Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Jane Eyre

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He was the first to recognise me, and to love what he saw.

Jane Eyre is my favorite book.

I had to read the Charlotte Bronte novel the summer before my senior year of high school and since then I have re-read the it at least seven times (purchasing the Out Of Print t-shirt and wearing it proudly somewhere in between).

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While I haven’t seen all of the theatrical versions of the novel – which go as far back as 1934 – one of my favorite movies of all-time is the 2011 adaptation with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.

Some may scoff at adaptations (especially when the movie poster is the book’s new cover), but I enjoy comparing what the filmmaker, in comparison to the author, believe to be significant to the story. Cary Fukunaga brings Charlotte Bronte’s beloved novel to life, illuminating everything I love about Jane Eyre to the big screen.

Given the opportunity, Jane Eyre can teach young girls about the complexities of love, life, and the self.

1. Once you love yourself, you can love others.

I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world
I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world.

Jane had a rough childhood – her parents died when she was little; she was forced to live with her awful aunt, and then was shunned by her schoolteachers. The people who were supposed to love her told her that she was wicked and would burn in hell for having such a fiery passion. By the time she escapes to Thornfield Hall, she is a young woman with many talents worth praising, but it is difficult for Jane to believe that she is deserving of such attention, especially from Edward Rochester.

But she is – the reader/viewer knows this from all that she has overcome – and she must realize this before she can truthfully be with another person. It is not until after Jane is on her own, away from Thornfield Hall, that she is able to find herself and realize what she wants in life – a singular, respectable, and passionate love with Edward.

2. Don’t compromise your morals.

I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.
I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.

…even if he does look like Michael Fassbender.

Edward might have discretely mentioned something about having a crazy wife locked up in the attic, but so long as he was still married to Bertha, Jane could not stay at Thornfield; staying there would signify that she does not mind that Edward lied to her, that their marriage would have been a sham, and that there does not need to be mutual respect in their relationship.

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you, – and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you!

As much as it hurts her to leave Edward, she is able to find refuge with the Rivers siblings, a family that loves and respects each other in the ways that Jane realizes she deserves.

While St. John Rivers may view Jane as an equal, he wants her as a wife, one who he could share “enough of love” with. Having had a glimpse of true love already, Jane is not willing to lower her standards of what she believes a union should be – passionate.

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God did not give me a life to throw it away.

Jane teaches her audience that one should not settle, especially when it comes to love; it might have made Edward happy if she stayed at Thornfield, or St. John  should she travel with him as a missionary, but it would not make her happy.

3. But realize what’s worth “fighting over” versus “fighting for.”

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To be together is for us to be at once free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character – perfect concord is the result.

Jane leaves Edward because she believes she should not be constrained by someone else’s perception of how she should be living (while under the assumption that Edward merely wants her as his mistress while trapped in the marriage to Bertha); she knows that she cannot live a fulfilled life under someone else’s will.

It is not until Jane meets St. John Rivers that she realizes she does not have to sacrifice Edward’s love in order to be independent; she should not be bound by what society (or St. John’s savior) believes to be a respectable person. Jane finally understand that she is worthy of love, Edward’s love, because he is the other part of herself, and together they are wholly and perfectly happy.

“Reader, I married him.”

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How Amélie Changed My Life

Have you ever seen the movie Amélie?

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If you haven’t, go buy it right now. I wish I could say go watch it on Netflix, but that should be a good sign – it’s too amazing to be free on Netflix.

I first watched Amélie my freshmen year of college. My two roommates and I were good enough friends to start sharing things with each other, such as movies. We watched it right before going to dinner in the cafeteria and I don’t think I spoke a single word because I was so mesmerized by a single character – Amélie.

She changed my life.

Here’s what I learned:

1. It’s okay to be a little weird.

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Instead, she cultivates a taste for small pleasures: dipping her hand into sacks of grain, cracking créme brulée with a teaspoon, and skipping stones at St. Martin’s Canal.

In the movie, Amélie is a quiet girl who lives a quiet life. Much like everyone else, whether or not they admit to it, she has her secret hobbies, such as skipping stones and cracking creme brulee. She has a quirky haircut; she wears funny shoes. She is endearing and relatable and I liked her right away.

2. This weirdness can be applied to crushes.

I still freeze up like a third grader when I see a boy I like. I will stop talking, put down whatever food I’m eating, and just…not be a normal person.

I’m working on it.

Amélie’s heart almost beats out of her chest.

 

I know she’s a fictional character (kind of ) but it’s reassuring that there are other people that get as freaked out as I do.

3. But don’t let your insecurities hold you back from opportunities.

It’s okay to be quiet and quirky, but if you want to try something or you like someone or you want to say something: do it!

We don’t all have mentors like the Glass Man, who encourages Amélie to live in all the ways that he can’t – but that’s what movies are for. So listen to the Glass Man.

“So, little Amélie, your bones aren’t made of glass. You can take life’s knocks. If you let this chance go by, eventually your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So…Go and get him, for pete’s sake!”

I won’t spoil the ending – but I wouldn’t watch it over and over again if I didn’t like it.