The Yellow Wallpaper and Jane Eyre

I was going to write a post or two on “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and discuss it in comparison with Jane Eyre. But honestly, all of the comparisons I could make seem a bit too easy.

“The Yellow Wall-Paper” is an American short story, and in some ways the characters and plot are very different from Jane Eyre. But on the other hand, whenever I read it, I can’t help thinking about Mr. Rochester and Bertha Antoinette, or even Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre. The gas-lighting and manipulation, whether it’s intentional or simply because the husband thinks he knows best, is terrifying.

If you haven’t read this incredible short story, please do so! You can do so here at Project Gutenberg.

Here’s a brief write-up on female “hysteria” and insanity in the 19th century.

Have any of you read this story? What do you think of it? Does it make you reflect on Jane Eyre differently in any way? If so, how?

 

 

Jane Eyre: Chapters 35-38

This post contains spoilers for pretty much everything in Jane Eyre.

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Don’t forget to enter the giveaway! It ends tomorrow! I will announce the randomly-generated winner soon after.

Join in the #EyreAlong conversation on Twitter.

Coming up in April: a readalong for Silas Marner by George Eliot.

I have read Jane Eyre, mon ami, and shall be glad to know what you admire in it. All self-sacrifice is good-but one would like it to be in a somewhat nobler cause than that of a diabolical law which chains a man soul and body to a putrefying carcase. However the book is interesting-only I wish the characters would talk a little less like the heroes and heroines of police reports.

-from a letter to Charles Bray from George Eliot

Do you agree or disagree with George Eliot’s opinions on Jane Eyre? She uses very strong words! Do you think Jane’s Christian moral code is, indeed, a “diabolical law”? Is Bertha anything better than a “putrefying carcase”? DISCUSS. Like I said, we’re reading a George Eliot book next for our readalong in April, so it will be interesting to compare these two authors’ styles and priorities.

Chapter 35

“To me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble; his eye was a cold, bright blue gem; his tongue, a speaking instrument-nothing more.”

St. John continues to enrage and terrify me. St. John calls Jane “violent, unfeminine, and untrue,” because not only has she rejected his proposal but she compares marrying him to killing her. This is a classic move: by accusing her of being unjust toward him, he manages to completely invalidate her feelings of hurt and validate his self-righteously cold treatment of her. Furthermore, he accuses Jane of breaking her promise to him of marrying him and going to India. This is nothing less than a lie and attempted entrapment – she did nothing of the sort. Fortunately, despite her wish for St. John to approve of her, she tells him as much: “I am not under the slightest obligation to go to India.” 

Even Diana, who clearly loves her brother and wants him to stay, is pleased and surprised that Jane turned him down: “unfortunately, I have noticed, whatever he exacts, you force yourself to perform. I am astonished you found courage to refuse his hand.” I think, if Jane had been in love with St. John, she wouldn’t have been as obsessed with his approval. She wants St. John as a brother, and because of that she holds him in respect and authority. In contrast, Jane was in love with Rochester and while she wanted him to think well of her, she never bent over backwards to earn his approval – she simply behaved as her own self and principles required her to do.

Of course, as Jane admits, part of St. John’s power over her is his gentleness and quietness: “I could resist St. John’s wrath: I grew pliant as a reed under his kindness.” Again, to contrast with Rochester, Jane found it easy to disagree with him or disobey him when he was passionately demanding something. When St. John resorts to demands, Jane can see his errors; but when he gives her kindness (which is very rare to her) she is much more likely to give in.

Gross, St. John.

Anyway, she resists St. John thanks to magical ghostly voices, and we proceed to the next chapter.

Chapter 36

“The wondrous shock of feeling had come like the earthquake which shook the foundations of Paul and Silas’s prison; it had opened the doors of the soul’s cell, and loosed its bands-it had wakened it out of its sleep, whence it sprang trembling, listening, aghast…”

Jane acts calm but she really has no chill, does she?  I’m glad she doesn’t just wander off into the moor again, as it seems like she does in ever filmed adaptation; instead, she waits for St. John to leave, and then informs Mary and Diana of what is going on. Like good friends, they are supportive but also make sure she’s not going to fall into a bog or something. Although, I would have a lot more questions about Jane’s “friend” that she’s going to go see, considering she almost died of starvation on my doorstep and said she had no friends.

