What Do Dances With Wolves and Jane Eyre Have In Common?


Have you ever wondered what your choice is reading material says about you?  This insight came to me from the pages of a Julia Cameron book about the creative process, as a way to learn more about ourselves and the kind of books we might like to write.
Dances with Wolves is one of my favourite books.  The main character, John Dunbar, was a man who wanted to see the western frontier before it was gone. His journey parallels his personal journey to the self.  Through his relationship with his Sioux neighbours, he becomes the man he was always meant to be.

Orphan, Jane Eyre, overcame the hardships of loveless upbringing in her aunt’s home before being sent away to a school where a cruel headmaster humiliates her in front of the class.  After surviving more than eight years at Lowood School, Jane is ready for new experiences. She sets out to work as a governess at Thornfield Manor, where she falls in love with its master, Mr. Rochester.

So what, you may be wondering, do these two books have in common?  It’s the characters.  I love reading books that have strong character development.

The transference.

Each of these characters is on the cusp of change when their story begins.  John Dunbar must spend time alone at the battered Fort Sedgewick.  With only a wolf for company, he slowly transitions from his old life as John Dunbar, to who he will become — Dances with Wolves.  I liken his time alone to Into the Underground of which I spoke of in a post of the same name.  He needs to go through a dark lonely time while he prepares to rebuild the man he was, into the man he will become.  I think the wolf symbolizes his real self, or the wild part of his nature.  Once his transition is complete, the wolf dies signifying the transference is complete.  I can relate to the instinctual side of our nature as shown through the image of the wolf.

But before he gets to that point he has to overcome many trials.  He must first learn their language if he is to communicate with his new Sioux neighbours.  This often happens when we are about to make a significant change in our lives.  I know when I began my spiritual journey I had to learn a new way of being in the world before I felt comfortable.  The same was true of John Dunbar.  He must earn the trust of his new friends before they allow him into their world.  Once that was accomplished, he was taught the way of the Sioux, and eventually became one of them when he married Stands With a Fist.

Jane Eyre had to overcome her own trials before she found happiness with the man she loved.  She had to face differences in class, as well as the fact that Mr. Rochester was already married to a mad woman who lives in the attic.  Before she is able to have her heart’s desire, she too, must journey underground before time and fate allow Jane and Rochester to be together.  For she cannot stay when she learns the truth.  But their love is strong, and they eventually find their way to each other under more equal circumstances.

I think that John Dunbar is a spiritual man on a journey to find himself.  This is what draws me to this story again and again. His journey is the essence of what life is all about – the journey to uncover the true self.  We are all on this journey to some degree.  I think this story is also about understanding our fellow man and trying to work in harmony with each other as John Dunbar illustrates when he befriends his Native neighbours.  We are also taught the importance of staying in tune with nature – not only our true intrinsic nature, but with the world in which we live.  In a world full of technology, we have lost touch with this side of ourselves.

Jane Eyre is a strong woman.  She’s been through much, but comes out on the other side. She stands up for herself in front of a man, and knows who she is and what she wants.  Despite the hardships in her life, she knows what she has to do to be true to herself and does it.  I have always been drawn to strong women in my life and in my reading.

So there you have it.  A spiritual man, and a strong woman.  Each on a hero’s journey in search of the things in life that complete them.  They know who they are.  They do whatever they have to do to be true to themselves.  And they each embody the kind of person I would like to become.  Does your reading material hold the secrets to your true nature?

Related Post: Into the Underground

Categories: Memoir

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