Literary Ladies #2: Jane Eyre & Tessa Sanger

The beautiful Joan Fontaine played not just one, but both of today’s Literary Ladies on the silver screen. Both characters have a certain dark innocence about them, so fitting to her wide-eyed persona on film.


I had a hard time deciding who I’d choose to play the lumnious, intense Tessa in an updated version of 1943’s The Constant Nymph: my imagination ran away with me when I read the novel, so my first ideas fell flat against that vision. I had to re-read a few chapters, refamiliarize myself with the solitary-Tessa (summers running wild in the Tirol, and later trapped at school & kept away from her family) and the Lewis-Tessa (who blurs the line between mother-child-lover without ever so much as whispering an exacting word). Solitary Tessa is outrageous, vulgar, stubborn, raggamuffin and proud. Lewis-Tessa is resigned and quiet, enduring abuse after abuse at the hands of her cousin just to stay near to her beloved Lewis. The two Tessas are contradictory, so figuring out the actress was VERY complicated. But light dawns:


With Alexis Bledel as Tessa Sanger. The theme song as the credits roll? But Stravinski’s Le Sacre du Printemps, bien sur!

Tessa Sanger by GephydroXX

2008 Tessa would live in her denim cutoffs, indecently short of course. She’d love sophisticated detailing (like the small black frill down the front of her jumper) coupled with almost obscene-accessories (diamond-encrusted fish skeleton earrings? Yes please!). She and her siblings were known for sneaking the occasional glass of wine, and Tessa would definitely need to run in her shoes. In hindsight, maybe someone should have told her to cover up or she’d catch cold.


For Jane Eyre, the choice of actress seemed more obvious. The Jane Eyre floating about Thornfield in her beloved grey silk dress living in my mind’s eye possesses the same luminous, questioning eyes as Tessa–but Jane is quiet and shy. Jane needs to speak without speaking, reveal all from beneath her lashes. Of course that means I chose:

Christina Ricci. The song playing as Jane meets Adele? Margaret vs Pauline, by Neko Case.

Jane’s wardrobe must contain only classic pieces. Remember, she was brought up in an orphanage, so she’ll likely never become too much a spendthrift. I see a modern Jane in crisp tailored dresses and pretty details, such as the bow on the waist of the lbd. I also think a 2008 Jane would save her money and buy quality items that will last for many years. No throwaway Target pumps for Jane Eyre (but perhaps some for me…) Mrs. Rochester would love the stark luxury of pearls, but she’d probably be careful enough to remove all those rings before going painting in the moors.

Jane Eyre by GephydroXX

What other literary heroines do you want to become friends with?

Peace from the Valley,


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3 Responses to “Literary Ladies #2: Jane Eyre & Tessa Sanger”

  1. meggles Says:

    i think natalie portman might make a good choice for jane, too. similar dark haired, “plain” (yeah right, but you know what i mean…right?) beauty. what makes me prefer her to ms. ricci is that her image is not as dirty as stoic and modest.(well, not in the other boleyn girl…) i think christina ricci could play jane, no question, its just her image as a modern actress that would throw me.

    i cant believe ive never really read your blog before. but then again i dont spend much time entertaining myself on the computer. bookmarking…!

  2. Literary Ladies #3: Nous sommes toutes des filles françaises « new england noir Says:

    […] Ladies #3: Nous sommes toutes des filles françaises By newenglandnoir Literary Ladies is my weekly series where I nerd out for a bit & update movie versions of my favorite female […]

  3. Thanks for the great responses! « new england noir Says:

    […] which literary characters they liked best & why! By far the top choices were Jane Eyre, (whom I featured in the second week’s column) and Elizabeth Bennett, who was originally lined up for #3, but […]

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