Friday, March 20, 2015

Jane Eyre Through the Eyes of Divergent

I will now celebrate the release of Insurgent in theatres (which I haven't watched yet) by indulging in another of my story comparisons. When I was thinking so much of Divergent a few weeks ago, I naturally started connecting it with that book I always like to talk about, Jane Eyre. So now I will go over some of the concepts that appear in both books, or some of the things that stand out in Jane Eyre when you're considering it with Divergent in the back of your mind.

Individual Strength - Jane Eyre is often spoken of in terms of independence: throughout her life, Jane makes a journey toward being self-dependent, even though she begins as a poor, plain woman without family or friends and would seemingly (in the context of her life) not be capable of independence. But she lets herself be educated, finds herself a job, falls in love, makes friends and finds cousins, and ends up with an inheritance that also gives her financial independence. Jane can and Jane does--likes Tris. Tris is raised to be selfless, to think of others before herself until her own identity is almost non-existant. She's young; she's small; and she does look pretty insignificant. But she decides to be her own person. She joins Dauntless and completes initiation, makes friends, falls in love, and acts in order to save both the community she is living in now and the one she grew up in. She does more than anyone would have expected--because she decides that she is capable.

Reliance on Others - Although both of these stories stress the power of the individual to be in control of his/her own actions, they don't gloss over the significance of relationships and unity. Jane is very kept to herself and she's often in isolated places where there aren't many people to begin with. But the people she meets are significant toward her life. People help her: Helen Burns reminds her to be patient and take advantage of receiving an education, Mrs. Fairfax gives her a job, Rochester listens to her opinions, and the Rivers family (after saving her life) gives her more education and another job when she needs it. Jane, for all her perseverance, would be nowhere without other people. Likewise, Tris cares about other people, helps them, and receives help back. Christina in particular is very important in Tris's ability to feel at home in and worthy of being in Dauntless.

A New Environment Can Be a Good Thing - Jane grew up in the shadows of her aunt's house and then in a pretty desolate boarding school. She didn't have much opportunity in either place--so she leaves. She advertises her teaching ability and gains the position of governess at Thornfield. There she is able to start a new life, earning her own living and being master over her own person. Tris did grow up with a family that loved her, but she needed more opportunity in her life: she didn't want to fade into the background of Abnegation. So Dauntless is her Thornfield, her opportunity to make her own choice about who she is and to be judged only by who she is, right here and right now.

Understanding Someone Else in a Unique Way - I love that section in Jane Eyre when Jane and Rochester are talking about fairies and who knows what and Mrs. Fairfax is sitting with them and wondering what on earth they're talking about: they're speaking their own language to each other that only they can understand. They do that a lot. It's one of my favorite things about them because it makes them feel very suited toward each other. And it's rather like Tris and Four, who are both faced with what it means to be Divergent. They both resist the simulations, so they both find themselves different from the crowd--and like to each other.

Mentorship, Friendship, and Love - Rochester is Jane's employer--she calls him "master" even after she leaves Thornfield. So, in a certain sense, he is above her, like how Four begins as Tris's initiation instructor. The difference (well, one of them) is that Tris never really alludes to the fact that Four was her instructor after initiation is over: that time was short, they're only two years apart in age, and there is so much else going on that it seems a very insignificant detail. The only thing that perhaps Tris keeps is the knowledge that, when most everyone else thought she wouldn't make it through initiation, Four always thought she was strong enough. Similarly, Rochester was essentially the first person who listened to Jane and her opinions and wanted to know what she was thinking and ended up encouraging her to be her own person (despite the fact that he twice tried to persuade her to do things that would make her his person rather than her own--but that's why she said no). That's why love is at its best, right? When both people encourage each other and the two can achieve more together than they could have done alone.

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