Another literary classic retold in manga form, this time we’re eyeing up social class, equality and crazy shit. Jane Eyre, for those of you unaware, is set in ye olde England in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s written by Charlotte Bronte. You may also have heard of her sister Emily Bronte who wrote the other classic story Wuthering Heights, clearly dark broody men were a favourite among sisters. It is a really good book that was quite forward for its time in the themes it wanted to bring to light, much like Austen, it focuses particularly on women of this time and what power or lack of power they had over their own lives as well as religion and wealth.
So our poor girl Jane Eyre has a horrible life from the very beginning, the daughter of a clergy man and a wealthy lady whose marriage was already frowned upon died of illness when she was a baby. This meant she had to be raised by her mother’s family (specifically the wife of her brother) who had disowned her for marrying a smelly peasant. Now I get that society back then, especially the wealthy, were crazy about pairing people up with people of equal or better standing but good lord Jane’s Aunt is a miserable ass! The first part of the book is dedicated to her aunt being totally horrid to Jane with no reason given! Ok so that isn’t entirely true, the aunt had her own children and could just see Jane as a burden her stupid husband left to her, but even so she has raised Jane from infancy! She must have worked really hard to not bond with her in any way, Jane even states that she would be treated better if her uncle were still alive so basically Aunt Reed is Lady Tremaine from Cinderella.
Unfortunately for Jane that isn’t her only issue, not only does her aunt hate her but her cousins are horrible butts as well, especially the boy John. They were taught to believe Jane, because she is a dependent, can be treated however they want to treat her. This involves taunting her and smashing her head against the upholstery. Again I have to ask why not even one child warmed up to her as a friend but oh well her life wouldn’t have been so tragic then. Eventually Jane snaps and tries to kick the crap out of John, calling them all out on their horrid behaviour, to which her aunt locks her in the room where her uncle died…
The maids try to warn Jane that she is basically helpless, either put up with this horrible prison she is in but at least she is relatively safe and fed or it’s off to the poor house. Jane being a fiery ball of tiny justice and fury can’t accept this. Eventually collapsing in the room after fearing a ghost may get her. This is the last straw and her Aunt sends her off to Lowood School but not before Jane tells her where to shove her attitude.
So Jane heads to Lowood School, a charity school that takes in young girls without parents, basically it’s where they send girls the rich relatives don’t want to look after because in this time girls are worthless unless they are of marrying age. Naively Jane believes this to be her chance at happiness and to be accepted. Instead she gets disease and death. Yay… So yeah Lowood is a bit of a shit hole to be honest. It’s run by an arrogant Mr Brocklehurst who is a total douche. He uses it as an excuse to not only starve the girls and leave them in a building so cold they get chilblains but also to imply that God is totally cool with this because girls should be completely broken and made plain and ashamed of themselves. I will point out that his own wife and children are finely dressed, arrogant and never missed a meal in their lives but apparently God is just fine with them. Only poor people need to be ashamed!
Lucky for Jane there is one nice teacher there, the superintendent Miss Temple who understands the crazy principles that children need to eat or they die. She also meets Helen Burns who is her only friend. Helen is lovely and gentle and a little God obsessed but I suppose you would be growing up in that environment. She is the ultimate self-sacrificing character taking every beating and instead of hating the person she shows love and forgiveness and also can even see from the other point of view. Unfortunately due to the horrible conditions of Lowood, typhus breaks out and devastates the school, turning it into more of a hospital. Helen also comes down with illness, not typhus, but consumption. Jane is banned from seeing her until she hears that Helen won’t get better, she sneaks into her room and spends Helen’s last night with her until she dies. Yes this is probably one of the most horrible moments for me, it was literally pointless death due to neglect. But this would have huge impact on Jane’s life from now on.
All this and we haven’t even reached the main part of the book yet. So far I really enjoyed the art and pacing of the manga retelling, Jane is adorable and feisty and the characters are drawn beautifully. One good thing came from the horrible death of Helen and all those girls, public and media attention. Donations came rolling in so the girls could eat and have better clothing as well as warmth. Mr Brocklehurst remained treasurer but had to hand over control to a group of nicer people. Too little too late for Helen though! T^T Jane spent the rest of her childhood there and two more years teaching, becoming close to Miss Temple until she got married and moved away. Jane decides to explore the world outside Lowood and applies for a governess position at Thornfield Manor.
At this point Jane’s personality has been completely subdued, she is very quiet, and fades into the background, she is much more devout to faith and believes that honesty and working hard is its own reward. However her fiery desire for justice and fairness is still there, but it is sad to see that the Jane we saw as a child has been completely transformed through some positive influences but also a lot of negative ones. Jane arrives at Thornfield and meets Mrs Fairfax who welcomes her warmly, she also meets her student Adele, a French girl who has been spoiled but loved. Takes a long ass time before she meets her employer Mr Rochester at which point he promptly falls of his horse.
