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Themes and Issues in Jane Eyre, Cinema Paradiso and Philadelphia Here I Come

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  • Category: Eyre

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Exploring a theme or issue raises interesting comparisons. This can clearly be seen when examining the theme of Identity in the three texts I have studied, which are: “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, “Philadelphia Here I Come” by Brian Friel and “Cinema Paradiso” directed by Guisseppe Tornatore. In each of these three texts we can explore the theme of Identity. All three texts chart the path each protagonist takes on their way to discover their true identity, that is, who they are, why are they who they are and what makes them what they are. Along these paths things affect them and influence their final, true Identity.

Interesting comparisons can be raised when we look at the factors affecting each protagonist and the final outcome of their search for Identity. These factors include: The importance of name, family, religion and duality of character. Comparisons can be made when we examine the importance of name in the three texts. Name plays an influential role in how one perceives himself. In Jane Eyre, Jane feels plain. This is compounded by the fact that she is constantly reminded of this by the reeds through their bullying. She is reminded she has no money and is only in Gateshead due to Mrs.

Reeds kindness. John shouts at her for reading the house’s library books and tells her shes not allowed to since their not hers. Hours before Jane is about to marry Mr. Rochester she repeats the name Jane Rochester over and over. She is unable to imagine having that name and feels like she will loose part of her freedom and identity if she does take that name. This contrasts sharply with Toto, who after leaving Sicily changes his name. I believe he does this to leave behind, or try and forget Elena. He feels that by changing his name, he can start a new life and forget about his old one.

In Philadelphia Here I Come, Gar does not place much emphasis on his own name. He never seems to consider it as an important factor of his identity. Furthermore, place names are also significant in the texts I have studied. The place names in the various parts of Jane Eyre are usually symbolic of what Jane will experience there. Gateshead was Jane’s starting point. She is held back by her aunt, just as a Gate would hold back animals in a field. She eventually breaks free of Gateshead and ends up in Lowood. A place that as the name suggests, is a lowly and depressing place.

Jane is made feel “low” during her time there, but uses it as a stepping stone to get herself a position as a Governess. Her role of Governess brings her to Thornfield, a place where she falls in love, but experiences the “thorns” and pain that love brings with it. Likewise, in Philadelphia, Gar lives in a small town called Ballybeg, that when translated to English means Small Town. He feels like he lives in a small and oppressive town. Gar is a troubled young man, who feels like his only way of escaping is moving to America. This contrasts sharply with his mother, from Bailtefree.

As this name also suggests, she is a lively person who did not feel restricted by her home town. Interesting comparisons can be made when exploring the theme of Identity through the different texts when we examine the role religion plays in the Protagonists’ lives. In Philadelphia, Gar resents religion. It is presented to us and him in the form of Canon O’Byrne, the local priest, who according to gar is more interested in earning money than helping out his parish members. Gar resents him because although the canon knows gar and sb have trouble communicating, he does nothing to help out even on the eve of gars departure.

This is similar to Jane Eyre, in that in Jane Eyre, Jane also disapproves of religion in the forms presented to her. She has her own view of religion and what is right and wrong. This view goes against what Mr Reed and Mr Brocklehurst preach. Mr Reed is a missionary who believes Jane’s’ purpose in life is to be the wife of a missionary. She on the other hand does not believe this to be true and is almost insulted by his indifferent proposal to her. She knows he is asking her to marry him out of convenience and not love, something she has high regards for. Mr Brocklehurst, preaches an evangelical type of religion.

He believes the children in lowood should be deprives of luxuries because it is good for the soul. Jane does not believe this to be true and has her suspicions confirmed, when she sees Mr Brocklehursts daughter and wife, intricately dressed, with fancy hairdos and many luxuries, all things Brocklehurst preached against. Jane does not feel that religion, as show to her by Mr Rivers and Brocklehurts are the “right” or “true” religions. Both of these texts contrast greatly with Cinema Paradiso. Here, religion is presented to us in a positive way in the form of Fr. Adelfio.

Toto serves as his altar boy, often falling asleep due to hunger during mass. Fr Adelfio does not get angry at this, and instead pities Toto. He also allows Toto to get a ride back home with Alfredo when walking home, instead of making him walk with him. He is a very understanding priest, who truly wants the best for his people. While he censors movies, he does this because he thinks it is in his peoples’ interest. He is also very understanding when Alfredo has his “crisis of faith” and at no point gives out to him, or in any way looks down upon him, for doubting the Catholic religion.

