I love Jane Eyre. Her story is the perfect mixture of love, tragedy, self-victory, passion, and eventually, "happily ever after" ... the ideal Valentine romance. A few years ago a new film of Jane Eyre was released, and my girlfriends flocked to the theater to see this latest chick-flick.
Afterwards, we discussed all of the heart-wrenching details. "Mr. Rochester was so handsome." "Jane was so right." "True love always prevails." Any girl longs to be smart, modest, serene, quietly beautiful, and completely adored by someone who needs her desperately.
Jane Eyre was written in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte, and yet in today's 2014 society, I find it a bit ironic that Miss Eyre is still so popular. Let's see... She works hard to overcome a terrible life (Jane has every right to be on food stamps, collect welfare and claim hardships). She's honest to the penny in her dealings with Mr. Rochester (even though life really owes her). She loves him. When she discovers that he's already married (and every sympathetic human would agree that, in her particular situation, infidelity is allowed), she refuses to be with him. Tall, rich, handsome Mr. Rochester begs her to stay! He cries, he rants, he does everything in his power to hold her, yet she turns and leaves! How old-fashioned! If Jane's story had taken place in this day and age, she surely would have ignored the crazy wife and eloped to enjoy a life of wealth and ease. No vows, no commitments, yet all of the pleasures of marriage.
As if headlines aren't enough to portray the societal demise of marriage, I recently read a parenting manual from a friend. Never once in the entire booklet were the terms "spouse," "husband" or "wife" used. Instead, the information provided tips on maintaining healthy relationships with a "partner." I've had partners before -- while playing games, during a school science lab, or in business. Isn't a partner a sort of temporary arrangement? I would hesitate to attempt the difficulties of marriage and parenting without some commitment on my side.
Ironically, Jane wasn't content with just a partner. She knew that marriage was the only right choice for her and her sweetheart. After many months of separation she felt compelled to return to Mr. Rochester. Jane found him now legally unmarried (and unfortunately blind, maimed and a ruined man) and yet, in this new situation, she married him! Ironic? Perhaps. Handsome, rich, prince charming was no longer good looking or wealthy. Yet, he was now legally available, and so they were married at long last. Why? It could only have been true love.
In Jane's own words she felt "supremely blessed" and "happy." We might question their happiness, since they didn't follow any of the modern trends of pleasure. There was no prenuptial agreement, they had no fancy house, there was no honeymoon overseas. Somehow, though, I think perhaps Jane Eyre's marriage was much more fulfilling than many of the unions we read about in the news today. Her happy marriage is made obvious in the fact that such an old-fashioned girl could still be the envy of many young girl hearts, 167 years after publication.
According to this outdated love story, commitment is a remarkable remedy for life's challenges. My favorite reprieve from the storms of life is to put my head on the shoulder of someone I love, someone who will listen, someone who will take me at face value and let me tell my side of the story, and still stick with me. And there's no greater comfort in the world than knowing that I'm bound to that person for the rest of our lives.
True love? Ironically, I recommend "Miss Eyre": old-fashioned, moral, hard-working, honest, true to the commitment of marriage -- the perfect chick-flick. This Valentine's Day, I'm celebrating a Jane Eyre romance ... good husband, happy marriage. Those with such satisfaction are rich - as rich as Jane and her Mr. Rochester.