Friday, September 2, 2011

Lady Disdain's Search for Jane Eyre

I can't tell you how excited I was when I opened my inbox and found Lady Disdain's guest post waiting there quietly. She is probably weary of me after I nagged her so much, but I knew that she would have something great to offer. And my instincts were correct. Lady Distain is a fellow lit lover and a faithful follower of my blog (from New Zealand!). For the past few weeks I've opened up the opportunity for my fellow lit lovers to embark on the "search for Jane Eyre" and Lady was the first to volunteer. She executed beautifully. So without further ado I will allow you to enjoy the rapture. :) Oh, and for any of you who find her particularly enjoyable, please take a little peak at her blog:

A  Lit Lover's Search for Jane Eyre

Ever since I first picked up Charlotte Bronte's most well-known novel, Jane Eyre, there has been in my head a quiet little figure. I suppose you could call it something akin to a manifestation of my conscience. She is small, but her presence cannot be doubted; she is quiet but her voice cannot be ignored. And she is forever patient. And no, despite what you think, I have not lost my marbles. Never mind that I only have a precious few left. 

Since that first Jane Eyre reading and the many re-readings since, one thing has impressed itself in my mind. Jane's underlying independence, her strong affirmations of what is right, and her unbreakable ability to hold fast to those principles on which she bases her life. I greatly admired her unflagging spirit in the face of despair; I was quietly proud of her resourcefulness; and I applauded her discipline in living a virtuous and principled life. To this day, my mind cheers every single time she finds the courage to leave Mr. Rochester - to tear herself away from the best thing she has known simply because she knows that, to not do so, is not right. Bronte created a role model of sorts for many of her readers when she created her small, but fiercely independent heroine. Jane kicks ass without raising a single finger, and that, her quiet infallibility is what most impresses itself upon me. 

However, this quiet little figure, this Jane-like mentor, who constantly resides in the back of my mind, is just that - a figure. I don't know the details. Not the tilt of her eyes. Or the shape of her lips. Nor the exact shade of hair. So, to give life to my subconscious Jane, and embark on this journey for the search for Jane with the wonderful Bonnie, I have come up with a few suggestions. 

Firstly, down the catwalk is Romola Garai:

(Whadaya know? It’s Fassbender! )

The only movie I have seen her in is Joe Wright's Atonement and the film adaptation of Dodie Smith's novel I Capture the Castle (although I didn't see the latter in its entirety). But what most struck me was Garai's ability to reveal the underplay of emotions occurring within with only subtle inflections in her expression. This to me is a very 'Jane-ian' quality. She is a very private person, keeping her thoughts locked inside, unless it is absolutely essential to reveal them. She is not the type to wear her heart on her sleeve. Mr. Rochester, despite his skills in manipulation (yes, how can you not notice? Not revealing his identity in the beginning, flirting with Blanche, even going so far as to dress up as an old gypsy woman) is unable to ever fully discern what Jane is thinking or feeling at the time. The only problem is that Garai, from what I can remember - and this might not be much - seems kind of tall (o, superficial is me). I am a firm believer of The Small Jane. I think there was a reason Bronte intended her to be - her appearance is deceptive, and is meant to hide the fire and strength that lies underneath. But with a suitably tall Rochester that should be easily fixed.

(I had to try SO hard to find a ‘plain’ picture of her.)

Second to proceed is Tallulah Riley:

Some of you might know her as the ever ambitious Mary Bennet from Joe Wright's (him again!) Pride & Prejudice. In fact, that is the only movie I have seen her in so there isn't much for me to base her acting abilities on. But from what I saw she presented a fairly accurate portrayal of Mary. To me, she is perfect in stature, and possesses that understated prettiness that I believe Jane also possesses. Plus, she can easily pull off the 'I'm still quite a young girl fresh out of Lowood' look that Rochester was so easily able to point out on that first night by the fireside. 

Next, Kat Dennings. 

