Creepy themes prevalent in classic romantic literature

Hiya, team!  Happy 2011.  Hope your holidays were excellent.  Mine were rainy.  But I finally finished the bedroom curtains (yay!) and hopefully will blog about that soon.  Didn’t get to tramp the Makarora (gutted!) due to rain.  Also, we’ve finally narrowed down our 2011 tramp to be the Dart-Rees.  I know – I didn’t even mention it on my last post.  However, a little additional research has led us to believe the Dart-Rees will be our best bet for an excellent, not too expensive, not too demanding, not too far away tramp for this year.

The other thing I managed to do over the holidays was a lot of reading.  Yep, my classic literature has been going well (although, Dexter is Delicious and Dead in the Family hardly count as classics.  However, I enjoyed reading them immensely!).  I read Jane Eyre, and recently finished Rebecca.  And let me say, what surprising similarities!  They weren’t exactly the same…  but I would like to highlight some similarities (warning – SPOILERS!).

  • Young English woman marries a very wealthy man over twice her age
  • For both Mr. Rochester and Mr. de Winter, it’s the second marriage
  • Man’s first wife = batshit insane, and the plot devices surround her
  • The man’s huge mansion goes up in flames

You see the similarities.  I suspect there are probably more.  It was a bit odd though, reading them right in a row like that.  I couldn’t help wondering with both books though, being classic romances, what sort of message is being sent to young, impressionable women/girls?  Hold out for a man over twice your age who is wealthy English aristocracy? That can’t be it, can it?  It’s actually a bit creepy.  I mean, if you watch the 2006 version of Jane Eyre, I can see the attraction in Mr. Rochester, but in reality, it’s creepy, he manipulates her emotions, and in the book I picture him as kind of humpbacked or something (I think it’s the barrel chested description given of him).  Sort of, beauty and the beast-ish.  I must quote from this article:

But his Rochester carries with him the unmistakable, intoxicating whiff of sex, and a dark undertow of danger.

Add to that an emotionally-damaged psyche, a tormented sense of responsibility to a crazed, imprisoned wife and what right-thinking woman could possibly resist? Apart from Jane Eyre, it would appear. But she was only 19, so her biological clock wasn’t yet ticking.

Jane Eyre (2006 version)

And people complain Twilight sends a bad message about relationships???  It ain’t a new literary theme, folks.  Sure Edward is obsessive, but Mr. de Winter killed his first wife.  Mr. Rochester secretly locked his first wife up in his house.  And both were much older than the heroine in each story.  Of course, in both cases the author rationalizes the act and I suppose you get the sense of love overcomes all but c’mon, these girls are 19 and 21 years old!  I remember what sort of decisions I made at that age.  I can remember making poor decisions at the age of 25.  In fact, sometimes I still make poor decisions.

Maybe it’s the appeal of the older man?  I’ll admit I’ve found the occasional older man attractive…  Hugh Jackman (+14 years), Alexander Skarsgard (+7 years), but they’re not old old.  At least, not the same age gap that we are talking about in these books.  To get the same age gap, I’d have to be pining over Kevin Bacon (+25 years), Colin Firth (+23 years), Sean Penn (+23 years) or Antonio Banderas (+23 years).  Okay, maybe those are not good examples…  In fact, all the aforementioned men are reasonably attractive for OLD men.  But still, you get the idea – they are old!  Too old, in my opinion.

I admit the appeal of Eric Northman and he’s a 1000 year old vampire, but he’s also portrayed by Skarsgard who is the youngest on this list, and hottest too, in my humble opinion.  And, well, vampires don’t actually get old, and are usually turned in the prime of their life (between about 18 and 35), etc. etc.

Admit it, if you were at a bar and you saw an extremely rich, 40something man hitting on 19 or 20 year old girls, you would think “ewwwww duchebag.”  I know I would.  So why is this acceptable in literature?  I’ll admit I was sucked into the story of Jane Eyre (if you watch the movie you’ll be seriously deceived about the age gap.  I believe they glossed over that fact a wee bit, in the 2006 version, there are only 13 years difference between the actors portraying our lovers).  I guess it all comes back to the joys of fiction.

Well, at least I can still watch the 1940s Alfred Hitchcock version of Rebecca.  I must say I’m pretty excited, the novel was only written in 1938 and Hitchcock picked it up right away (I can see the appeal for him, really I can).  It’s ranked as one the top 100 movies according to (NZ version of netflix).

Yay for classic literature, eh?


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