When Jane Austen died in 1817, she ascended to the status of legend. While we talk about her in terms of her as a giant of literature, she was also a human being.
Published in 2013, The Real Jane Austen, by Paula Byrne, extend’s Austen’s legend while at the same time speaking of ordinary things that made her human. Ms. Byrne writes about the ordinary aspects of Austen’s life: a gold chain, a hat, a notebook, etc. Interweaving aspect of her life with her novels and her characters, the book speaks to Austen fans whom have cravings to learn about the minutiae of her life and only come to appreciate her more once they have read the book.
I’ve read a lot about Jane Austen (as anyone who knows me and/or follows this blog). She is one of my writing heroes and never fails to inspire me. What I truly appreciated about this book is that not only is the mostly non-linear narrative, but there is a life to this biography. By writing not just about the large accomplishments, but about the tiny details of Austen’s life, Ms. Byrne has only increased my appreciation for Jane Austen.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
The best love stories always have an obstacle to the potential happiness of the couple. The best stories sometimes have a character who is standing in the way of their own happiness. This, in a nutshell is Catherine Earnshaw, the heroine of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
Catherine is the daughter of the local gentry. We first meet Catherine when her father brings home Heathcliff, her adopted brother/soulmate. Catherine and Heathcliff grow up together, joined at the hip until they reach early adulthood. Then reality sets in. Mr. Earnshaw dies and Catherine’s older brother, Hindley becomes master of Wuthering Heights. Hindley was never fond of Heathcliff when they were boys. Without anyone to stand in his way, Hindley openly and maliciously abuses Heathcliff.
While this is happening, the audience and Catherine are introduced to the brother and sister duo of Edgar and Isabella Linton. While it is obvious that there is a strong connection between Catherine and Heathcliff, there is also the pressure of the world of Victorian era England. It would be a disgrace for Catherine to marry Heathcliff, despite their deep love. Heathcliff has no money, no social standing and his origins are unknown. In short, it would cause quite the scandal if the lovers were to marry.
“I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”
After Catherine marries Edgar and Heathcliff disappears, she appears for a time, to have put aside the wild child sensibility and become a proper lady. But when Heathcliff returns as a wealthy man and starts to not court Isabella, Catherine becomes jealous. Pitting her husband and her soulmate against one another, she becomes ill and dies just moments after her daughter in born.
To sum it up: There are always obstacles, whether on the page or in life. We have two choices, we can find a way to overcome the obstacles or we can take the easy way out. Catherine unfortunately, takes the easy way out and pays for her choices. As writers, we don’t always have to lead our characters down the right path. Sometimes, we lead our characters go down the wrong path and let them pay for their choices.
When a film is adapted from a comic book, it must two serve purposes and two masters. It must please the comic’s core fanbase while appealing to new fans. It must also, as best as the creative team can, full transplant the narrative and characters from the page to the screen.
In 2003, the film adaptation of the comic book The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen hit the big screen. In an AU (alternate universe) Victorian era, a group of heroes from famous novels must come together to save the world. The group includes Tom Sawyer (Shane West), from the classic Mark Twain novel, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, and Mina Harker (Peta Wilson) from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Led by Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) from H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, this band of adventurers and heroes must save the world from a villain known as the Fantom.
Bear in mind that I have never read the comic book and when I saw the movie, I was unaware that the source material comes from a comic book. As a standalone movie, it’s ok. It’s just the run of the mill film adaptation of a comic book that is top-heavy on special effects and light on both character and narrative.