I have noticed an odd tendency in old British books to print lines of French, but not translate them. The writers seemed to assume the reader would understand. I wonder if French was just a common part of English education in those days, as expected as reading and arithmetic, since France was just across the Channel….
In the miniseries, I was struck by the acting of Dalton and Clarke: When they first conversed in the parlor, they seemed so stilted as if they were acting badly, with no feeling or passion for the characters.
But as the miniseries progressed, their familiarity and comfort with each other increased–showing that first conversation was deliberately acted that way.
It showed two people first getting to know each other, not at all comfortable with each other yet. Later on, their comfort increases along with their regard for each other.
It’s very familiar to me, since I often feel the same way on first meeting someone, very shy and quiet, but if we hit it off, I feel much more comfortable in their presence. Even if I already “met” this person online, the first meeting is usually like this. So this part of the miniseries certainly rings true.
Since the miniseries is one medium and the book another, the scene can’t be quite the same in both. But the book still shows an abruptness and unease in the way they talk with each other:
Mr. Rochester blames Jane for the fall that twisted his ankle, as if she were a fairy who put the ice on the roadway and bewitched his horse. He asks her questions, but it’s more grilling than getting-to-know-you. She’s not afraid of him, as she would be if he were polite and refined, something she’s not used to.
He’s impressed by her portfolio, which has several watercolors which are not at all your typical Victorian schoolgirl landscape: They’re surreal, with brooding supernatural beings.
I can’t help but wonder if the very thing that made Mr. Rochester upset at her–his idea that she is a fairy who bewitched his horse–is what finally attracts him to her.
Since the pretty drawing room flowers–that is, the rich women in the neighborhood–could hardly compete with a mysterious fairy who somehow survived eight years in a charity school.
The descriptions of Mr. Rochester fit Orson Welles much better than Timothy Dalton: middle height, broad chested, dark face, stern features, heavy brow, about 40, granite-hewn features, gloomy but with eyes “not without a certain change in their depths sometimes, which, if it was not softness, reminded you, at least, of that feeling.”
Of course, Brontë probably had in mind either her brother (a wild and brooding young man) or the great (unrequited) love of her life, the married Professor Heger.
Heger was (from the accounts I’ve read) a stern man himself, given to fits of pique, but an excellent, attentive and caring teacher–Though after you stopped being his student, he apparently forgot about you, which troubled Charlotte Brontë to no end.
It seems she mistook his care for his favorite student as something else. She didn’t understand why he lost interest in her after she left Brussels for home, and rarely responded to her letters, certainly with no fondness or indulgence.
Her disappointment seems to have followed her throughout the rest of her short life: She kept re-making the whole story in various ways in her three novels, turning the Professor’s sweet wife into spiteful old women, and turning the Professor into unmarried characters who fell for her Mary Sues (Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe).
Mr. Rochester finds Jane fascinating because she’s not subservient or artful, but rather tells it like it is. When he asks if she finds him handsome, instead of coming up with some polite evasion, she simply says, “No, sir.” He also tells her,
Know, that in the course of your future life you will often find yourself elected the involuntary confidant of your acquaintances’ secrets: people will instinctively find out, as I have done, that it is not your forte to talk of yourself, but to listen while others talk of themselves;
they will feel, too, that you listen with no malevolent scorn of their indiscretion, but with a kind of innate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouraging because it is very unobtrusive in its manifestations.
As a quiet person myself, I know this is true-to-life.