Silas Marner Readalong

the-cauld-blast-joshua-hargrave-mann
The Cauld Blast (1876) by Joshua Hargrave Mann

Our Silas Marner by George Eliot readalong begins in April! We will be reading the entire book from April 1 to April 30. You can read it online for free at Project Gutenberg, get it for free on Kindle, or purchase it wherever.

 

This is a much shorter read than Jane Eyre. I’ll be posting a couple of times a week here. Let me know if you’ll be blogging anywhere!

The discussion hashtag will be: #Ravelong (from the book’s setting, the village of Raveloe). Do the reading, join the conversation, ask questions or write posts, as you will! Join us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or whatever social media you desire.

Reading Schedule

By April 7th, you should have chapters 1-5 read.

By April 14th, you should have chapters 6-10 read.

By April 21st, you should have chapters 11-15 read.

By April 30th, you should have chapters 16-Conclusion read.

 

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Myth Monday: Jacksonian Monsters Ocean Edition!

Last week on Myth Monday: Anzu from Mesopotamia!

Last time we talked about Percy Jackson: Monsters and Mayhem in The Lightning Thief

28186Today I’ll be talking about The Sea of Monsters, (referred to as SOM after this), the second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (spoiler warning!). If you like mythology and haven’t tried out this series, you should. If you don’t care about mythology but you like salty narrators and lots of action, you should.

As is tradition, Rick Riordan smashes several packs-worth of characters, monsters, and name-drops into a single book. I’m going to focus on the monsters and creatures. For each one, I’ll talk about the “real life” mythological creature, the way Riordan reimagines it, and give it a 1-5 Monstrous Rating for how well Riordan brought it back.

The Monsters

Laestrygonians: You can experience these guys in all their violent glory in The Odyssey. Odysseus’ crew reaches a very promising-looking island, until they’re chased off by giants who throw rocks at them. In SOM, Percy and his prep school classmates have to survive being locked in a gym with Laestrygonians while they play dodgeball with fiery rocks. The Riordan scene is terrifying, and honestly a little too close to real-life school horrors for my taste, but we don’t see the Laestrygonians again – they’re just an opening-scene threat. 3/5 Monstrous Rating.

Cyclopes/Polyphemus: Cyclopes are another race featured in The Odyssey: Odysseus and Co. have to escape from one in particular, Polyphemus, when they stop at his island, and Aeneas and his crew also stop by in The Aeneid. Cyclopes are one-eyed giants, and while they seem to be herdsmen when in their own country, Zeus and Hephaestus use them as workmen at their forges. They supposedly forged Zeus’ famous thunderbolts. They seem to enjoy eating humans when the opportunity arises. One of the most endearing characters in Percy Jackson and The Olympians is Tyson, a Cyclops and Percy’s half-brother. Tyson is really good at building and fixing excellent magical items. Percy and Co. ALSO stop by Polyphemus’ island, because apparently it’s on the Hero Checklist for Important Stops.  I like how Riordan gives us the good and bad extremes of Cyclopes, since the myths seem undecided on them. 4/5 Monstrous Rating.

Stymphalian birds: One of Hercules’ twelve impossible labors was to drive the Stymphalian birds away from the country they’re infesting. In SOM, they swarm and attack the chariot race at Camp Halfblood, for reasons that are unclear but make the race much more exciting. I’m not even really sure what they look like but I’m guessing something like giant piranha birds. 2/5 Monstrous Rating.

k2-4poseidon
Source 

Hippocampus: Not the part of the brain, but a half horse, half fish creature. I can’t find a myth that these animals are actually in, but they’re awesome. They’re typically associated with Poseidon in Greek mythology, as he’s the god of sea and horses. In SOM, Percy is able to communicate with horses, and thus, hippocampi. They take Percy and his friends on a couple of sea-journeys. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for being adorable.

