Friday, August 12, 2011

The Search for Jane Eyre

I was sifting through some of my old posts and came upon my forgotten "Richard Armitage is my Rochester" post in which I shared my ideal cast of Jane Eyre. While Richard Armitage has always been (and always will be) without a doubt my exact image of Rochester, I remember running into particular troubles finding the woman--or perhaps I should say teenager--to play the beloved heroine.

Rachel Hurd-Wood: the actress whose come closest
to what I imagine as physical look of Jane. 
In actuality, I must say that I embarked on the "search for Jane Eyre" three years ago after I put down the book for the first time. Since then, my mental image of the character has taken a permanent residence in my head, always lurking in the corners of my mind. Whenever I watch a movie, I keep my eyes open for the girl that might prove worthy of playing my favorite literary heroine. When walking the streets, I'm always an apt observer of the people around me, and more than once I might find myself examining someone and thinking "she has the physical makings of a Jane." Yes, I understand that this can be found creepy on many levels, but I'd rather look at it as the exercising of an active imagination. 

Abigail Breslin: I think she'll make a
presentable Jane when she gets older. 
Every avid reader has (or should have) a mental image of the main character(s) of the novel that either springs instantly or seeps slowly into their head. More often than not, that image remains tucked cozily in the corners of a reader's mind. If the reader just so happens to revisit the book that image reemerges, most of the time unchanged. As lovely as this experience may be (yes, I do call the work of the imagination lovely), the unfortunate problem with these mental prototypes are that they are rarely fully embodied on screen or--for that matter--at all. 

My image of Jane Eyre is rather detailed, and this is the first time I've ever endeavored to type it out. As my fingers move across this keyboard, I can almost see her before me. I envision an eighteen-year-old girl; one who possesses a wiry and rather undeveloped physical build but whose countenance has an innate sense of maturity. She has the customary "Jane Eyre" box-brown hair, pulled into a neat and severe knot. Atop a circular and yet slightly angular face are large observant green eyes, naturally piercing and captivating. Their fixed gaze is both comforting and poignant in its intensity. Her face is pale, tiny freckles lightly and sporadically dotting her cheeks, though they may not be evident at first glance. Her lips, I imagine as thin with corners slightly upturned, painted with a perpetually forlorn smile. She is short, skinny, projecting a person that appears perhaps younger than her age because of her lack of curvature. The innocence and purity of her outward appearance is at direct variance with the knowing and jaded look in her eyes. From his place near the fire, Rochester observes her and notices the kinetic attraction of the opposition between the solemn calmness of her exterior and the sprightly vigor of her mind. Her words are sharp and at times incisive with their subtle sarcasm. Beneath the simplicity of her opinions lie a decidedly deeper cryptic message.

Richard Armitage (picture from Robin
Hood): my PERFECT image of Rochester.
Her Rochester counterpart is the opposite of her in almost every way. Where Jane's features are soft and rather inviting, his are masculinely angular and (yes) morose. He towers above her, probably just eclipsing six feet while her petite form dwells in the area of 5'5. He has (as described in the novel) an athletic figure; solid and naturally strong to the point of intimidating. His dusky dark curls are windswept from frequent travel by horse, shadowing an already tanned (perhaps approaching olive-hued) face. He has thick eyebrows, knit together in a menacing embrace atop which the glowering haze of his troubling memories sit. Underneath those are penetrating and sullen eyes, so dark that one can barely tell where the iris ends and the pupil begins until holding them under close inspection. His nose is straight and decidedly strong-featured. Beneath those are the "grim" thin lips, set in a brooding line to complete his foreboding exterior. He is decidedly ugly in the eyes of society in the mid-1800s, but to Jane there is some kind of strange appeal to him. His foreboding physical appearance and his sardonic nature make him a dangerous sort of enigma; something about him is ominously attractive. 

Now that I've imparted to you my image of the legendary Jane Eyre (and her leading man), I'm giving myself a challenge. Most of you fellow Lit Lovers are deeply acquainted with the novel, reading every piece of Jane Eyre-related material I've ever written. Instead of keeping this mental "search for Jane Eyre" concealed, why not make good use of my quest and share it with my fellow bloggers? And better yet, why not allow these bloggers to embark on this journey with me? I love the feeling of coming to my blog and seeing paragraphs of comments lined up on my posts. I read each and every one of them and make it a point to reply. By sharing my search with you, I am both providing myself with a sort of catharsis and receiving the joy of interacting with you guys. 

For the next few weeks, my "blogging doors" will be open to anyone who wishes to share their mental image of Jane Eyre (and/or Rochester). I urge all of you to write a description of your Jane whether it be as a comment to this post, or by submitting a guest post. My email address is available on my profile for those who wish to send me their description, whether it be only a sentence or paragraphs long. Along with that description, I would appreciate it if you also included your name and the name of your blog (if you have one). I guarantee that each submission will be posted.

So how about it, Jane Eyre diehards? Are you with me?


