. Rochester as the victim of his father and his early love relationships but it skips the point that Mr. Rochester is the one who victimise Bertha and all other women in Thornfield.
We are also shown the trickster aspect of Mr. Rochester. He deceives everyone, including Jane, with a gypsy and tries to learn Jane’s true feelings by doing this. This scene is not included in the previous adaptations but I personally believe that it is not a crucial removal.
Blanche Ingram is acted by a blonde actress, like in the Zeffirelli’s adaptation. This is not suitable for the novel because in the novel, we are told that she has dark hair and skin, like Bertha. Portrait of Miss Ingram is more successfully painted in Fukunaga’s adaptation.
In the beginning of the third episode, Jane visits Gateshead to see her aunt, Mrs. Reed who is about to die. It is a very nice and effective scene that she hears her own voice from her childhood screaming ‘‘Not the Reed Room!’’ We understand that her childhood trauma has affected her deeply.
The relationship of Jane and Mrs. Reed is more apparent in that adaptation. They have more scenes in which we are shown the details and motives of their relationships. Betsie is also included in this adaptation, which is a difference from the others.
After Jane’s turning back to Thornfield, Adele asks Mr. Rochester to tell about the Caribbean Islands. He says, in Caribbean Islands, ‘‘Women are very beautiful. They wear bright silks, sapphires, emeralds. They are very seductive and they are also mysterious, tempestous, and dangerous.’’ While he says about the Caribbean women, he directly looks at Bertha’s window and he suddenly gets angry with Adele for asking such questions. Then, he says ‘‘Caribbean is not as beautiful as it seems. I came back to escape.’’ Here, we have another window scene and we understand that Bertha watches all. This makes the careful audiences think Rochester imprisoned his wife for his own good and his own escape and this is one of the a few scenes that gives an unsympathetic aspect to Mr. Rochester.
In this adaption, we have more scenes of Jane, Mr. Rochester and Adele, which clear the dynamics of their relationships. For example, they all go town together. Jane and Rochester have lots of private scenes both before and after the marriage proposal. We clearly understand that there is love attachment between them, but more than this, there is a friendship. This is not that clear in the two previous adaptations.
Before the failed wedding of Rochester and Jane, Jane has a nightmare. She has a baby in her arms and she is not allowed to enter Thornfield. This is a good addition since we are able to see the subconscious of Jane. She is afraid of being left with a child, maybe that is because she does not accept Rochester’s offer of being his mistress. At this very night she has this nightmare, Bertha destroys her wedding veil.
Afterwards the failed wedding, we see the room of Bertha. It is not an empty and plain one, there are some flowers, candles and furniture. The colour red is especially emphasised in this room reminding the audience of the passionate and emotional character of Bertha. She shows her feelings, she does not love to hide them like the English people.
Bertha seems nice and quite, she smiles at Rochester until she realises Jane. She calls Jane a ‘‘puta’’ and tries to attack her. Rochester interferes and protects Jane. This is different not only from the other adaptations, but also from the novel. Bertha’s intention to attacking Jane unfortunately changes one of the major messages and parallel of the story. In the novel, Bertha only attacks Rochester and Richard Mason, who are responsible for her imprisonment. She never attacks innocent people like Jane.
After they leave Bertha’s room, Mr. Rochester tells about his relationship with Bertha. That is supported by some flashbacks to Caribbeans. He tells his past and blames his father and Bertha trying to justify himself. He even accuses Bertha of cheating on him, which is not mentioned in the early adaptations and in the novel. Although that makes us try to understand his reasons and psychology, it is not the true message of the story. Bertha and Jane must have been the ones that create symphaty in the auidences. This adaptation’s Rochester kills an important meaning.
After Jane’s leaving of Thornfield, we see her pray to God. There is a flashback to Helen’s death and camera shoots a big picture of Jesus Christ. At this moment, St. John finds and saves her. In a sense, Helen’s understanding of religion comes true. God saves Jane but Jane herself actually is a survivor thanks to her strong and passionate character.
During the section of Marsh End, there are many flashbacks that Jane remembers her happy days in Thornfield and her last night with Rochester. For example, she sees a dragonfly and remembers her chat with Rochester about the dragonflies. There is an emphasis on flying creature like dragonflies and birds which may be associated with Jane.
Rosamond Oliver, who is the love interest of St. John, is included in this adaptations unlike the other ones. She and her relationship with St. John help us to understand St. John’s character, so I appreciate this adaptation has not removed Rosamond. While St. John and Jane talk about Rosamond, St. John says that he loves Rosamond but his ambition to be a missionary is more important. Jane openly rejects that idea and tries to convince him and we openly understands what is more important to Jane in her life.