Oreius and Agrius: There was a lady named Polyphonte who joined the Hunters of Artemis, a group of maidens who swore to stay maidens forever so that they could serve Artemis. For some reason Aphrodite, goddess of love, took issue with Polyphonte’s choice and cursed her to fall in love with a bear. Gross. Bear. Polyphonte then gave birth to two half-bear, half-human sons: Oreius and Agrius. I mean, that’s not their fault. But then they became terrible and also cannibals. In SOM, one of the villains, Luke (a son of Hermes) recruits them, probably by promising they can eat lots of tasty demigods. Oreius and Agrius are the typical big dumb henchmen in this story. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for being kind of obscure and relating to bears.

Pegasus: Pegasus is confusing to me because most of the time you hear about a pegasus as a winged horse species. However, Pegasus in Greek mythology was a SINGLE winged horse, spawned from Medusa’s blood mixing with earth (just go with it). This winged horse was named Pegasus, adopted by the muses, and helped several heroes (including the original Perseus, who slew Medusa in the first place). In SOM, pegasi are a species of winged horse. Percy helps one escape from Luke and his bearish thugs – this pegasus individual turns up in later books and is super wonderful and great. 4/5 Monstrous Rating for being kind of inaccurate but producing one of the best non-human characters in the series.

Hydra: The Hydra is another monster that started out as a single unique entity but is now known as a species (or a super-secret super-villain organization). Hercules had to destroy the Hydra as one of his twelve labors. You wanna go for a heart-shot, not a head-shot, in this case, as each time a head is killed or chopped off, two more replace it. Gross. In SOM, Hydras are monsters synonymous with ubiquitous chains, eg Starbucks, or Monster Donut in the series. Percy chops off a head and not only is that head quickly replaced, he spawns a Monster Donut chain store elsewhere in the world. So next time you see  five Starbucks in a single-block radius, blame impetuous heroes. 5/5 Monstrous Rating for pure hilarity.

Scylla: Scylla was a water-nymph, and her story is a very typical one. Glaucus, an ocean god, fell in love with her, and since he couldn’t accept a “no” he went to the witch Circe for help. Circe quickly fell in love with Glaucus, and instead of helping him win Scylla over, she poisoned her. Scylla became a horrible monster with lots of heads and tentacles and things, and wound up living in a sea-cave and eating any sailors who passed by. In SOM, Percy meets both Scylla and Circe, although at different points. Scylla eats some of the zombie soldiers crewing the Civil War ironhide Percy and his friends are using to cross the Sea of Monsters. 2/5 Monstrous Rating for being relegated to a convenient plot device.

Charybdis: Charybdis is either a whirlpool, or a monster inside of a whirlpool. It’s sort of unclear. In any case, famous heroes like Odysseus and Aeneas had to get past her/it, and she/it took up the same strait of water that Scylla lived in. As you might imagine, it was always a fun time visiting that watery neighborhood. In SOM, Percy and his friends almost get sucked up by Charybdis, but escape when Percy uses his bottled wind to shoot them away from it. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for being scary but also very momentary.

Sirens: These are sea monsters. We presume they are ladies, but honestly I couldn’t find any explicit reference to their gender. In any case, they sing to sailors, enchant them, and lure them to their deaths, either by drowning or dashing them on rocks. The mermaid comparison is easy. Odysseus wanted to hear the Sirens’ song, so his men tied him to the mast. He said it sounded like they would give him all the wisdom a man could ever need. Orpheus, a famous musician, saved Jason and his Argonauts from the Sirens by playing music the entire time they sailed past. Percy stopped up his ears with wax (like Odysseus’ men) but Annabeth wants to hear the Sirens’ famed wisdom, so she also ties herself to the mast. She sees a vision of everything she ever wanted, if only she could get to it. 4/5 Monstrous Rating for being more clear about why the Sirens are so hard to resist, and just as much so to women.

Centaurs: We talked about Chiron last month, but most centaurs are not like Chiron. They’re described as more beast than man, and usually drink a lot, misbehave, and carry off women. In SOM, Chiron’s centaur relatives are portrayed more as drunken frat-boy partiers, but they at least rescue Percy and his friends when the occasion calls for it. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for not being very scary or very helpful.

The Sources

Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch’s Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable. Dover Thrift, 2000. Print.

Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New American Library, 1969. Print.

Riordan, Rick. The Sea of Monsters. Disney Hyperion, 2006. Print.