Back at Thornfield’s blackened ruins:

Jane: I leave Thornfield for five minutes, and what happens? EVERYTHING IS SET ON FIRE? ROCHESTER IS BLIND AND CRIPPLED? THE INNKEEPER HATES ME?

I really love the scene with the innkeeper in this chapter because it’s one of the few, and possibly only, outside perspectives we get on Jane and Rochester. Hilariously, he’s a huge fan of Rochester (I mean, for good reasons, it sounds like Rochester was a good landowner/master/etc), and extremely critical of Jane, whom he has never met.  The innkeeper knows that Rochester “set store on her past everything” and grew “quite savage on his disappointment” and ends with the wish that “Miss Eyre had been sunk in the sea before she came to Thornfield Hall.” He doesn’t seem to object morally to any of it, though; not Mr. Rochester’s secret wife, or a possible marriage to someone beneath him socially. He seems to only care about Rochester’s health and happiness, so potentially, he would have been fine with Jane and her marriage to Rochester if it had turned out well.

Chapter 37

Mr. Rochester now lives at Ferndean manor. “Dean” can be traced to an Old English word denu or dænu, which means “valley,” so between that and “fern,” we’ve got a house name that is distinctly opposite to his previous residence, Thornfield. Etymologically interesting, in my opinion!

“Is it Jane? What is it? This is her shape-this is her size-“

“And this is her voice,” I added. “She is all here. Her heart, too.”

Spoilers: Jane and Rochester get together. Are we happy about this? Sad? Disappointed? DISCUSS. Jane is certainly happy.

We get a lot of Bible references in this chapter. Mr. Rochester is compared to Samson (for the third time in the book, I believe). Jane also compares him to Nebuchadnezzar, who God cursed with madness and then wandered in the wilderness for a while before being restored to his wits and kingdom (Daniel 4). Rochester makes comparisons of his own, telling Jane, “If Saul could have had you for his David, the evil spirit would have been exorcised without the aid of the harp.” You can read this story in 1 Samuel 16:14-23. In Jane’s narration, when she’s reflecting on the disembodied voice that provoked her to seek Rochester out, she says “I kept these things then, and pondered them in my heart.” This is a reference to Mary the mother of Jesus in Luke 2, after the shepherds visit her son and explain that God told them to seek Him out. Is this a sacrilegious comparison? DISCUSS, haha.

Mr. Rochester gets very jealous of St. John, based on Jane’s description (as she intends! Saucy!). He compares St. John to Apollo, god of music and overall handsomeness, and himself to Vulcan, or Hephaestus, the ugly and crippled god of craftsmen. Vulcan, though, is also married to Venus/Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, which Jane humbly doesn’t point out.

“You are altogether a human being, Jane? You are certain of that?” 

“I conscientiously believe so, Mr. Rochester.”

I don’t want to glorify manipulation here, but I love how Jane handles Rochester in this chapter. I mean, she’s doing it for his own good, right? She’s trying to get him on his feet again, physically and psychologically; she wants him to care about living again and not obsess over his past sins and wrongs. She does this in her typical Jane fashion of poking the beast with a stick until it snaps, and then mollifying it with food.

Rochester has been having his own tribulations of the soul while Jane was gone. He admits, “You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance, as a child does its weakness? Of late, Jane, only-only of late-I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.”

Chapter 38

The reactions of the servants, John and Mary, to Jane and Rochester’s engagement is a perfect scene, and a lovely anecdote in this final chapter.

In this chapter, everything is wrapped up tidily. We get endings for Jane and Rochester (obviously), Adele, Diana, Mary, and St. John. Were you unhappy with any of their endings? Were there other characters you would have liked to hear about? DISCUSS. Personally, I am ecstatic that Jane remains friends with Diana and Mary (and their eventual husbands).

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the only line from an English novel more lavishly overused and adapted than the opening sentence to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice must be Charlotte Brontë’s triumphant climax to Jane Eyre: “Reader, I married him.”

Claire Fallon at the Huffington Post

I strongly recommend reading Fallon’s article here. Agree or disagree with her argument, it’s a helpful discussion of famous line from Jane Eyre and its use and effect over the years.

And that’s a wrap for Jane Eyre! I’ve really enjoyed reading this book with you all. I hope you had fun! I will be doing a related post on “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in a couple of weeks, so feel free to read that story and discuss it as it relates to themes in Jane Eyre.

