A novel must show how the world truly is, how characters genuinely think, and how events actually occur. A novel should somehow reveal the true source of our actions. This summarises exactly what classic British literature does, and should continue to do, for its readers. For centuries it has been what distinguishes us from other countries, and has acted as a window for those countries into the wonders and the root of British culture.
Having just finished watching yet another film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, I feel I am yet again left with the same feelings as the last. The film was all very fast-paced – which I do not adhere to, as I understand the need to condense a novel into a two-hour period – However, I found myself thrown into a flurry of activity. From a storm, to the fight between Jane and John Reed, where she is locked in the haunted “Red Room”, and knocks herself out in a petrified fit. It is useful to note that this was all within eight minutes of the film’s beginning. I dare say that I am overwhelmed, but understand the need for this to entertain the modern audience.
Jane’s relationship with the notorious Edward Fairfax Rochester, known for it’s passion-awakening qualities is somewhat existent in this film adaptation. On the first meeting with Rochester, however, I felt none of the dark humour in him that left Jane ignorant of who he was, and him knowing her that we see in the novel. Reading the novel I found I had an inkling of the secretive man that Rochester is, but his parting words “who knows what might lurk in these dark woods” left a different feeling to mystery, shivering up my spine.
Just a few of these instances I have mentioned in this particular film adaptation of a classic British novel are what have contributed to my siding with a ‘good old book’. From Charlotte Brontë to Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens, British authors have introduced the conventions of romance, tragedy and the gothic genre. It has only been recently that novels like Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice or Tess of the D’Urbervilles have been transformed into television productions and films. Thus giving avid readers a completely different image of the novel as the one they themselves had concocted.
Some may argue that there are benefits along with costs to this. Whilst some more traditional readers take pleasure in physically reading the novel, other more modernised people may jump right into watching the film. The true pleasures of indulging in a novel by using one’s own personal and unique imagination, to conjure up characters that differ from anyone else’s, are forgotten.
In the explanatory note that precedes Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Hardy writes that Tess of the D’Urbervilles represents “on the whole a true sequence of things” and grew out of his wish “to have it said what everybody thinks and feels”. This is exactly what novels do. They let us shadow the narrator or protagonist’s lives that often so closely relate to the events of reality – yes, even over one hundred years later. Novels tell the reader that even in the most unconventional of circumstances, love is possible for even the Heathcliffs (Wuthering Heights) or Mr Rochesters (Jane Eyre) in the world.
Studying British Literature should not just be reserved for English Literature GCSEs or A-Levels, where one is just trying to get what is needed from the novel in order to answer the exam question. These undyingly classic novels should be devoured within an inch of their lives to decipher the meanings behind them. Because that’s just it – A novel can have profuse amounts of effects on its reader.
Therefore, I propose, to not banish the enjoyment of a good classic film, but just remember the root of that film. Help to carve the idea of physically flicking the paper pages of a good novel, instead of pausing a television, into the heads of our young generation. By wanting to read these novels, help to maintain our libraries by scouring the aisles, inhaling the scent of those novels that all have had a journey, and contain in them an adventure waiting to be taken.