Jane Eyre: Chapters 30-34

This post contains spoilers through chapter 34 of Jane Eyre.

We’re almost there! We are doing a great job!

Don’t forget to enter the #EyreAlong giveaway, and make sure to join in the #EyreAlong discussion on Twitter and elsewhere.

Chapter 30:

From Gateshead to Lowood; from Lowood to Thornfield; from Thornfield to Moor House. Which setting have you enjoyed most so far? DISCUSS. Moor House seems the best to me, but I think it’s because I love hearing about Diana, Mary, and Jane just chilling and studying. Of the four, I think Moor House is the closest to House Introvert.

I am less familiar with this section than the others….I’m usually tempted to skim over it, I’m sorry to say. There’s a lot going on, but I think the primary plot of this section of the book is the Mystery of St. John Rivers. Jane is immediately driven to figure him out, but it takes her a while, even with all of her observation and talent for drawing people out in conversation.

We get a good working knowledge of the three Rivers siblings in this chapter; in a nutshell, Diana is strong-willed and openhearted; Mary is gentle and affectionate; St. John is brooding and industrious.

Jane’s attitude toward St. John is an evolving thing but she respects and admires him from early on because of his kindness and charity, but even she notices that “I was sure St. John Rivers-pure-lived, conscientious, zealous as he was- had not yet found that peace of God which passeth all understanding.” St. John is not comfortable; or he does not allow himself to be comfortable.

Jane also comments on St. John’s “Calvinistic doctrines”: if you’re unfamiliar with Calvinism, here’s a brief summary of the theology and you can read up on it here, but a big defining point for them is the concept of predestination or unconditional election: God has already chosen those “elect” who will be saved, so freewill gets pretty complicated and difficult. St. John Rivers’s Calvinism makes it easier for him to categorize or dismiss people, based on whether he believes they’ve been chosen by God for greater things.

Diana says that St. John “looks quiet, Jane; but he hides a fever in his vitals. You would think him gentle, yet in some things he is inexorable as death.” Of course, we see where Jane realizes how true this is in a later chapter.

Which Moor House sibling do you relate to the most? Why? DISCUSS. The Rivers are landed gentry from an old family, but they’ve become poor. How do you think this has influenced their personalities? What does it say about them that they’ve each chosen to work, rather than try to marry money or find their rich relative and reconcile? DISCUSS.

Chapter 31:

Jane becomes a teacher to a tiny school full of poor farmer kids. The narration, Jane, and St. John all make a big deal about how low of a position it is, but wouldn’t it be similar to Jane’s experiences at Lowood? Lowood is full of poor children, especially orphans, but they have sponsors. So I suppose it’s a class difference.

Anyway, I like how Jane recognizes her own bad attitude but fights against it: “I was weakly dismayed at the ignorance, the poverty, the coarseness of all I heard and saw round me….I know [these feelings] to be wrong…..I shall strive to overcome them.” Even beyond adjusting to her new situation, Jane is constantly comparing it to what she could have with Rochester. She concludes she would rather be poor and have some self-respect than be rich and feel like a terrible person. DISCUSS, HAHA.

If you follow me on Twitter you know that St. John has been driving me absolutely crazy. It’s not that he’s a terrible person, it’s mostly that he so rigid, and so particularly demanding of Jane. Jane gets to work at the school, doesn’t complain, does a good job, and he’s like “HI JANE DO YOU REGRET YOUR CHOICES YET?” His allusion to Lot’s wife particularly irritates me – Lot’s wife is popularly used as an example of a person who obeys God, but does so with doubts or regrets. The biblical figure is turned into a pillar of salt as a result. First of all, St. John, calm down with your sexist biblical references; second, Jane is doing a great job! WHY SO CRITICAL?

I don’t know, do I need to calm down? AM I OVERSENSITIVE? Discuss hahaha.

Meanwhile, we meet Miss Oliver, and observe the embarrassing crush she and St. John have on each other. I like Jane’s comparison between Miss Oliver and Adele; I would take it a step further and point out that Mr. Rochester underestimates and devalues Adele in the same way St. John underestimates and devalues Miss Oliver, in spite of how much he likes her.