We see Jane, Diana and Mary study German language together. This is excluded in the other adaptations. Here, we have the intellectual side of the River cousins.
When St. John offers Jane to be a teacher at the school, she wants to teach whatever she wants. She wants children to be given enough food and she does not want them to be beaten. After St. John approval of those, she accepts the offer. This is different from the adaptations of Zeffirelli and Fukunaga. In their films, Jane immediately accepts the offer, but this adaption’s Jane shows her strong-willed side.
In one of the flashbacks to Thornfield, Jane recalls her very last night with Rochester. He says Jane that he cannot make her lead a sinful life, they could live together but they could have no sexual relationship. Actually, Jane is the one who does not accept a sinful life. This is her excuse to protect her respect. Again, this adaptation tries to justify Rochester by giving that line to him.
We are obviously said one year passes. In the previous adaptions, it is like a little time passes and she return to Thornfield. This one gives the right sense of the novel.
Thanks to the flashbacks and adaptation’s well-established relationship of Rochester and Jane, we clearly understand why Jane leaves Marsh End and goes back to Thornfield. This is not that clear in the adaptations of Zeffirelli and Fukunaga.
With Jane’s arrival in Thornfield, we have the fire scene. Bertha pulls a sheet which is on fire and this scene is supported with an impressive music. It is not very obvious if she is aware that she is about to start a fire but at least, it is not an accident like in the adaptation of Fukunaga.
There is a different interpretation of Bertha’s death. She sees a flying owl while she is at the top of the tower. She is astonished by it and jumps to follow. So, this suicide is not like an escape for her, it is more like a deed of a lunatic. In that sense, I think this affects the meaning of the novel very much. Bertha Mason is not very mad at all and Jane can easily become another Bertha because of her passionate and even wild characteristics.
In the final scene, Jane, Mr. Rochester, all their children, relatives and servants are together for a potrait. At the beginning of the film, Jane Eyre is not wanted in the picture of The Reeds but now, she has her own happy family potrait. This is a very nice interpretation of her journey and happy ending.
This adaptation of BBC has some aspects deserved to be praised, however, I think if we evaluate it deeply, it fails in many ways. The main idea of it is to justify Mr. Rochester and it kills the important message given by Jane and Bertha parallel. This also kills the protofeminist ascepts of the story.
This paper is based on the question if General Tilney accepts John Thorpe as his son-in-law aiming to analyse these characters of Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s first novel.
General Tilney is one of the most important characters of Northanger Abbey which was written by Jane Austen. With his strong reality, unfriendly nature, money-oriented and boasting character, he is the one who appears to be like an antagonist but this word goes a bit beyond of his role in the novel. Actually, he provides a perfect contrast with the novel’s protagonist, Catherine Morland, who is very innocent, naive and romantic. For example, out of those characteristics and the effect of gothic literature, Catherine begins to suspect General Tilney murdered his late wife, Mrs. Tilney and she tries to find evidences.
General Tilney is a controlling and even a domineering figure. He likes to give orders and does not do this in a polite way, he oppresses his servants. As the father of Frederick, Henry and Eleanor Tilney, he interferes in his children’s love relationships hoping to find them wealhty spouses. According to General Tilney, money is the most prominent issue in a marriage union. Marriage of Eleanor to ‘‘a man of fortune and consequence.’’ (Austen, p. 228) makes him so happy that he only allows Henry to marry Catherine whose family has a moderate finances. Still, he insists that Henry makes a ‘’fool’’ of himself.
Furthermore, General Tilney cares about money not only in matrimony, but also in every state of life. His main target of life is to earn and spend money, which makes him feel proud of himself. He happily hosts Catherine in Northanger Abbey believing she is coming from a very rich family. When he discovers that her family is not that rich, he rudely sends her away even without saying goodbye.
Also, he is very boastful and likes people to compliment her house, furniture, and all other property. After their arrival in Northanger Abbey, he shows Catherine round and says ‘‘she must have been used to much better sized apartments at Mr. Allen’s.’’ (p. 150) Catherine replies that his house is bigger, which makes ‘‘The General’s good-humour increased.’’ (p.150) Apart from that, whenever Catherine suggests The Allens’ house is not as big and beautiful as The Tilneys’ house, he has ‘‘a triumphant smile of self-satisfaction’’ (p. 161), which shows how much he loves to be flattered and complimented.
As it is stated above, The General really cares about money in matrimony and he thinks all his children must find rich spouses. This must be more crucial for Eleanor than Frederick and Henry. Frederick is to obtain his father’s inheritance as the eldest son and Henry gets money from his mother’s family. Moreover, they have jobs that bring them regular income. In the early 19th century, these are not possible for a woman who is in Eleanor’s position. Therefore, Eleanor needs to find a wealthy husband in order to have her life within the same standarts. Otherwise, either she will be cared by her brothers or she will suffer. Apart from his money-oriented character and his main aim in life, The General has to think her daughter’s future and he is not very unwarranted hoping to find her a rich suitor.
