A Playlist for Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre has not had the easiest life. She may not be a great beauty, but she possesses brains, dignity, passion, and a strong desire for independence. Her sense of honor and justice prevails as she faces numerous hardships, from being orphaned and enduring cruelty from her aunt, to being sent away to a brutal boarding school, to falling in love with a man who (spoiler alert) has an insane wife locked away in his mansion. Jane’s playlist is one that reflects the strong but dreamy spirit of Brontë’s heroine.
“Control” – Poe
Jane does not live in a society that encourages female independence, but that doesn’t stop her from seeking it. Whether via escaping the abuses of her aunt or boarding school, she always seeks a way to assert her autonomy. Poe’s song lists a series of grievances at being neglected and mistreated, but triumphs with the announcement that all the while, “I was taking control.”
“Left of Center” – Suzanne Vega
Living in a time where females are expected to be obedient, Jane exhibits a rebellious streak and isn’t afraid to speak up when she feels she’s being diminished because of her gender or class. This boldness is what makes her stand out to Rochester and forms a kinship between them.
“I think that somehow
Somewhere inside of us
We must be similar
If not the same
So I continue
To be wanting you
Left of center
Against the grain”
“Sweet Jane” – Cowboy Junkies
While Jane is fierce and headstrong, she has a softer, passionate side as well. Apart from its title, this song also aptly reflects her at her most wistful.
“Anyone who's ever had a dream
Anyone who's ever played a part
Anyone who's ever been lonely
and anyone who's ever split apart”
“Bluebeard” – Cocteau Twins
The lyrics, in which a woman questions whether her paramour is suitable, certainly resonate with Jane. The title is a callback to a story in which a wife must avoid a room in a castle that reveals her husband’s dark deeds, so this one might be more painful to listen to after she discovers the crazy wife Rochester has been hiding away.
“Are you the right man for me?
Are you safe? Are you my friend?
Or are you toxic for me?
Will you mistreat me
Or betray all my confidence?”
“Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” – Nina Simone
This remix of Nina Simone’s song of adoration and longing is one Ms. Eyre is drawn to, especially after her strong principles cause her to leave Rochester despite being in love with him.
“Oh I love my lover
And well he knows
Yes, I love the ground on where he goes
And still I hope
That the time will come
When he and I will be as one”
“This is Heaven to Me” – Billie Holiday
Jane would’ve appreciated the soul and strife running through the songs of Billie Holiday. Both are women who did things their way, despite judgment or social expectations.
“So when I hear them say
There's better living
Let them go their way
To that new living
I won't ever stray
'Cause this is heaven to me”
“Nobody Sees Me Like You Do” – Yoko Ono (with The Apples in Stereo)
The irony of this one, considering Jane ends up caring for Rochester after he goes blind in a fire, is fully intentional. However it works on a sincere level, too, because Rochester recognizes something special in our heroine that nobody else does, which draws her back to him after she initially leaves him.
“I wanna quit moving,
I wanna quit running,
I wanna relax and be tender.
I wanna see us together again”
“Glory Box” – Portishead
This trip-hop tune initially seems sad and defeated, but builds up into a sweeping and hopeful love song, which is an apt metaphor for the romance that develops and endures between Jane and Rochester.
“From this time, unchained
We're all looking at a different picture
Through this new frame of mind
A thousand flowers could bloom
Move over, and give us some room”
Below is the full playlist, and let us know on Twitter @QuirkBooks if you have any song to add!
Margarita writes upmarket fiction and is represented by Victoria Skurnick at Levine Greenberg Rostan. She also transcribes and pokes fun at her old journal entries at The Diary Project. When not wrangling her ever-growing book and movie collections or feeding squirrels and chipmunks, she dreams of the day time machines are built so that she can return to the 1980s. Follow her on Twitter at @damiella.