Chapter 32:

Jane is doing a great job at her school. I would love more story at her school than we get, though. What are her pupils names? Which are her favorites, and what are they like? DO THEY HANG OUT? DO THEY HAVE MOOR ADVENTURES? I need these things. I love that Jane learns to appreciate them each as individuals, rather than dismissing all of the girls as tolerable but still a single mass of poverty. It’s also cool how Jane befriends their parents, and treats them like actual people with “a consideration-a scrupulous regard to their feelings- to which they were not, perhaps, at all times accustomed.” Treating people with basic human decency is always a good plan and as Jane learns, it usually encourages people to act like decent humans in return.

Meanwhile, Jane observes Extreme Thirst between Miss Oliver and St. John, even though “he could not-he would not-renounce his wild field of mission for the parlours and peace of Vale Hall.” Question: Do you ship Miss Oliver and St. John? I definitely do not. I think she’s better off without him. However, as we’ve already established, I’m really irritated by and biased against St. John. Miss Oliver seems like a nice girl.

St. John brings Jane a new poem that is described “one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the fortunate public of those days-the golden age of modern literature” which is named as Marmion, a poem by Sir Walter Scott and published in 1808. You can read the poem here. It just goes to show that no matter what great literature is being published at present, we always think of the older classics as the golden age.

I adore the scene where Jane calls St. John out on his feelings for Miss Oliver. He’s not used to anyone talking to him that way, much less her, and I think it’s good for him. Besides which, it’s hilarious to see his consternation. The weirdest bit is when he sets his pocket-watch to limit his time that he allows himself for thinking about or talking about his feelings. Yikes. I’m not saying St. John needs Jesus but….

“Again, the surprised expression crossed his face. He had not imagined that a woman would dare to speak so to a man. For me, I felt at home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve, and crossed the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their heart’s very hearthstone.”

Salty Jane is back! It feels like we haven’t seen her since Thornfield, although we saw glimmers of her old attitude in her parley with Hannah at Moor House.

Do you think St. John’s principled devotion is a good characteristic, or a dangerous extreme? Is it sometimes one or the other?  DISCUSS.

Chapter 33:

 

So here we find out important things: 1, Jane is hella rich thanks to her uncle; 2, Jane HAS FAM!

Jane, at least, knows that suddenly coming into money doesn’t mean her problems are solved: “One does not jump, and spring, and shout hurrah! at hearing one has got a fortune, one begins to consider responsibilities.” In typical Jane fashion, she is immediately concerned with what the proper thing to do with the money is, rather than emote and then plan.

Other characters have commented on Jane’s Serious Face, notably Mrs. Reed who felt judged, and Mr. Rochester who called it “sphynx-like.” Here, St. John compares her to the famous Gorgon: “You unbend your forehead at last. I thought Medusa had looked at you, and that you were turning to stone.” Just because Jane knows how to control her emotions doesn’t mean y’all should get to judge her.

My favorite moment in this chapter:

“But I apprised you that I was a hard man,” said he; “difficult to persuade.”

“And I am a hard woman, – impossible to put off.”

JANE EYRE IN A NUTSHELL.

If anyone deserves to win the inheritance lottery, it’s Jane Eyre. I’m not even mad that it is extremely convenient for the plot – SHE DESERVES IT, OKAY, FIGHT ME. The coincidence that her uncle is also the Rivers’ uncle, and that she turns out to be related to the family that took her in when she was starving, doesn’t bother me, either. It’S FATE IT’S PROVIDENCE, GOD WILLS THEM TO BE TOGETHER BECAUSE JANE NEEDS A FAMILY.

Okay I really need to calm down. I’ve lasted 600 pages, I can find my chill again. Can’t I? Can’t I?

But Jane is so HAPPY to find out she has family! I could cry. I like how St. John calls her Medusa because she isn’t emoting, but then when she DOES emote and decides to share her money with her new cousins, he’s all like “hey now, wait, don’t be so emotional about this, think about your choices.” Ugh. That guy.