I always have to laugh at any interpretation of Mr Rochester, he’s described in the book as pretty ugly, he’s twice Jane’s age, abrupt, kinda rude and well basically like the beast from Beauty and the Beast. This is always interpreted as slightly unkempt hair xD I’m like the implication is that the women he knows are all gold diggers because he’s so ugly they wouldn’t be after anything else, this dude isn’t ugly! Ah well. He meets Jane anyway and he calls her an elf, charming. Over the next few pages you find Mr Rochester constantly testing Jane trying to find her vice, whether she’s just in it for money or she’s willing to give him false compliments etc. Luckily Jane frowns upon all of these and sasses him back.
He tells her how he came to take care of Adele, turns out he fell in love with her mother who was an opera singer, he paid for her living costs and basically was a big dumbass and she took him for all he had. He found out that she was using him and cut all ties until she told him that Adele was his daughter, at this point Rochester didn’t really believe her but because he felt a bit of an ass he took Adele anyway and has been raising her sweetly ever since. After this revelation Jane admires Rochester a bit more and her feelings grow from here.
This is where the spooky part kicks in. For a while now Jane has been hearing creepy laughter throughout the house, this has been blamed on the servant Grace Poole but Jane isn’t dumb. One night she hears it again, she investigates to find someone has redecorated Rochester’s bed with fire while he sleeps in it. Jane saves him and is ready to do something sensible like tell people that Grace is a crazy pyro but Rochester stops her, tells her to wait there and goes off. He is tender with her, making her heart race but you know that something is not right here. Even after this incident Grace is still allowed to stay much to Jane’s confusion, but forget that! What’s more interesting is Jane’s growing infatuation with Rochester despite knowing he’s older than her and totally different class from her etc. Girl who do you think you’re kidding?! Rochester plays it pretty cool but is obviously interested as well.
Unfortunately he already has a rich prospective bride ready, Jane resigns herself to giving him up T^T she even makes him promise that he’ll make sure Adele is in a private boarding school and Jane at another job before he is married so that the new wife won’t do to Adele what was done to her, and that she won’t have to suffer watching the pair. Yeah Jane’s life nearly always sucks. Of course the manga shows a bit more romantic tension and guessing/misunderstanding between the two but as anyone would have guessed he doesn’t want to marry old prissy breeches! He loves Jane, she being totally different to everyone he knows (basically she has morals and standards) but damn the scene where Jane spills her heart out is probably my favourite page.
So that’s it happily ever after… Hell no! This is Jane Eyre, more suffering please! So in the lead up to the wedding we have Jane and Rochester being totally adorable, Jane deliberately teasing him while she has the power to xD the night before the wedding however her veil is torn by… well… something? Those of you who have read Jane Eyre know the shit storm about to hit but for those of you who haven’t read it I won’t spoil it as it is such a major blow it needs to be read, and it also sets up for the last half of the book!
Jane Eyre is an exceptional story as you’d expect from a classic piece of literature, the characters are all diverse and wonderfully flawed as well as likable. There’s more than a few moments when you would like to reach in and just guide them in another direction but unfortunately life doesn’t work that way and you have to watch them recover or not recover from their faults. This manga adaption is excellent, for one it’s one of the thickest manga’s I’ve seen xD thick enough to use as a defensive weapon at least! The art work is consistent but simpler than the Pride and Prejudice adaption (different artists) but that actual suits Jane Eyre better, her story features poverty and simplicity a lot more than the decadence of Pride and Prejudices story.
The story is also wonderfully kept intact, even the language used is kept the same and not reworded to suit modern English, which although it might be easier for some, it does lose some of the historical feel. My one nit-pick however is the comedy, for me it wasn’t really that much of an issue as I’ve read or watched a lot of adaptions of Jane Eyre but for people who like the feel of the classic or who are looking for something darker this does not go there. This is manga so there are humorous faces drawn and some situations which you know are actually quite horrifying are glazed over. For example the situation after Helen’s death shows a kind of blase attitude like whoops all those girls are dead but look at how silly Mr Brocklehurst looks now.
A lot of the darker themes in Thornfield are removed as well, or glossed over lightly, for example the master-servant dynamic between Rochester and Jane especially towards the wedding is slightly more dangerous in the book as well as Rochester’s desire for Jane. But none of this really hurts the manga if you look at it for what it is. I’m glad they kept most of the book in and captured all the key moments and themes. If anything this really just proves to me that more books should be given manga versions xD classic love stories especially!
If you love Jane Eyre and manga then this will be a wonderful time for you, if you like romances with a bit of twist and difficulty you will also enjoy this. Anyone looking for the dark, gothic adaption of this tale is better off looking at the films or reading the book because that it certainly isn’t. Regardless this is definitely a great adaption and a wonderful idea to manga up these works of literature!
Also please forgive the image quality orz I haven’t got a scanner available so this was the best I could do T^T