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Jane EyreFirst edition title page

Jane Eyre

Publication details ▽ Publication details △

First publication
1847

Type of publication
Novel

Genres
Literary, Gothic romance, social criticism

Writing language
English

Author's country
England

Length
Approx. 186,000 words

Jane Eyre scene (2006)
Toby Stephens's Rochester and Ruth Wilson's Jane make a surprisingly smouldering couple in the 2006 series.

Jane Eyre

THE NOVEL | THE TEXT | THE MOVIES

1943, 2006, 2011

Not-so-plain Jane

Jane Eyre (2011): Director Susanna White; writer Sandy Welch; featuring Ruth Wilson, Toby Stephens, Christina Cole, Francesca Annis, Tara Fitzgerald, Pam Ferris, Georgie Henley

The four-part BBC television series of Jane Eyre may be the most faithful adaptation of Jane Eyre, as complete as its six hours of running time allows.

You might not think so from its opening act and closing scene. The series opens incomprehensively on a desert scene in the mind of the young, mistreated Jane and something about a "red room" haunting her.

The story straightens out quickly though and Jane's early years are admirably compressed. The first episode encompasses the orphan's miserable life with her aunt's family, her stay at a harsh girls' school and her entry into the working world at Thornfield Hall as a governess to the ward of a strange, aloof man who turns out to be Rochester. The story is brought right up to the point of the mysterious fire in Rochester's room.

After this the remaining three episodes present the famous narative at a more leisurely pace, covering the novel's high and low points thoroughly.


An early scene between Jane and Rochester in 2006 television series of Jane Eyre.

The chubby-faced youthful Jane (Georgie Henley, best known for The Chronicles of Narnia films) has smoothly and convincingly given way to the young adult Jane. As played by Ruth Wilson, she is not a beauty, but her spinsterish looks and thoughtful demeanor are exactly as imagined from the book.

The ruddy-brown haired, fair-skinned Toby Stephens might seem too lightweight, too good-looking a choice for Charlotte Brontë's imagined dark Rochester, but he is surprisingly at home in the character. He's dynamic, always restlessly moving, even while brooding. The sexual tension between the two leads is palpable, yet they don't moon or drool over each other, but they interact animatedly with all the alternatingly easy and awkward moments that real couples experience in their early days.

With the slow build-up, it isn't until the end of the third episode that the story reaches the ill-fated, attempted wedding.

Along the way you may even rediscover scenes you'd forgotten were in the original story. Of course, despite remaining largely faithful to the novel, the televised production has to reimagine some of the plot points with different visuals. During Jane's stay at Thornfield Hall, a long party scene is added to help us get to know the main charcters. Then later the entire Rivers subplot in the fourth episode is recalled in flashbacks.

And at the book's final reconciliation scene between Jane and Rochester is extended here into a several-years-later scene of a garden gathering involving multiple characters and their offspring.

— Eric McMillan

THE NOVEL | THE TEXT | THE MOVIES

1943, 2006, 2011

See also:

Novel
Wuthering Heights

Movies
Wuthering Heights

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Jane Eyre

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