“And you,” [Jane] interrupted, “cannot at all imagine the craving I have for fraternal and sisterly love. I never had a home, I never had brother or sisters; I must and will have them now.”

mic drop

DISCUSS – is there too many coincidences and conveniences here to satisfy you? Or is it just another sign of a well-crafted story? Or is it convenient but HONEY BADGER JUST DON’T CARE?

Chapter 34:

“I trust that when the first flush of vivacity is over, you will look a little higher than domestic endearments and household joys.”

“The best things the world has!”

Do you agree with Jane or St. John here? Or neither? I personally think it’s a false dichotomy. DISCUSS.

Remember that one time when Jane got something happy for once, and St. John immediately tries to put limits on it?

Remember that one time Jane shared how happy she was to have siblings, and her new brother immediately starts planning to make her his wife instead?

I hate how St. John manipulates her affection so that Jane will do whatever he wants and try to earn his admiration.

I hate how St. John admits that Jane isn’t fully committed to God since she won’t marry St. John.

I hate how he pushes and pulls her constantly, using his religiosity as a weapon and as an argument. YOU NEED JESUS, ST. JOHN.

I hate this chapter so much. Please, someone, share something good about it.

I mean, at least Jane sticks to her guns and doesn’t give in. Of course, St. John is a complete sulky brat about it immediately afterwards. I like that Jane is finally able to see St. John clearly, and while he does have some very good, noble qualities, they’re drowned by his single-minded, ambitious ruthlessness.

I know Rochester has his problems, but which of these guys is worse is hard to say at this point. Am I being too harsh? DISCUSS.

 

Myth Monday: And I Was Crying and I Was in The Bath

Last week on Myth Monday, we looked at a couple of Mesopotamian myths featuring guys trying to unlock the secrets of life (as you do).

Today, I’m going to summarize a myth about a guy called Anzu who has many ambitious life goals like “terrorize the countryside” and “take over the world with my magical tablets.”

Anzu

Once upon a time, the scariest and most beautiful monster was born. The gods heard about it, took a look at him, and concluded that only “holy water” and “broad earth” could have spawned such a creature. They give him a job, even though Anzu (the creature) doesn’t have any references or even a resume. He was obviously spawned just for them!

So Anzu takes a look around and realizes the gods have it going on really good, and the key to their power seems to be this magic Tablet of Destiny (referred to as the TOD from here on out). Like any ambitious young monster, Anzu hatches some plots, and one day, while his boss Ellil is having a bath and has put down all of his weapons, Anzu steals the TOD.

Suddenly, all of the light went out of Ellil’s bath-room and he was peeved. So the gods all flip out, and Anu, their leader, summons three separate warriors: Anu’s son Adad, Anunitu’s son Gerra, and Ishtar’s son Shara. They ask each of them to hunt down Anzu, kill him, and retrieve the TOD.

All three of these warriors, who are also the children of gods, say the equivalent of, “Thanks but no thanks, dad. Have you SEEN Anzu’s teeth? Also, he has the TOD now so he can turn anyone he wants into clay!”

[I’m not sure why you would make a tablet that had the ability to turn people into clay. That’s just begging for someone to steal it while you’re bathing.]

So the gods have to think for a moment. Ea decides that the only remaining option is to ask for Belet-ili’s help. Ea asks her to send her “favorite” warrior, Ninurta, after Anzu.After some high-quality flattery, Belet-ili agrees. Ninurta is also the son of Ellil, the guy who took a bath and deeply regretted it.

Okay so now they have a plan! Belet-ili gives Ninurta his marching orders, which are very long and dramatic, but essentially come down to: “Get your army together, scare the crap out of Anzu, and then cut his throat!”

Ninurta’s response isn’t recorded, but I’m guessing it was something like: “….K.”

He summons seven evil winds (because Ninurta is a badass and apparently makes friends with evil winds), gets his army, and goes after Anzu.

The two armies meet up on the mountain Anzu is using as his base, and there’s the usual trash-talking, army-clashing, blood-bathing conflict one might expect.