  1. Haha I love this. The actors you've picked are almost perfect! I know I'm not all into this book, but the way you've described your "creepy" way of looking for Jane Eyres reminded me of what i was doing a few months back sometime after FINALLY finishing the book. And yes, I still have it. And I am trying to get my mother to read it,,,it's not going so well.

  2. While I would love Richard as Rochester, he's too tall to fit my image of him. In my view he's no more than 5'9" with Jane being around 5'1". Remember she was small even in her time. I agree about her underdeveloped wiry frame. She only gained weight after being fed properly at Thornfield.

    I'll think about my fantasy cast and let you know!

  3. @Bubblesandsoda: Ha ha I was just thinking about that a few days ago. I told myself "she took my copy of the book to VA with her." And yeah, it's not just a matter of "Jane Eyre", I think everybody pretty much does this when they read and sometimes the actors who end up playing them are actually perfect. Like in "To Kill a Mockingbird", I couldn't imagine anyone else playing Atticus but Gregory Peck.

    @Robas: My mother read my description and said the same thing. She never imagined Rochester as tall either. The point you made about the weight gain is a good one. And please do! Thank you!

  4. Yay for mental castings of book characters. I do think that Richard Armitage is a bit too tall for Rochester (a pity, really, I live for tall men, haha). I remember that his shoulders are described as being too wide for his actual height, that his physique wasn't regularly proportioned or something like it. Armitage is quite yummy - forgive me, I'm not as die hard a fan, I first came across him in Robin Hood as Guy of Gisbourne and was happily resigned to hating his guts.

    Rachel Hurd Wood seems 'too pretty' for Jane, to me. I envisioned a face that is plain at first sight, but the more you speak/are in contact with her the more you become attuned to the subtle expressions revealed through her eyes (as Rochester does). For me, it's all about the eyes for Jane. I would love to do a guest post! And so honored to be mentioned here. I've never really done anything like it before so will e-mail you in order to deal with the necessary tweakings.

  5. Yay!! I'd absolutely LOVE to get a guest post from you. I guess I must admit that my mental image of Rochester is a bit "tweaked." I just reread Jane's first description of him and she does describe him as short. I just always imagined a man whose physical presence is dominating, and for me the idea of "dominating" always brings the image of "tall." Armitage IS handsome, which I know Rochester is not, but for some reason I feel like Armitage has the talent of being able to downplay his intense sexiness and has the perfect balance of broodiness and passion (as he so aptly showed in "North and South" and "Robin Hood"). He has a special knack for playing conflicted characters.

    Rachel Hurd-Wood is rather pretty. But at the same time, I always thought that Mia Wasikowska was pretty until she played Jane. I try not to focus so much on the "plain" aspect when looking at actresses that remind me of Jane because I know that when you strip the makeup off of a lot of stars that they could easily become plain. I tend to focus on the physical features such as the quality of her eyes or the shape of her face.

    Excited to see your guest post in my inbox!

  6. Haha, indeed, my mental image of Rochester is also frequently tweaked in accordance with my tastes. I fell in love with Dalton's portrayal (his eyes are so intense!), and his height. I know, I should be ashamed, superficial me. But in any case, Rochester's tall in relation to Jane.

    I agree, Armitage is very good at downplaying his hotness - as I said before, I was first introduced to him through Robin Hood and when I heard others going on about how attractive he was I was quite surprised because he's quite...I don't want to say repulsive (well, his character is)but off-putting, anyway.

    You're right about their looks being stripped away without the make-up, but I think Rachel Hurd-Wood is naturally pretty. She's got those gorgeous eyes, nice lips, plus her face overall is just pleasant to look at. One of the reasons I liked Ruth Wilson as Jane is because the viewer, while perhaps not being struck initially by her looks, warms up to her in time through her expressions etc.

    I'm excited too! The post is still taking shape in my head but I shall write it up and send it to you soon. Oh oh oh!! Jane Eyre's coming out in Septemberrr. The movie I mean. So excited. Must go get paper bag so I can hyperventilate into it.

  7. I completely agree with you! Something about Dalton's Rochester displayed Rochester's physical essence perfectly, though he was decidedly too handsome. I think he was really the first man that really defined the character for some reason.

    Your point about Rachel is certainly true. I actually haven't seen a lot of her material, so I only know by "Dorian Gray" and her pictures (and the Peter Pan movie, but she was young then). Ruth Wilson did have the exact facial features I imagined for Jane, even though hers were a little less round than I might have imagined. The one thing I couldn't stand was that she was very tall. During the proposal scene I wanted to scream because she's almost the same height as Toby Stephens and it just irked me. Little details like that get to me sometimes. When it comes to Jane Eyre, I'm a bit OCD.

    I'm excited for you! The DVD is in the top ten selling movie on itunes, so Americans are still eating it up. It makes me wonder why it didn't have a wider release here.

    Take your time on the post. I will be waiting! :)