Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The ultimate romance
I am a sucker for romances. Happily ever after endings. And mostly its only romances that I read coz they are simple, no need to tax your brains and you get a happy ending worth the trouble of reading the book. But the mother of all romances I think is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I read it the first time when I was 11 - an abridged version and I fell in love with it. For the next two years I was hunting for the original and finally when I found it I read it in one go. Took me about 7-8 hours I think. But I couldn't let the book go. Every romance written after that borrows from Jane Eyre in some way or the other. Be it the independent streak in the woman, or her confidence despite her plainness or poverty, all of this was probably articulated in the best manner in Jane Eyre. But the best part about Jane Eyre isn't Jane. Its Edward Rochester, the hero. The only other hero who comes close to surpassing Rochester's charm is Heathcliff created by Charlotte's sister Emily. But whereas Heathcliff comes across as almost black (except for his love of Catherine), Rochester as Jane so aptly puts it is 'human and fallible'. Rochester set the trend for the brooding, brash and highly independent hero. The kind women wanted to save and keep for themselves. I have often wondered why we women fall for the brooding, silent types. Is it that these men seem to present more of a challenge, or is it just the attraction that curiosity brings with it? In the novel there is always a sort of tension built around Rochester. He is the ultimate man. Brash, know-it-all, sensitive and perceptive and yet there is an air of mystery about him that adds to the allure. The aloof man who one cannot read, but who is also very perceptive. Rochester was perhaps the first of the infinitely experienced men who fell for unsophisticated virgins. How many novels after this have tried portraying men for the so called 'different' women? But none has achieved the brilliant characterisation that Charlotte achieved. When you read the novel if it were not for the references to candle lit rooms, large mansions etc, you wouldnt guess its a novel written some 200 years ago. Jane behaves very much like a 21st century woman 'Equal as we are' she tells Rochester. The kind of courage Bronte breathes into Jane is hardly found amongst many women even today. But whenever I read the novel or see any of the numerous film adaptations, I am trasported back in time. To the days when I was 13. When I did dream that men like Rochester existed and that one day some such guy would be mine. Silly adolescent dreams. Probably a man like him would be a disaster to have as a husband. But you dont care about such things when you are a teenager. And its funny how all those feelings you have buried under mounds of practicality come alive with the merest reference to an adolescent memory. Maybe its true that we never really grow up.