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Jane Eyre: Novel vs. Film Essay

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Updated: Feb 23rd, 2022


“Jane Eyre” is a tragedy and romantic novel which was written by Charlotte Bronte. It was adapted into film by Robert Stevenson in 1944. “Jane Eyre” is partly an autobiographical novel which filled with romance and tragedy in the life of Jane Eyre. At the age of nine, Jane Eyre had lost her parents and was an orphan. She went to live with her aunt Mrs. Reed. (Bailey, 115)

Mrs. Reed was a sister to Jane’s father and her family was the only family Jane had so; she went to live with them. But the Reeds did not see Jane as a blood relation rather; she was treated as an outsider. While in the home of the Reeds, Jane was physically and emotionally abused by her aunt Mrs. Reed and her children. (Niemann, 214)

This comparative essay will highlight the differences between Stevenson’s 1943 film of “Jane Eyre” and Charlotte Bronte’s novel. Apart from Stevenson’s film not maintaining a first narrator as the novel does, it is arguably the best adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s novel.

A central theme that Stevenson’s film emphasizes which is not a prominent theme in the original story by Charlotte Bronte is Jane’s perseverance all through the story. Bronte’s original story narrates Jane’s story as an orphan who finds joy at the end of the story but Stevenson’s film tells the story of Jane as a person who went through a lot of pain and discrimination but did not give up.

The problems which Jane faced as an adult and a child will be discussed in this essay.

Comparing the film “Jane Eyre” to Bronte’s original novel

“Jane Eyre” is a novel which was originally written by Charlotte Bronte and it has been adapted into film 3 times. It was adapted into film in 1913, 1915 and 1921. Out of all the adaptations, Stevenson’s 1943 adaptation is considered the best because; his adaptation has a unique and slightly different pattern of the Jane Eyre story. (Rowland, 241)

In the original novel of “Jane Eyre” written by Charlotte Bronte, Jane was portrayed as an evil child and she was treated badly for this reason. (Rowland, 281) Jane’s extended family perceived her as an evil child and this same notion of Jane been an evil child manifested again when her employer stumbled from his horse. After Jane’s employer stumbled from his horse, he accused Jane of been an evil person and the reason why he stumbled from his horse. (Niemann, 302)

In Stevenson’s adaptation of the “Jane Eyre” story, the problems of Jane Eyre are shown as norms of a class-oriented society. People usually want to associate with other people who are of the same class to them. So, Jane was maltreated because her parents were dead, and she was seen as a poor girl. Life is usually tough and obstacles are always encountered in the process living. (Bailey, 400) There has never been life without problems.

With the examples given above, there is a slight difference between Robert Stevenson’s adaptation and the original novel by Charlotte Bronte. Apart from the film not maintaining a first person narrator, it also, ends a little happier that the original story and this is noticed when the adaptation is constructively compared to the original novel.

The ordeals of Jane as narrated by Robert Stevenson and Charlotte Bronte respectively

Jane faced a number of problems in her life as a child and an adult respectively. (Bailey, 510) In the beginning of the story, Jane lost her parents to a deadly disease known as typhus and she became an orphan at the early age of nine. After losing both parents to the cold hands of death, she was compelled to live with her uncle’s family. Although Mrs. Reed perceived Jane as an evil child and she abused her physically and emotionally. (Rowland, 321)

After leaving the home of the Reeds’ Jane goes into another world full of hatred in Lowood institution. While in Lowood institution, Mr. Brocklehust became Jane’s new tormentor. But, Jane soon finds happiness in Lowood Institution when she meets Helen. (Rowland, 212) Jane and Helen subsequently became friends but Jane’s happiness was cut short when she lost her only friend and confidant to the cold hands of death. (Niemann, 202)

After leaving Lowood institution, Jane works as a governess for a very wicked and selfish employer, Mr. Edward Rochester. (Niemann, 412) Jane experiences a tough and difficult stay at thornfield but she and her employer Mr. Rochester eventually fell in love but they were forbidden to express it. (Bailey, 401)

All these instances mentioned where the ordeals which Jane Eyre encountered during the course of the story. In spite of the fact that, Jane found happiness at the end of the story, it was a terrible and tough experience for Jane growing up. (Bailey, 615) There was no difference in her adult age and this made the story of “Jane Eyre” a tragedy.

A central theme emphasized in Stevenson’s film that is not a prominent theme in Bronte’s novel

Robert Stevenson produced the film “Jane Eyre” as a tragedy film but the central theme emphasized all through the film is the resilience and perseverance displayed by Jane. (Niemann, 815)

At the tender age of nine’ Jane had lost her parents to the cold hands of death due to typhus. This seemed to be the beginning of Jane’s turmoil. Been orphaned at that tender age, could have broken any child down but Jane persevered and overcame it. (Rowland, 116)

After the death of her parents, Jane went to live with her aunt Mrs. Reed. But Mrs. Reed had her own reservations about Jane due to her daring spirit. (Niemann, 356) Mrs. Reed had expected Jane to be a withdrawn and timid child due to the fact that she had lost both parents at a tender age. But contrary to Mrs. Reed’s expectation, Jane was a daring child and not even the death of her parents affected her. (Bailey, 444)

Mrs. Reed more or less discards Jane off to Lowood institution and she had already misinformed Mr. Henry Brocklehust that Jane was an evil child. (Niemann, 358) Mr. Brocklehust was in charge and ran the school. Due to Mrs. Reed’s accusation, Mr. Brocklehust harassed Jane in an environment which was already filled with impoverished and orphaned kids. (Rowland, 718)

For other children, this could have been the breaking point because of the pain and torture they had already encountered. But in Jane’s case, the pain and torture did not deter her. This type of resilience is what is needed in our today’s worlds to survive. (Rowland, 788)

While in Lowood institution, Jane for the first time in her life found happiness through her friend and only confidant Helen. But that happiness was cut short when Helen eventually died. After leaving Lowood institution to work as a governess, Jane was still faced the challenge of been considered as an evil person. But even in the face of such torment, Jane still manages to make her hostile boss fall in love with her. (Bailey, 623)


Charlotte Bronte’s novel portrays Jane as a character who went through a lot of pain and societal discrimination but eventually found happiness at the end of the day by marrying the man of her choice. But in Robert Stevenson’s film, the character Jane is portrayed as a person who in the face of adversary and abuse, never gave up or broke down but rather persevered and conquered. (Rowland, 514)

The central theme of the film “Jane Eyre” is resilience and perseverance. This is clearly expressed by Robert Stevenson as he highlights the problems of Jane and the things she lost while struggling to succeed. (Niemann, 611) During the course of the film, Jane endured the struggle between principle and passion.

Also, during that period, she endured and overpowered temptations of the flesh and spirit. While Bronte’s novel simply portrays Jane as someone who eventually finds happiness after societal and family abuse, Stevenson’s film portrays Jane as a character who had resilience and was never gave up even when it seemed like all hope was lost and this made Jane a conqueror and a hero who eventually finds her heart desire due to her inner strength. (Niemann, 800)

Works Cited

Bailey, Hilary. Mrs. Rochester: A Sequel to Jane Eyre. New York: Sloane hall, 2010. Print.

Niemann, James. A Novel Inspired by Jane Eyre: Jane Eyre told from the first person- perspective. New York: Blackwell, 2010. Print.

Rowland, Wiley. Jane Eyre. The Graphic Novel: London: Amy, 2003. Print.

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