Friday, October 23, 2009

Jane Eyre (1847)

“Reader, I married him.” Who is the reader, and who married whom? Of course, the prudish Jane Eyre married the single-again Rochester and this has to be the first line of the last chapter of the famous novel by Charlotte Bronte.

At least this is how “reader” has been understanding it since 1847, and “reader” could be anyone from billions of people who, in every region of the world, have become familiar with this story in original or through abridgement, translation or adaptation. Its popularity across cultures is mind-boggling: the video here shows Zeba as Jane Eyre rescuing Waheed Murad as Rochester in the partially inspired Armaan (1966), while another famous song “Abhi dhoondh hi rahi thhi, tumhien yeh nazar hamari” comes from yet another version, and there was at least one more.

Of course, the most enduring loan from Jane Eyre has been the wonderful announcement in Chapter 26: “The marriage cannot go on.” It has been repeated countless times on Indian and Pakistani screen in its Urdu variation, “Yeh shadi nahi ho sakti.” You didn't know that this quotable quote was from English literature?).

Apart from popular culture, Jane Eyre has never ceased to be taught in schools, colleges and universities. Such global adoration is usually reserved for some scriptures, Rumi and Shakespeare. How did a nineteenth century forerunner of Mills & Boons conquer an empire that was bigger than Queen Victoria’s, and more lasting?

I had posted this far when I received the comment (see below), "Talking about Bronte, I think she always wrote for pleasure or love. I didnt find any purpose or a desire to change the world in her novels yet I have the widest collection..." Precisely, that's how I used to think when I started building my personal collection of works by and about the Bronte sisters.

Until I realized that probably Charlotte Bronte is one of the few who can change the world. TODAY.


  1. hmm...talking about Bronte, I think she always wrote for pleasure or love. I didnt found any purpose or a desire to change the world in her novels yet I have the widest collection.

    She wins my heart for sure and like me thousands of other young girls and women even in sub-continent also. There was some consistency in her characters and stories though all mark their own identity in the literature.

    They didnt gave her any recomendation in history or litery prizes but she has thousands of reader all over the world. Thats why she continues writing.

    I once read that she had been living in India too. May be that is how she come to know about our cultures and values or may be it was just her imaginations.

    The writers took inspiration from sub-continent when it was in British rule and all of them were free to come and visit India. I think thats the reason so many sentenses or metaphore used by Eourpian writers indirectly relate our culture.

  2. Wah! Akaley na jana, whenever one listens,same pathos, same charisma and same intoxication.

    Charlotte's sister Emily Bronte wrote the famous WUTHERING HEIGHTS which is another novel providing lot of raw material to Pakistani Movies.

  3. Thinking and Akhtar, thanks. I shall comment on the comment of Thinking in my next post, but regarding WUTHERING HEIGHTS, apart from proper adaptations such as DIL DIYA DARD LIYA (Indian, starring Dilip Kumar), it was also alluded to in ARMAAN, if you remember the few sequences preceding the climax where Nasir (Waheed Murad) is wandering alone in the hillside and feels that he's being visited by the spirit of his presumed-dead beloved. That's so reminiscent of Kathy.

    In fact, ARMAAN is nothing less than a Who's Who of Western literature. So far I have discovered allusions to the following classics in this movie: Cinderella, She Stoops to Conquer, Taming of the Shrew, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and a few more which I am forgetting now. This does not included Persian and Urdu classics such as Nezami Ganjavi, Iqbal and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who have been literally paraphrased in some of the most memorable passages in the movie (when "Jane" rescues "Rochester" in this climactic song posted here, she sings 'Akele na jana' which is a faithful translation of Layla's love letter to Majnu in the Persian classic LAYLA MAJNU by Nezami Ganjavi).

    Lol, do you think this comment should be posted as a separate entry?

  4. Shafique Sahib

    Thanks for your comment.

    I have this habit of exaggerating every thing

    Let me correct myself that I have few books of Jane Austen and Anne Bronte.

    hmm...talking about your comment...isnt it interesting that literature after all the differences between nations have a common strategy ?
    Like : a) true love wins, b) you cant only think about yourself, c) honesty wins, d)beauty lies in the eyes of on and so forth.

    I would love to read more from you on the same topic.

    keep up the good work.

  5. Thinking, thanks. Iqbal believed that there were only two types of literature: the one that celebrates ugliness and aims to create an elitist class while discrediting the unschooled and illiterate. He didnt name anyone except Plato, but he gave clear hint that would place Yeats, Eliot, Shaw, Pitras Bokhari and most of the 20th Century writers in this category. No matter what country they belong to, they are unhappy and they look down upon the masses as inferior.

    The other kind of literature celebrates beauty and perpetuates those values which you have mentioned. They are the writers who truly bring humanity closer. Unfortunately, Iqbal was perhaps the last of them to be recognized academically. Practically all other writers of this school who came after him (with the exception of Mustansar Husain Tarar), have gone unacknowledged because the so-called literary criticism is dominated by the other school, the school of thought which does not believe that these values should be projected in literature.

    I call the first school "the mind of Europe" (taking a phrase from T S Eliot) and the second "the spirit of all human beings" (taking a phrase from Sir Syed). Since 1919, the mind of Europe has suppressed the spirit of all human beings, and the disastrous effect of this tyranny are now becoming visible.

  6. hmm... I dont even call it literature if it lack any moral or didnt even give any happiness to its reader at the end.

    Though, world full of variety of people and every person contains it own way of taking things or thinking.

    But I strongly belive that with a little concern and effort the first kind of literaturre (as you defined) can be overlapped by the second.

    I think it just require our recomendation to new readers. If only they listen to us.

  7. New readers always go for "the spirit of all human beings" stuff. Teachers and parents force them to read "the mind of Europe" :)

  8. I am a devout fan of classical literature and the Bronte sisters with Jane Eyre as one of the top pieces of writing. I did not however, find the comparison you made between 'this marriage cannot go on ' and 'yeh shadi nahi ho saktey' as I see the the English sentence talking about a continuation of an event and the Urdr sentence a mere begining. I am surprised that you would not see the distinction and would compare the two.

  9. Anonymous, thanks for your interesting comment. In the chapter where the English line occurs, it also refers to a mere beginning :)

  10. What a lively and enjoyable dialogue...

    I read -Wuthering Heights- on back of motorcycle in Africa and somehow doing so helped to unify for me Africa and the wide world with love...

    This is the most interesting line in this conversation above for which I will look to see more development:

    "Until I realized that probably Charlotte Bronte is one of the few who can change the world. TODAY."

    Do keep going...

  11. Thinking: Charlotte Brontë in India? Please enlighten me.

    Here is the only photograph of Charlotte Brontë:

  12. Qayoom Sahib

    I have to go thorugh and check where I had read this statement. Will come back with the name of the reference book or chapter then...hmm...

    Or may be I just make it

    I wonder what would be the charge ??? :)

  13. To conceive Bronte's Indian connection would be rather far fetched. However,the Bronte sisters, while at Haworth did create imaginary kingdom of "Gondal" and also consider the comment " Numerous other works have left their mark on the Brontës; namely the Thousand and One Nights for example, which inspired Jinn in which they became themselves in the centre of their kingdoms, while adding a touch of exoticism."