(That background just screams ‘moors’ to me)

Now, I haven't seen Dennings in any film whatsoever so I'm basing this purely on superficial aspects. And ok, I know what you're thinking. Man, those lips are fuller than Homer Simpson's belly after a Thanksgiving dinner.  Well, that's what I was thinking anyway. Much too full to be Jane's. But let me point out she is wearing lip stick in this picture and, therefore, the effect is all the more emphasized. However, even without the lipstick to adorn her lips, you would have to be blinder than a bat with two glass eyeballs to miss them. For some reason, her features just struck me as something that would be suitable for Jane. Jane does describe her looks as being "irregular" so for all we know she might have had the fullest lips, perhaps too full for the rest of her facial features. Dennings lips seem to conquer the rest of her face, so I'd say her features are irregular, too. Just nicely irregular.

But, wipe the make-up off. Pull the hair back into a disciplined bun. Don a black Quakerish gown. And what do you think Ms. Dennings? I think you'd make a very presentable Jane. And that is high praise, indeed. And those eyes! It’s hard not to notice them; they seem to hold a world of stories. Especially in that first photo.

Lastly I present to you, Saiorse Roman (pronounced 'ser-sha'. Yes, I love her name, too.) 

You might know this young lady from Atonement (yes, that's where I came across her), and most recently The Lovely Bones (which I haven't been fortunate enough to see). She is a young actress, but an incredibly competent one, and according to Peter Jackson, possesses a maturity that goes far beyond her current years. And her performance in Atonement was impressive. To me, she comes closest to my image of Jane: the small face, the small chin, the way her hair pulls back from her forehead, her narrow shoulders, they all proclaim ‘Jane’ to me.

(I tried to find a picture of her being plain, and came up with this. Simply darken the hair and I think we have our Jane, yes? Look at that defiant set of the lips.)

And there we go. My most humble opinions presented to you, lit lovers. O yes, I can be as obsequious as Mr. Collins, but let's not go there. I think the ones I would most love to see play Jane are probably Romola Garai and Saiorse Roman. Simply, because I think they have the ability to portray the overwhelming passions that Jane often finds herself fighting to control in her quiet, but determined way. 
Now you may off up scorn, indifference or praise as much as you please.) Although I highly recommend the last.

-       Lady Disdain


  1. I think you've hit the mark with Romola Garai and Saoirse Ronan -- both are very subtle actresses. Dennings is a little too modern...I don't find her a very talented actress. I still have to say that Mia Wasikowska is the spitting image of the Jane in my head, but Saoirse would be amazing too!



  2. It feels weird commenting on a post on my blog that's not actually mine. But VERY good job Lady Disdain. What's funny is that Romola Garai and Saoirse Ronan were BOTH on my list of people I could imagine playing Jane. The problem that I saw with Romola was that she was a bit too old. I haven't seen any movies with Dennings, but from what I see in your pictures she does have a certain quality that I could see in Jane. Love your comment about the lips!

    @Joy: So can I expect a guest post from you?

  3. Ha ha I would LOVE to hear from you. I've really been enjoying your blog and I know that a Jane Eyre lover like you MUST have something to say. My email is :)

  4. Thanks to you both. (Only realizing now the technical errors that are there. O well.)

    @Joy: Yes, I would love to see Garai or Ronan play Jane. They are 'subtle' as you say. I haven't seen Dennings in anything, but you're probably right - those who mostly do very modern films would probably find it hard to adapt to period ones. Ooh, the new Jane Eyre's due in a few weeks here (yes, we are prehistoric beings) and I can't wait to see Mia's Jane. I hope I don't die of anticipation before then.

    @Bonnie: Yes, I thought Garai was a bit too old too. But I think with the right costume and touch-ups she could easily be made to look like a young lady. Perhaps not 18 years old, but as close as you can get to that. I would love to see Ronan too!

    Yay, more potential Janes to look for! All us Jane Eyre lovers should pick three of the best and then go after filmmakers with a petition.

  5. Very good idea :). I wouldn't mind seeing Garai at all. After all, there were many actresses that were too old for the part and she looks a lot younger than some of them. I'm happy that the '11 is coming out where you are. I'm dying to hear your opinion of it. Right now I'm teeming over the excitement bubbling around Wuthering Heights. A lot more information is coming out about it and it's driving me crazy with anticipation.