Everyone with whom I have conversed longer than five minutes knows that I am obsessed with Jane Eyre.

Well, perhaps that is a mild exaggeration, but it is certainly not a mild obsession.

Surprisingly, the pool of people who understand and appreciate my devotion to the 1847 novel by Charlotte Brontë resembles a puddle in May–small and ever-shrinking. Alas, no one seems to have the time to read an incredibly important piece of British literature. You have other important tasks to accomplish each day… sleep, socializing, and being “normal.” (Normal is overrated.)

The conversational prospects of a generation with a limited understanding of the classics often leaves me feeling rather morose and parties dreadfully dull. But is it possible that adaptations in other print mediums might make classics cool enough to become mainstream again? (And thereby save my social conversations?!)

 

The story of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë has been adapted into a variety of shorter print mediums: manga, graphic novel, comic book, and even children’s board books. With all of these additional adaptations of the novel and other classics readily accessible, it is possible to read the story–with pictures!– in a couple of hours.

However, are these print adaptations written and designed in the spirit of Brontë’s groundbreaking work? I examined three to find out.

Jane Eyre: The Graphic Novel (2010)

Gale Cengage Learning has developed a series of graphic novels adapted from literature.

jane graphic novel cover
Brontë, Charlotte, and Amy Corzine. Jane Eyre: the graphic novel. Detroit: Lucent, 2010. Print.
Image retrieved from http://images.paperbackswap.com/l/53/3753/9781420503753.jpg

Jane Eyre: The Graphic Novel, adapted with an original script by Amy Corzine, features beautiful artwork along with an abridged presentation in modern language of the classic story.

Featuring conventional chapter numbers and text reminiscent of the original, the heart of this adaptation is in its art. It truly seems as if each image conveys one thousand words to the reader.

But how does it compare to the original?

Here is one of the most famous passages in Jane Eyre by Brontë. It is a moment when Jane finally expresses her independence and everything she has been holding inside:

‘I tell you I must go!’ I retorted, roused to something

like passion. ‘Do you think I can stay to become nothing
to you? Do you think I am an automaton?—a machine
without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread
snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed
from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure,
plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think
wrong!—I have as much soul as you,—and full as much
heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and
much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to
leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not
talking to you now through the medium of custom,
conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;—it is my spirit
that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through
the grave, and we stood at
God’s feet, equal,—as we are!’
‘As we are!’ repeated Mr. Rochester—‘so,’ he added,
enclosing me in his arms. Gathering me to his breast,
pressing his lips on my lips: ‘so, Jane!’ (482)

Retrieved from a free online PDF of Jane Eyre.

Here is the same passage in Gale Cengage Learning’s graphic novel:

Jane: “I cannot stay and be nothing to you.

Do you think because I am poor and plain, that I don’t have feelings?

It is my spirit that talks to your spirit now–

as your equal!

Rochester: “Yes, you are!”(78)

Thus, the spirit remains present, but the language, reasoning, and story in the graphic novel sort of seems like an apparition of Brontë’s work passed through the grave.

Jane Eyre: Manga Classics (2016)

jane manga cover
Bronte, Charlotte, Crystal S. Chan, SunNeko Lee. Manga Classics: Jane Eyre. Ontario: Udon Entertainment, 2016. Print. Image retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/netgalley-covers/cover98168-medium.png

Crystal S. Chan and SunNeko Lee breath new life into the elf-like qualities of the character of Jane Eyre. In fact, I find the medium of manga to be an appropriate modern equivalent to the moody, Gothic romance originally published by Brontë in 1847. The brilliant art of Lee enhances the tale’s presentation  of morality and passion. Furthermore, Chan somehow manages to put a modern spin on the language while conveying to readers a suitably British tone.

But how does it compare to the original?

Well, here is the same scene in the manga adaptation of Jane standing up for her independent will:

Jane: “Do you think I can stay and become nothing to you?

Do you think I am a machine without feelings?

Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless?

You think wrong!

I have as much soul as you–and fully as much heart! If God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking with you now through the medium of customs and traditions.

It is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if we had both passed through the grave, and stood at God’s feet, equal as we are!”

Rochester: “As we are. So, Jane.” (198-199)

The illustrations do not march on in uniform and beautiful boredom as they do in a graphic novel. Lee provides close-ups of faces in emotional moments and larger illustrations of more pivotal moments in a puzzle-like whole that reads as if one is watching a movie. Readers can almost ignore the text completely and page through the illustrations and capture the passion of the work.

Thus, the creators of this print adaptation present the spirit of the novel in an abbreviated and artistic form worth of the classics with few deviations. Although, the characters are a little too beautiful in all of their wide-eyed glory to fit the description of the original author.

Just remember to start reading “backwards” in the tradition of manga or you will ruin the ending!

Jane Eyre: Classics Illustrated, V0l. 39 (Comic)

 

jane comic
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre:Classics Illustrated, Vol. 39. Trajectory, Inc: 2013. E-book. 

The Classics Illustrated Series began to be published in 1941 and includes everything from Moby Dick to Hamlet. However, when I first discovered their comedic comic adaptation of Jane Eyre. I had to double check that someone had not accidentally digitized my grandmother’s horde of Prince Valiant comics by mistake.

The adaptation of Jane Eyre by Classics Illustrated is a blast from the past with a shot of nostalgia. At a mere 52 pages, it is ideal for someone trying to get the gist of the story of Jane Eyre without putting a whole lot of effort in it.

If you wanted to know characters’ names for crossword clues, for example.

But how does it compare to the original?

Well, I’ll let you take a look at the same scene (bottom row)…

Jane Eyre Comic.jpg
Page 36

For the sake of telling the “story,” the creators of this comic adaptation of Jane Eyre neglected to include even a bit of one of the most iconic speeches by a woman in British Literature (my humble opinion). Additionally, although you could breeze through this comic in mere minutes, the story is so abbreviated that several chapters are sometimes told on a single page.

In fact, I would argue that this comic is not an adaptation of Brontë’s classic literature at all, but a comic adaptation of a film adapted from the novel. I see a much closer resemblance to the actors and their portrayal than the characters I value from the text.

So, what now?

In my quest to examine other print adaptations of Jane Eyre, I discovered new perspectives about the story I love to the point of obsession. Although I believe nothing could replace the value of reading the actual novel…

Some other print mediums like graphic novels, manga, and comics do a fine job of presenting the spirit of the classics. If you want to capture the soul of the story, nothing can substitute reading literature. But the fabulous 2016 manga adaptation would only take a couple of hours to consume… and there are more out there!

So, the conclusion of my case study is that you are out of excuses. Go read an adapted classic and make one of your nerdy friends extraordinarily happy at some social gathering in the near future.

But, if you’re planning on reading Jane Eyre, may I recommend the Cozy Classics board book over the Classics Illustrated comic? Trust me, those felt renditions of the characters are more accurate.