Ninurta tries to shoot Anzu, to no avail because Anzu uses the TOD to deflect everything shot at him. Rude! After many efforts, and some advice to the gods (which is basically, “….don’t give up, Ninurta! Shoot him again! Cut his wings off! DO IT!”) Ninurta succeeds at last in cutting up Anzu’s wings with his arrows and then shooting Anzu through the heart.

chaos_monster_and_sun_god
Anzu on the left, the warrior Ninurta on the right with his thunderbolts. Source

Ninurta takes back the TOD, and returns to the gods. They shower him with glory and honor and titles, as per tradition.

Notes

We haven’t seen Belet-ili in a while, but you may remember her in Atrahasis , when the gods also had to beg her for help. She’s kind of a big deal: goddess of wombs and creation, mistress of the gods, etc etc.

Ellil is also in Atrahasis: he’s the god who is determined to destroy mankind in a flood and gets pissy when Ea helps Atrahasis survive.

There are a lot of sets of three in this myth. The gods ask three separate guys (before Ninurta) to kill Anzu, with the same wording in the requests and the same wording in the denial. Ninurta tries to kill Anzu three times, and is repelled by the TOD three times.

This myth, like the other Mesopotamian myths I’ve looked at, and like many old myths of other old cultures, started out being told orally, and were only written down when someone had the time/education/inspiration, and/or when the myth was canonized. Dalley points out that various small parts of this myth are repeated word for word in other myths: all of the storytellers had a sort of “grab bag” of phrases or interludes, and could mix and match them depending on what they needed from the story.

If this myth has a moral, it’s probably Don’t Steal From The Gods; or maybe Be Grateful To Be A Bath Attendant. Anzu has the fatal flaw of hubris: he wants to control everything, even the gods.  But Ninurta isn’t shown to be a particularly bad or good guy: he obeys Belet-ili, but he is promised many honors and prizes if he succeeds, so I don’t know how pious his obedience is. He returns the world to the status quo, and keeps the gods in power.

Source

As always, this post brought you by Myths From Mesopotamia, translated and edited by Stephanie Dalley.

Scripture Sunday (15)

Scripture Sunday is a weekly quote-post to highlight Bible passages I’ve read recently that I found particularly interesting. My translation is the New International Version.

From my reading this week:

Then Balaam spoke his message:

“Balak brought me from Aram,
    the king of Moab from the eastern mountains.
‘Come,’ he said, ‘curse Jacob for me;
    come, denounce Israel.’
How can I curse
    those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce
    those whom the Lord has not denounced?
From the rocky peaks I see them,
    from the heights I view them.
I see a people who live apart
    and do not consider themselves one of the nations.
Who can count the dust of Jacob
    or number even a fourth of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous,
    and may my final end be like theirs!”

Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!”

He answered, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

-Numbers 23:7-12

Why I chose it:

Balaam and Balak’s full story is in Numbers 22-24, and is a pretty great time. The king insists that his country’s most famous wise man to curse Israel, but the wise man is, you know, WISE, and knows what God has planned for this wandering people.

Balaam’s story reminds me that it’s direly important to tell the truth, even when it’s not what people want to hear, and it’s wise to not  fight against the Creator of the world. He has plans.

Jane Eyre: Chapters 27-29

This post includes spoilers through chapter 29 of Jane Eyre.

Check out the #EyreAlong discussion on Twitter, if you haven’t already!

Enter the EyreAlong giveaway!

Chapter 27:

“If you were mad, do you think I should hate you?”

“I do indeed, sir.”

“Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still.”

Rochester continues at some length on this one point. Based on what we’ve seen of Rochester’s character, what we know of his relationship with Bertha, and what we’ve seen of his relationship with Jane, do you believe him? Why or why not? DISCUSS.

Personally, I’m not sure what Rochester would do if Jane’s mind was broken, but it’s clear that he is convinced of the truth of his words. That’s the tricky part of his character, both for us as readers and for poor Jane trying to argue with him: he is absolutely convinced that he knows the truth of a matter, and that he knows how to act and that his action will be the right one. For example, when he’s telling Jane the whole history of him and Bertha, he says, “I reasoned thus, Jane: and now listen; for it was true Wisdom that consoled me in that hour, and showed me the right path to follow.” He’s referring to the decision to go back to England, and keep his a wife a secret from everyone, so that he can live however he wants and doesn’t have to be responsible for his own wife in the eyes of other people.

