A postscript to our story about the newest film version of Jane Eyre: the Washington Post suggests that one of the factors for the success of one or the other — Austen or Brontë — during certain periods might be economic:
Some analysts have wondered if the Brontes are built for economic downturn — that difficult times draw us to difficult stories. The Bronte heroes find happiness, but not without losing a hand or their eyesight, or having their manor burned down. It’s a bruised happiness, one that might appeal to the foreclosed modern viewer.
The new version of “Jane Eyre” hits most of the pleasure centers required of any good “Jane” adaptation. It has the horrible Red Room, the “left rib” speech, the muddy moors. It also handles gracefully the last third of the book, in which Jane lives with a minister and his sisters — which other versions have either ignored or totally mucked up.
The same piece insists that there’s an additional contender for this rumble: one that’s overdue for another adaptation: George Eliot’s “study of provincial life” Middlemarch. That’s a fight I’d go see.