Religion in both Jane Eyre and Philadelphia have negative impacts on the identity of the protagonists, who are left wondering what to believe is right and wrong, something integral in ones Identity. This contrasts sharply with Cinema Paradiso, where Toto feels welcomed by religion and the Church, and leaves home with a sense of what is right and wrong. Another example of how interesting comparisons can be made when exploring the theme of identity throughout the different texts is seen when examining how family affects the protagonists. Jane has no parents.

She has no way of knowing what they were like, and her only family are the reeds, a group of people with which she does not feel comfortable or happy. She has no father or mother figures in her early life and only finds them later on in the form of Mr. Rochester. Until then, she had no-one to turn to for help with anything. Similarly, Gar is motherless, and effectively fatherless too. Although he has a father, he fails to communicate with him his true emotions. He cannot, and does not want to turn to him for help or advice, especially on his up and coming trip to Philadelphia.

He can only turn to Madge for information on his mother. This lack of family plays an important role in his decision to emigrate, and he tells us that even one word from his father would make him stay. Although both Gar and Jane have little or no family it is only Jane who with the help of her father figure, Mr. Rochester, who finds true happiness in the end. Toto, who is also fatherless and has a strained relationship with his mother is the complete opposite to Jane and Gar. He finds a father figure in the form of Alfredo and lives a relatively happy childhood.

He also follows Alfredo’s advice and becomes a world famous director, albeit at the expense of his relationship with Elena. A final example of an interesting comparison raised when exploring the theme of identity in these three texts is how the protagonists’ duality of character reflects their internal struggle to find and reaffirm their true identity. Gar is the most obvious example of a dual-character. This is represented by Private and Public. Private represents his true feelings and emotions, while public represents what society expects from him.

Unfortunately for gar, it is not until he can express “private” instead of “public” that he will find true happiness, and reaffirm his sense of identity. Similarly Jane has a dual-character too. We are shown her both of her characters, one full of passion and the other with the desire to do what is morally right. Both of these characters struggle with each other when Jane tries to make a decision. For example when she is considering leaving Rochester because of his second wife, she knows its the moral thing to do, but finds it hard to bring herself to do it because her passionate side loves him.

Both Gar and Jane show a dual personality at the beginning of their respective texts. In conclusion, many interesting comparisons were raised when the theme of Identity was examined in my three texts, Jane Eyre, Philadelphia here I come and Cinema Paradiso. Name plays a very important role for Jane and Toto. The names throughout Jane Eyre have a deep symbolic meaning, that play a big role in Jane’s final Identity. They serve as a short summary of the events in her life, the feelings of entrapment, lowlyness and pain during the different periods in time.

For Toto on the other hand, name is a way of insulating himself from the past. He changes his name to forget about Elena and his past. His new name serves more as a barrier than a reminder of his previous life. Religion also plays a big role in the forming of the protagonists Identity. Gar and Jane have to set their own moral standards due to the inadequacy of the religious figures during their life. It is interesting to see how different a childhood they had to Toto’s, who was ably guided by Fr Adelfio and Alfredo. His was a happy , albeit poor (economically) one.

When examining the theme of Identity, we see the importance of having a competent and unselfish Religious leader, who will take care of his people to the maximum extent of his abilities. We also see the importance of father figures to the protagonists. This is similar to the effect of the religious leaders, in that Toto who has the best father figure int he form of Alfredo has the happiest childhood. Jane and Gar on the other hand have practically no mother/father figureheads, with the exception of Madge, who didn’t get along with Gar as well as Toto did with Alfredo.

The final interesting comparisons raised when examining the theme of identity is the dual-personality of the protagonists. It is interesting to note that Jane, who eventually finds a balance between both personalities and beliefs ends up a happily married, successful woman, while gar, who is not able to express his true feelings end his texts still lacking in identity and still uncertain about his future. Toto, who never has a problem with dual-personalities never seems to have the internal struggles both Jane and Gar had. All these interesting comparisons were raised when one examined the three texts under the theme of Identity.

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