Monday, March 25, 2013

Belle, Jane, and Bella

I did intend this post to simply be about Jane Eyre and Twilight, but somehow Beauty and the Beast is coming in, as well. And, no, you're not allowed to criticize me for this post: I'm still feeling cool about how well my thesis on Charlotte Brontë went on Friday, so I consider myself plenty knowledgeable on the subject.

Jane Eyre is, in many ways, a Beauty and the Beast story--considering the skeleton of each story, that is. The heroine goes to a dark, large house in some type of subservient way. The grumpy master of the house seems intimidating on the exterior, but the heroine is able to see beyond that and beyond his past (which she eventually discovers in more detail) and the two fall in love and he is restored to a previous state of goodness. I'm not as surprised to see how similar, in a kind of Gothic way, the two stories are considering that Jane Eyre was published in 1847 and Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve's version of the fairy tale came out (in French) in 1740--that's a hundred years in between, but they're still in a similar time period (as opposed to the difference between 1847 and 1547 or 1647, for instance).

Now we bring in Twilight. What has sometimes bothered me about how people talk about this book (when they say that it's childish and portrays a creepy or abusive or whatever relationship that sets a bad example) is that people seem to forget what that silly group of books considered "the classics" is like. Twilight is very much like Jane Eyre. Stephenie Meyer has of course said she modeled it somewhat around Pride and Prejudice (as New Moon is to Romeo and Juliet and Eclipse is to Wuthering Heights). But his name is, after all, Edward Cullen--like Edward Rochester. And although I know Stephenie Meyer had already liked this name on its own merit, Bella sounds suspiciously like Belle.

There isn't a good comparison for Thornfield, but Bella does go to the isolated location of Forks like Jane goes to the isolated location of Thornfield. First-impression-wise, Edward is a grumpy character--like the modeled-after-the-Byronic-hero Rochester. But he and Bella watch each other like Jane and Rochester watch each other. Both couples sort of bond over frank speech that involves criticizing each other; when they talk, they form their own brands of conversation.

Plot-wise, both do have some issues of power struggle. Jane and Rochester (in my interpretation of the book) resolve this issue through the rebirth that each one experiences during their time apart (after Jane discovers Bertha's existence). Time apart? Well, well, that sounds just like New Moon, doesn't it? Bella and Edward also have to spend some time apart (although it does mean something a little different for their relationship) and some time evaluating their own identities before they can fully enter a relationship as equals.

Beauty and the Beast comes back in with that idea of looking past the exterior of a person. This is something Belle, Jane, and Bella all are able to do. The theme isn't about allowing yourself to be caught in a possessive relationship or going after someone who isn't like you. It's about realizing that people are who they choose to be, not a pre-determined someone they were meant to be.

So that's why I think it's perfectly natural that I, English Lit. major that I am, should like Twilight. It's written on the wings of the historical books that I love.

No comments:

Post a Comment