This post is several days late and I’m sorta sorry and sorta not because I was too busy celebrating my birthday. However, I’ll try to be more prompt in future.
This week we read chapters 17-19. We met a few new characters, chiefly Blanche Ingram and Richard Mason, and learned that there really is no limit to Rochester’s tendency to play around with the emotions of people around him.
Thornfield is turned upside down and inside out when Rochester’s dependents learn that he is bringing PEOPLE home to visit. The house gets a makeover and is filled with a bunch of new faces, from the lords and ladies to their servants, including “abigails” which apparently was popularized as a term for maid by a play called The Scornful Lady. It also might be a reference to Abigail in the Bible, who is very hospitable to her husband’s visitor, David (not in a dirty way, but then she does end up married to him so whatever).
I love the juxtaposition between how the fancy ladies from the Leas appear, and how they behave towards others. Adele especially considers the ladies (and gentlemen) as a sort of in-house show, and when Jane first sees them they are described beautifully: “with dress that gleamed lustrous through the dusk” and “they then descended the staircase almost as noiselessly as a bright mist rolls down a hill” (chapter 17). However, their treatment of others, especially Jane and Adele, is less than attractive. Blanche Ingram calls governesses such as Jane “incubi,” and her mother notes that in Jane’s features “I see all the faults of her class” (chapter 17). Some of them, like the young Eshtons, are shallow; some are haughty like Lady Lynn and Lady Ingram; some like Blanche are just witty enough to be malicious.
Blanche Ingram is hilarious in her efforts to seduce Rochester, or make him like her. She is obviously attempting to flatter Rochester’s vanity when she talks about how awesome James Hepburn of Bothwell is, even though he was A KIDNAPPER. Acknowledging her own beauty, she acknowledges Rochester’s ugliness when she says, “I am resolved my husband shall not be a rival, but a foil to me” (chapter 17). Like, she’s not even subtle in her attempts and it’s absolutely precious. If Rochester falls for her, he has serious problems. Not that I’m worried about that like Jane is.
Jane is getting really obsessed with Rochester at this point: “I looked, and had an acute pleasure in looking; a precious, yet poignant pleasure; pure gold, with a steely point of agony: a pleasure like what the thirst-perishing man might feel who knows the well to which he has crept is poisoned, yet stoops and drinks divine draughts nevertheless” (chapter 17). Audience, meet Jane, who lost every last bit of her chill. Or has she? Again, talking about Rochester’s physical features: “they were more than beautiful to me, they were full of an interest, an influence that quite mastered me.” Even though she knows her love is hopeless, she admits “and yet, while I breathe and think I must love him” (chapter 17). She is a little self-aware, as she realizes “I was forgetting all his faults, for which I had once kept a sharp look-out” (chapter 18).
The charades are really fun. Did they let Blanche pick all of the topics? “Bride,” Eliezer’s hunt for a bride, and “Bridewell”? She HAS NO CHILL. Even less chill than Jane, and we’ve already established that Jane’s inner chill is completely decimated.
Richard Mason’s appearance is startling, both to us and to Rochester. Like where did this yokel come from and why did he happen to come at the same time as all of these other folks? CONVENIENT, RICHARD, VERY. I like Jane’s dismissal of him, even though he’s like a hot young stud: “His features were regular, but too relaxed: his eye was large and well cut, but the life looking out of it was a tame, vacant life–at least so I thought” (chapter 18). And compared to Rochester, Mason is completely boring. As Jane says: “I think….the contrast could not be much greater between a sleek gander and a fierce falcon: between a meek sheep and the rough-coated keen-eyed dog, its guardian” (chapter 18). Granted, Jane is incredibly biased.
I feel so bad for Adele in this section. She’s just a kid that wants to be a grown-up, a “cool kid,” and look like the pretty ladies, but she is often shunted aside and people like Blanche treat her with contempt. To be fair to Blanche, even Rochester treats Adele contemptuously at times, but that seems to be because he is specifically reminded of Adele’s mother. ANYWAY Adele seems like a nice kid and she deserves better.
Speaking of Rochester being kind of a butt, I really disapprove of his gipsy disguise. I mean, there’s a lot of good reasons why he shouldn’t dress up like a poor, outcast minority but also he shouldn’t use it to trick Jane. Rochester goes to a lot of trouble in his attempt to manipulate Jane into confessing feelings for him, and it’s gross.
However, he does give a tremendous description of Jane’s current state: “You are cold, because you are alone; no contact strikes the fire from you that is in you. You are sick: because the best of feelings, the highest and sweetest given to man, keeps far away from you. You are silly, because, suffer as you may, you will not beckon it to approach; nor will you stir one step to meet it where it waits you” (chapter 19). I think it’s pretty apt; DISCUSS? Do you agree or disagree? To me it seems like Jane does separate herself from other people, both because she has been used to people disregarding her, and because she doesn’t trust anyone.
We also hear Jane’s life goal in this conversation with the “gipsy”: “The utmost I hope is, to save money enough out of my earnings to set up a school some day in a little house rented by myself” (chapter 19). It’s interesting that she uses “hope” as, something she has a fair expectation of, rather than something she wants but can’t have (like Rochester).
Rochester acts more like himself in this scene, both when he is the gipsy and when he is not. He shows that he is very aware of Blanche’s regard for him and that it is based on money: “I would advise her black-avised suitor to look out: if another comes, with a longer or clearer rent-roll; he’s dished” (chapter 19). And he treats Jane like he has always treated her: half kind, half critical, and likes teasing and judging her in an attempt to draw her out of her reserve. Spoilers, Jane: he’s getting real thirsty.
Rochester’s society self versus his “real” (?) self with Jane is such a ridiculous contrast. He needs to get it together. Please don’t hate me if I link this scene, I can’t stop thinking about it in regards to Rochester. What a clueless child.
Some questions I have:
- Do you think Blanche considers Jane a threat to her own relationship with Rochester? Or does she not consider Jane a threat so much as beneath her contempt?
- What do you think of Rochester’s choice to disguise himself? Justified? Immoral? Why or why not?