I’m not the biggest fan of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’d actually rather watch one of the many screen adaptations than ever read the book again. It’s not a bad book, it’s just not particularly exciting and it’s really long. (Plus, I’m not sure Rochester is the ideal literary gentleman, even if he might be more realistic.)
But what I don’t like is when people think they can retell a classic story like Jane Eyre and do whatever they want with it. Like, for instance, My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.
My Plain Jane is a comedic retelling of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte centered around a ghost hunt and the many secrets and hauntings of Thornfield Hall and its owner the mysterious Mr. Rochester.
You see, if My Plain Jane was not a retelling of Jane Eyre but was simply a fun, ghost-hunting adventure set during the Victorian era, it would work so well. I wouldn’t be worried about inconsistencies within the story or why the heck Charlotte and Jane so obsessed with boys when that isn’t accurate at all. Plus, I wouldn’t care that they took such a beloved story and stripped it of everything important to make room for their own clever commentary, not-so-funny jokes, and fan-fiction-y additions.
For one, the characters are all wrong. Jane would never act the way she does in this book, post-modern feminism be damned. Plus, they constantly remind us over and over that Jane is plain. Plain. As if the title of the book, My Plain Jane, wasn’t a big enough indicator, we need to be reminded every other chapter how plain she is. Gosh, use a thesaurus or something. Also, Rochester is not a villain, and this book sorta of makes him a villain. Yeah, he makes a lot of stupid decisions, but he’s not a villain. He’s also not supposed to be described as handsome. The whole point is he’s old and not handsome! It’s his mind and words that draw Jane to him, not his looks. And then there’s Rochester’s wife, Bertha.
In this book, she can see ghosts so she knows when a ghost takes over his husband’s body. Yet instead of calmly telling everybody (like, I don’t know, a normal person) that her husband has been possessed by a ghost, she starts screaming and acting like a crazy person (lighting beds on fire, injuring her brother, scaring the heebie jeebies out of the literal ghosts at Thornfield), thus they lock her up. Honestly, it would have been so much better if Bertha had been possessed by a ghost OR been a ghost herself. It would have explained her character perfectly.
(Great, now I want to write a ghost-hunting adventure retelling of Jane Eyre but do it right.)
The new characters to the story (because that’s what fanfiction adds, right?) are none other than Charlotte Bronte herself and someone named Alexander. Charlotte would have been a wonderful character if A. She wasn’t Charlotte and B. She wasn’t in this book. I could honestly care less about Alexander. He’s whiny and full of himself and just plain predictable. In addition, we have an obviously evil Duke and Charlotte’s sweet-and definitely-not-a-terrible-drunk brother, Branwell.
Then there’s the entire plot of the book. For a book about Jane Eyre, Jane actually isn’t in it a whole lot. She is one of three revolving perspectives, and it always seems like her chapters are shorter than both Charlotte’s and Alexander’s. And then, because of the three perspectives, this book—despite being 452 amount of pages long—completely skips chunks of Jane Eyre‘s story line and for what? To make it more exciting? To include the ghost hunting aspects? Please, somebody, tell me!
They just skip past the whole Jane falls for Rochester after months of living at Thornfield, not a single month. Months. Then they skip Jane wandering around starving and begging for food and work for months to get her to the next “name dropped” place on the map. It’s almost like they flipped through the original novel and picked out parts they liked to guide their own version of the story. Yes, we must include the party scene/fortune teller when the Ingrams visit and we have show when St. John proposes to Jane, but instead of introducing a new character, let’s just have Branwell do it because he’s already here.
Like. What. Even.
You completely missed the entire point of Jane Eyre and what Charlotte Bronte was doing.
But it doesn’t stop there either. Oh, no. Instead, they have to throw in an even bigger picture, let’s save England and the world plot line because… well, because! Why does every YA book have to have this grand plot line. Why can’t we just have small-scale ghost-hunting adventure to solve the weirdo ghosts issues at that one mansion down the lane? Why not?
I’m totally rewriting this story to be better.
Oh, and don’t forget about the ending. After they save the world and everybody is happily in their right mind and body, no ghost possessions left, Jane still can’t be happy because Rochester remembers how much he loves Bertha and well, sorry, but the age gap is too gross to let them get married anyways. (I’m refraining from rolling my eyes right now.) BUT we have a solution! Yes, let’s just conveniently remember that Rochester and Bertha have a son—yes, a son!—that they sent away during Rochester’s possession. And he happens to be named, you guessed it, Edward Rochester and he’s the perfect age for Jane. The perfect age. Not 15 years older or anything. But the same age as her. You aren’t clever and cute to give Jane a happy ending with a Rochester anyways. It’s stupid.
Also, for the love of all things literature, can you stop making stupid references to Mr. Darcy being the perfect man and other Austen novels because it is literally a known fact that Charlotte Bronte could care less about Jane Austen’s novels. Jane and Charlotte wouldn’t think Mr. Darcy is the perfect man.
Basically, My Plain Jane is a sad attempt for a clever retelling of Jane Eyre. As much as I like the idea of ghost-hunting at Thornfield, it doesn’t work when you strip away everything else that makes Jane Eyre, well, Jane Eyre to create your own story to your liking. Just write your own original story and leave Jane and Rochester out of it.