Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jane's inheritance

I want to address another complaint I have about my bete noire, Polly Teale's adaptation of "Jane Eyre."

I've already addressed the issue of Teale turning Bertha into Jane's alter ego. This choice throws off the narrative structure of the original novel completely. But not just the narrative structure - Teale's version completely obscures an issue that was so important to Charlotte Bronte, and therefore to Jane Eyre - financial independence.

Thinking about the St. John scenes reminded me of this because while Jane is in Morton with St. John, in the novel (and my adaptation) Jane receives her inheritance from her Uncle John. Teale leaves the inheritance out of her version completely.

In the published script of her adaptation, Teale explains:

For a Victorian woman to express her passionate nature is to invite the severest of punishment. Jane must keep her fiery spirit locked away if she is to survive. Could it be that Jane and the madwoman are not in fact opposites. That like all the most frightening ghosts Bertha Mason exists not in the real world but in Jane's imagination?

Now of course most people would rather hear about passion and ghosts than economics. But the reason that Victorian women could not express passion was because they were at the economic mercy of men, and could not afford to base their lives on their own desires - especially sexual desires. Charlotte Bronte was extremely, painfully aware of this fact her entire life.

I only wish that the ghost of Charlotte Bronte was real enough to haunt Polly Teale for twisting the meaning of Jane Eyre into some idiotic airy-fairy pseudo-Freudian gobbledygook. Gobbledygook which all the theatre critics think is just soooo kewl - because theatre critics can't be bothered to do some actual research, much less have an interest in the role that economics play in the oppression of women.