Rochester’s progression of arguments in this discussion, in regards to convincing Jane, is scary. He notes almost immediately that Jane is pretty set in her views from the beginning: “you are thinking how to acttalking, you consider, is of no use.” He observes the sphynx-like expression is forming in your countenance” and isn’t sure how she is going to respond or react to any of the information he is giving her. He implies that if he could win her over by physical force, he would do so: “I long to exert a fraction of Samson’s strengthand laments that he can’t: “Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it-the savage, beautiful creature!” Does he get a gold “You Tried” star for realizing that Jane’s mind and soul belong to her, no matter what? I’m not sure.

On Jane’s side, she is clearly just trying to survive the conversation so that she can leave him later, either with or without his consent. Most of her thoughts and speech aren’t even trying to convince him that she is right, just trying to placate him or at least not to rile him. “I saw that in another moment and with one impetus of frenzy more, I should be able to do nothing with him.” Then Jane tries the proven method of crying, which works even though Rochester is aware of what she is doing (“If I storm, you have the art of weeping.”). But at that point, what ELSE can she do? He’s clearly convinced that he is right and won’t take no for an answer.

The biggest face-palm moment for me was the bit about the mistresses. So Rochester tells Jane about all of his ex-girlfriends, and then ends the explanation with this gem:“Hiring a mistress is the next worst thing to buying a slave: both are often by nature, and always by position, inferior: and to live familiarly with inferiors is degrading.”

Jane says nothing, but she, not being an idiot, realizes that “he would one day regard me with the same feelings which now in his mind desecrated their memory.”

This entire conversation between Rochester and Jane is frankly terrifying. Jane knows she can’t give in on any point, if she wants to keep her self-respect and principles, but she also can’t infuriate or alienate him so much that he either physically restrains her or cuts himself off from her emotionally/psychologically. I’d love to do a close read of this whole section but we have OTHER THINGS TO TALK ABOUT TODAY.

Before we move on to the next chapter, there were a couple of bits in here that reminded me of other works (most likely unintentional):

  • “My fixed desire was to seek and find a good and intelligent woman.” reminded me of John Donne’s Song, and its list of impossible missions, including finding “a woman true, and fair.”
  • Jane’s claim that “You will forget me before I forget you.” reminded me of Anne Elliott in Persuasion by Jane Austen, when she claims: “All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!” 

Best quote of the chapter (from Jane):I care for myself.”

Runner-up: “Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation.”

Chapter 28:

I’m a sucker for “lone figure at a crossroads” imagery.

Jane goes through a lot of angst in this chapter, some of it for herself because she is IN THE WILDS OF ENGLAND with nothing and no one to help, but most of it is for Rochester, who is probably not having the best time either. However, her faith is admirable – “Mr. Rochester was safe: he was God’s and by God would he be guarded.” That doesn’t mean that a) all her problems are solved or b) she feels calm all the time. She still has struggles and doubts; faith not a magic potion.

When she is rejected at the house by the servant Hannah, Jane is finally about to give up: “I can but die, and I believe in God.”

I still can’t decide what Hogwarts house St. John belongs to, but his response, “All men must die,” shows maybe he should belong to a Game of Thrones house instead?

Where did we see the ignis fatuus earlier in this book? I think Rochester alluded to them. Anyway, Jane sees the light at Marsh End and thinks it is a will o’ the wisp, but decides to go toward it as at this point she has no other choice of place to go.

Diana and Mary studying German together is my favorite. What cool kids. Also I learned a new word: “fustian,” which means “pompous or pretentious speech or writing.” I mean, it’s one of those words that creates itself when you use it, but still!

Chapter 29:

Or, the return of physiognomy! Since Jane is so ill she can’t talk, everyone gets to gather around and stare at her face and decide what her personality is like based on the size of her forehead, flesh, etc etc. Jane is judged to be “agreeable,” “sensible,” and not indicating “vulgarity or degradation.” Hooray!

