Writing

The Heroine’s Journey: Ordinary World

The heroine’s journey begins in the Ordinary World of the story. This is where we discover the background and context of the protagonist’s world and get a sense of the inner conflict that needs resolution.

For the heroine, her ordinary world is often one of imprisonment in a domestic environment. She is enclosed, trapped doing the chores, and longing for escape. There may be a bitch of a stepmother to deal with. The heroine is a lost child or parentless. She may be safe, despite the cruelty of those around her, but it’s also deathly dull.

Jane Eyre’s Ordinary World

So how does this play out in the 2011 film adaptation of Jane Eyre? This version of Charlotte Bronte’s book plays around with the structure and a large part of the story is told in flashback. Jane is played by Mia Wasikowska, and Mr Rochester is played by Michael Fassbender.

Jane is young but has an old soul. She is humble and guarded but with a burning desire for something more, and the story follows the awakening of her femininity and passion for life.

Young Jane Eyre
Young Jane Eyre

We first meet Jane as she leaves Thornfield. She is clearly upset about something and runs onto the moor, collapsing and crying while a thunderstorm rages in the background. She walks through the rain and finally spies a light in a house and drags herself to the door. A man finds her and carries her inside. This is St John Rivers and he lives in this house with his two sisters, Diana and Mary. The sisters take care of Jane and try to find out who she is.

We then flashback to when Jane was an orphan living with her aunt, Mrs Reed. Jane is tormented by one of her cousins. After the boy hits her with a book, drawing blood, she fights back and is dragged off and locked in the Red Room. This is the room in which her uncle died and strange noises issue from the chimney. Jane is terrified and hammers on the door so hard she knocks herself unconscious.

So Jane’s ordinary world doesn’t seem particularly safe, certainly not when she was a child. But she is parentless and suffering at the hands of an evil stepmother figure in the shape of Mrs Reed. Jane’s longing to escape is so fierce that she knocks herself out. With the Rivers family she is also on the edge of unconsciousness, and although she has found safety, as we will discover, St John is deathly dull. Jane is ready to awaken, to receive her Call to Adventure.

Next: Jane Eyre’s Call to Adventure

Image: Focus Features

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