Monday, April 12, 2010
Jane Eyre and “An Education”
One of the great aspects of the film for me is its numerous references to Jane Eyre, another classic coming-of-age story. Jenny Mellor very much resembles Jane beginning with her name, the similarity of which can hardly be seen as coincidental. In her English class, the teacher and class are discussing—drum roll, please…Jane Eyre. Like Jane, Jenny finds her home life very stifling to her intellectual interests and independence, though it would be a trifle unfair to compare her parents to the Reeds. Like Jane, Jenny marches to the beat of her own dream pursuing her own route in life and frequently resisting her parents’ attempts to mold her into some cookie-cutter clone of what a prospective Oxonian should be.
Like Jane, Jenny experiences the first bloom of romantic love with a much older Rochester-like figure, Jack, whose age and life experiences are enticing to the young woman. Like Jane, Jenny fully believes that Jack is sincere in his professions of love and alacrity for marriage. Like Jane, Jenny’s world comes crashing down when she learns that Jack is already married! Like Jane, Jenny emerges from the ashes of humiliation a mature woman. She seeks out the assistance of her former mentor, which she previously lashed with her tongue (another similarity to Jane who frequently sticks her foot in her mouth), and works hard to earn a spot in Oxford. Finally, like Jane, Jenny assumes her place in society meeting the expectations of herself and her family, but definitely on her own terms rather than someone else’s.
“An Education” is a wonderful modern retelling of Bronte’s masterpiece. Not having read the memoir, I am not sure whether it was Barber or Scherfig or Hornby that saw in Barber’s life striking convergences with and affinities for Jane Eyre, but I’m sure glad they chose to unfold their story in this fashion. For lovers of Jane Eyre, I highly recommend “An Education” for your enjoyment and edification.