Jane’s conversation with Hannah is fascinating. She plays the same sort of game that she did with Rochester- don’t say much, but when you do, make it barbed; otherwise, stay quiet and stare a lot so that they talk a lot and get defensive. Jane reminds Hannah that “if you are a Christian, you ought not to consider poverty a crime.” But Hannah has some good points – they live out in the middle of nowhere and she’s alone in the house with two young women.

The Rivers kids are the best supporting characters we’ve met in a while. I like Diana’s bossiness and kindness. St. John is a mysterious guy! He’s very analytical and thoughtful towards Jane, as if he’s trying to figure her out. It’s clear that he’s helping her more out of Christian duty and charity rather than because he likes her or out of kindness, like his sisters do. He’s not interested in helping her if she’s not going to be sensible; he wants to make sure she will make good use of his help rather than take advantage of him.

All three of the Rivers seem to read and study a lot; as Hannah says, “There was nothing like them in these parts, nor ever had been; they had liked learning, all three, almost from the time they could speak.”

All three of them allow Jane to keep her secrets, although the curiosity is probably killing them. What Jane does say makes her situation sound very dramatic and mysterious – which it is, but she could have gone the safer route and made something specific up. That wouldn’t be very like her, though.

We take a look at how much the Rivers parallel or contrast with the Reeds in future chapters.

Best quote of the chapter:

“My sisters, you see, have a pleasure in keeping you,” said Mr. St. John, “as they would have a pleasure in keeping and cherishing a half-frozen bird some wintry wind might have driven through their casement. I feel more inclination to put you in the way of keeping yourself: and shall endeavour to do so: but observe, my sphere is narrow.”

 

Jane Eyre: At Hogwarts

My friend Casey sent me a link that sorted Jane Eyre characters into Hogwarts houses. It’s a pretty good post, and you should check it out, but I respectfully disagree with some of the sorting so I decided to do my own.

Hogwarts is, of course, the magical school in the Harry Potter series. Students are sorted by the magic Sorting Hat into whichever House they fit best. Gryffindors are known for their bravery (and recklessness), Slytherins are known for their ambition (and ruthlessness), Hufflepuffs are known for their loyalty (and dependence) and Ravenclaws are known for their knowledge (and lack of emotion).

I only sorted characters that we’ve met through chapter 26.

Jane: Hufflepuff

“….if others don’t love me, I would rather die than live–I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen. Look here; to gain some real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest-“

Jane wants friends more than anything, and is very loyal to those friends she finds: Helen Burns, Mrs. Fairfax, Mr. Rochester, and St. John Rivers and his sisters.

Mrs. Reed: Slytherin

Mrs. Reed believes a person’s social class to be more important than anything, and is not above manipulation and deceit to keep Jane in what Mrs. Reed considers her proper sphere.

Mr. Brocklehurst: Ravenclaw

Mr. Brocklehurst thinks that the girls at his school can survive on discipline and learning alone, and doesn’t consider their emotional or physical needs nearly as much as he should.

Helen Burns: Ravenclaw

Helen just wants to read her book, but Jane won’t leave her alone. Although they become close friends, it’s more due to Jane’s persistence than Helen’s choice.

Miss Temple: Gryffindor

Miss Temple stands up for her pupils when she knows she needs to, even if doing so puts her job and livelihood at risk.

Mr. Rochester: Slytherin

Mr. Rochester enjoys his money and position, and isn’t above using those things to keep Jane as attached to him as possible (even though she doesn’t care about either).

Mrs. Fairfax: Hufflepuff

Mrs. Fairfax doesn’t judge others (much); she just wants to take good care of Mr. Rochester and his interests, and be  a good friend to Jane.

Blanche Ingram: Slytherin

Blanche knows what she wants in life, and that is to live in the manner to which she has been accustomed. If that means seducing a rich ugly bach like Rochester, so be it.

Richard Mason: Hufflepuff

Mr. Mason cares about his sister even though she’s homicidal towards him, and he cares about Rochester even though he locked Richard’s sister up in the attic.

 

How would you sort these characters? How would you sort others in Jane Eyre that I didn’t mention, such as Bessie or the Rivers? Let me know!