It is apparent that having a good amount of wealth is the most prominent criterion for a possible son-in-law for General Tilney. Additionally, he would certainly appreciate a son-in-law who has an aristoratic title. In the novel, Eleanor gets married to an aristoratic gentleman, which fulfils The General so much that he even permits of the marriage of Henry and Catherine. However, we should think whether he would accept a son-in-law that is not coming from aristocracy and does not have a huge wealth but has some shared qualities with him.
In Northanger Abbey, The General is not the only character who is given preoccupation with himself, obssesion with money and tendency to boasting. John Thorpe has those qualities, as well. Although Catherine is too naive to measure those characteristics of him at the beginning of the novel, the readers are able to get the true idea of John Thorpe thanks to Jane Austen’s wit, sense of homour, and use of irony.
Even in the very first meeting of them, John Thorpe tries to attract Catherine by showing off and talking non-stop. He is ready to accept any compliment from anybody, especially from Catherine. He boasts about his carriage, horse, and driving skills. While he and Catherine are being introduced, he does not greet her in a proper way, he asks if she knows the distance between Tetbury and Bath. Catherine says she does not know, so he starts his unceasing show-off. He tells that they have come ‘‘three-and-twenty miles’’ (p. 34) in a very short time as a result of his driving skill and his horse, ‘‘an animal so made for speed.’’ (p. 35) Also, in this meeting in Bath, he boasts about the money he has spent on his carriage: ‘‘He asked fifty guineas; I closed with him directly, threw down the money, and the carriage was mine.’’ (p. 35) Furhermore, he rarely lets Catherine speak and he endlessly talks, even though he tries to woo her. After his statements about horses and carriages, Catherine attempts to talk about novels but John Thorpe states that ‘‘they are the stupidest things in creation.’’ (p. 37) This stands for as a defence of novels by Jane Austen and makes John Thorpe unlovable both for Catherine, who likes reading gothic novels very much, and for the reader, who is actually and ironically reading a novel.
In the first introduction to John Thorpe, the reader of Northanger Abbey gets the idea that he is a man of conceit, boasting, and exaggeration. These all make him a superficial character.
Later in the novel, John Thorpe does not surprise the reader regarding his actions. He misleads The General telling him that the Morland family is very rich. He gets this impression just because Catherine stays with The Allens, whose financial situation is pretty good. After Catherine rejects him, John Thorpe again misleads The General saying the Morland family is actually very poor. Here, he reveals his manipulating and money-caring aspects. Money is a motive which shapes his attitude towards other people. Apparently, his mind is occupied with materialism. Those are his mutual characteristics of him with General Tilney. The General also changes his attitude towards Catherine when he learns the fact that Catherine is not coming from a very rich family and he impolitely sends her to her house.
Also, The General and John Thorpe are both very much preoccupied with the idea of themselves, they like being complimented. However, because of his superficiality and perhaps his younger age, John Thorpe’s attitude disturbs both the protagonist and the reader more.
When we evaluate the characters of The General and John Thorpe, we find mutual qualities such as wealth obsession, tendency to boast, and preoccupion with themselves. Those might be satisfactory elements for The General, nevertheless, I do not think he would happily accept John Thorpe as his son-in-law. John Thorpe has a big deficency, which deletes these satisfactory elements, he does not own a good amount of wealth. When we first meet John Thorpe’s mother, Mrs. Thorpe, we learn that she is ‘‘a widow, not a very rich one.’’ (p. 23) and not wearing as elegantly as Mrs. Allen does, ‘‘that the lace on Mrs. Thorpe’s pelisse was not half so handsome as that on her [Mrs. Allen’s] own.’’ (p. 21) Though John Thorpe is an Oxford student and he is most likely going to have a considerable income and position in society, his deficiency in money would make him a bad choice in the eyes of The General.
Additionally, the Thorpes hope Isabella, the most attractive daughter of the family, to marry a wealthy man. In that situation, The General might think that the Thorpe family is in pursuit of his wealth and John Thorpe will attempt to take it over somehow. I do not think The General would take such a risk.
After all, I believe General Tilney would not accept John Thorpe as his son-in-law. According to him, the best choice for her daugter would be a rich gentleman of aristocracy, which exactly happens in Northanger Abbey.
- Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2010.
- SparkNotes Editors. ‘‘SparkNote on Northanger Abbey.’’ SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. n.d.. Web. 18 May 2012.