Monday, July 13, 2015

PLAYING FAVORITES


In her NYUS blog of May 20, Building a Character—One Trait at a Time, Sharon Calvin ended with a question:  “Do you have any favorite character(s)?  What . . . makes them memorable to you?”

For me there could be only one answer, Jane Eyre.  And that set me thinking.  Why was Jane Eyre my all time-favorite character?

 

Well, for one, she fulfills that basic requirement for any protagonist—she’s sympathetic (exception, the anti-hero, but that’s a subject for a different blog).  As the story unfolds, heartless Aunt Reed treats Jane with what today would be called child abuse, siding with her bullying son, locking poor Jane in a dark, gloomy room.  That alone puts the reader squarely on the child’s side.  But Bronte doesn’t leave it at that.  Her heroine fights back.  Alone, orphaned, unloved and unwelcomed though she is, Jane has the courage to defy Mrs. Reed and, of course, is punished.

The punishment-- Jane fans know this already--is banishment to the harsh Lowood School (isn’t the name perfect?) under the cruel direction of Mr. Brocklehurst.

But for a kind teach, Miss Temple, Jane would have died there as does her friend Helen (in the 1944 movie version famously played by a preadolescent Elizabeth Taylor). 

When adult Jane leaves Lowood to strike out and see something of the world that has been denied her for so long, we cheer her on as we read.  Despite all she’s endured, her childhood spunk is alive and well.  And as governess of little Adele, Mr. Rochester’s ward—and unacknowledged daughter—she lavishes her with kindness.   In this case, an abused child has not grown up to become an abuser.

So what impact did my favorite character have on writing a favorite character of my own?  At first glance, not much.  When the reader meets Deva Dunne, the protagonist and amateur sleuth in my Murders by Design series, she is an adult, was never mistreated as a child, and is now a sexy, twenty-first century woman with a talent for solving crimes.  But Deva, like Jane, lost her mother as a child, so she knew sorrow early in life and as the series opens, she is a young and recent widow still mourning her beloved husband.

 

Yet part of the joy and, yes, the fun in reading about Deva is how she fights, like Jane, to rebuild her life.  As Jane left Lowood, Deva leaves familiar surroundings to seek a brand new life.  Not Thornfield Hall--Naples, Florida.  And that doesn’t include a Mr. Rochester but a guy named Rossi.  Like Mr. Rochester, Lieutenant Rossi is also irascible, difficult and—this is very important—smoldering.  Though a feminist before the word became an everyday term, Jane like Deva ultimately finds much happiness in a life with her man.  I like to believe this is part of the reason the reader enjoys knowing them.  They’re both independent-minded women who face death, and life, with courage.

Okay, I don’t want to push the comparisons too far here.  Jane and Deva are entirely different people.  What remains similar, though--and what inspired me about Jane--is her ability to rise above her problems, and not permit them to defeat her.  Deva doesn’t either.  Ask Rossi.

 

 
Links: cozy mystery, Amazon, Charlotte Bronte, interior design, Naples, Florida. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

Strong heroines are so appealing! I love reading about how they've overcome their past and how it shaped who they are. :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Nice comparison, Jean, and interesting post.

Cathy Perkins said...

I love strong heroines as well! Good post, Jean.

jean harrington said...

Thanks fellow writers. Bet you noticed the typo. Shame on me. The spirit is willing, the fingers screw up. I think that's how that goes.

Rita said...

Very nice. I think we all have a books we build our own characters on. And... no I didn't notice a typo. :-)

Sharon Calvin said...

I love misunderstood heroines--the reader gets to see the real character while the hero and others only see the public persona. The way she is revealed to the hero keeps me turning pages. One of the better examples of this is the Duchess of Dunbarton, from Mary Balogh's A Secret Affair.

I love how Ms. Balogh shows this heroine's transformation as the Duchess tests her wings in her new-found freedom.

jean harrington said...

Rita, Very funny. And Sharon, will look for Balogh's A Secret Affair. Always enjoy hearing about interesting reads.

Cathy Perkins said...

Where is the "like" button for people's comments! :)