I hope to see you at future readalongs. As mentioned at the top, Silas Marner starts in April.

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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.

 

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!

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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!

Jane Eyre: Chapters 24-26

If you missed the #EyreAlong giveaway post, check it out! You have 100% chance of winning right now.

This post contains spoilers through chapter 26 of Jane Eyre.

The cat is out of the bag. I’m guessing most of us have experienced this story before, either the book or an adaptation. If so, did anything about the Big Reveal strike you differently this time around? If this was your first time finding out about the madwoman in the attic, what were your thoughts?

There is an entire book titled The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar that looks at Victorian literature and its treatment of mad women (or women we are told are crazy) through a feminist lens. I’ve only read chapters from it but I recommend it if you’re interested in the topic.

Anyway, let’s go chapter by chapter and talk about this.

Chapter 24:

This whole section before their wedding makes me so uncomfortable. There’s been a lot of chatter on Twitter about it (check out the conversation in the #EyreAlong hashtag if you haven’t), and how conscious Rochester is of how he’s manipulating Jane, and whether Jane is aware of it. I’ve read this book before and disliked Rochester’s behavior at several points, but it was a lot more obvious to me this time around a) how much he is gaslighting her b) how much he is objectifying her without noticing and c) how much the author judges him for it, as well as Jane occasionally.

Jane’s immediate problem is Rochester’s determination to cuddle and turn her into some kind of doll. Now that he can be honest about his feelings, he turns into this crazy sentimental boyfriend who wants to talk about how beautiful she is and how great she is Jane is just like, slow down, babe: “I felt he was either deluding himself, or trying to delude me.” I am a normal human being and PS you are a normal human being too and REALLY ANNOYING AS WELL: “you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me” Jane tells him. Finally she resorts to Extreme Saltiness to get him to stop adoring her so fervently and annoyingly: “There, you are less than civil now; and I like a rudeness a great deal better than flattery.” There’s a couple of things to remember about Jane here. Jane really appreciates honesty and straightforwardness, so Rochester getting all poetic is very wrong to her. Jane has low self-esteem, so someone loving her that much is upsetting to her. She can’t relax and be herself because she knows she’s Not That Great and she will let them down. There’s reams and reams to be said about Jane’s self-esteem and where it’s at throughout the book. All of that being said, you could point to the fact that she likes it when he’s rude to her as an example of their unhealthy, unequally-balanced (in terms of social power) relationship.

In my post last week, I was wondering about Rochester’s intentions in telling Jane he was going to marry Blanche. I forgot he explains it explicitly in this chapter as a bid to make Jane jealous. It’s interesting that he leaps to that method after the scene where Jane rescues him from the fire. I’m trying to picture his internal monologue but apparently it goes something like this:

ROCHESTER: OH NO I LOVE JANE SO MUCH. We’ve been hanging out and she just RESCUED ME and I am feeling VERY VULNERABLE and IN LOVE RIGHT NOW.

ROCHESTER: What should I do ? Does she like me back? Can I marry her even though, you know, my secret wife?

ROCHESTER: She’ll never admit she likes me back. 😥

ROCHESTER: JEALOUSY! IT’S THE ONLY WAY. FORTUNATELY I KNOW ALL THOSE HOT GIRLS AT THE LEAS.

ROCHESTER: *rides off*

JANE: Wait, he’s gone? I thought he was going to admit he had feelings for me like a normal honest person and we could get married….

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One scene that I really loved was Mrs. Fairfax warning Jane. It’s clear that Mrs. Fairfax, even though she doesn’t know Mrs. Rochester, is really concerned that in this matter Mr. Rochester is Up To No Good and to be fair, Jane has ZERO worldly experience. “Gentlemen in his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses.” She comes across as controlling and annoying to Jane, of course, but it’s clear she’s only speaking up because she’s concerned and feels responsible for Jane. I don’t think Jane has ever had an older, wiser person ever be concerned for her welfare or life choices before, and it’s just…really great. The End.

“I believe she thought I had forgotten my station, and yours, sir.”

“Station! station! –your station is in my heart…”

Back to Rochester exhibiting Concerning Behavior: we’ve seen him call Jane an elf many times previously in this book. In my opinion, it often comes across as an affectionate nickname and teasing, and Jane doesn’t seem to object to it. When she is at Lowood and later at her Gateshead visit, she paints fantastical pictures with folkloric subjects, and she seems well-acquainted with legends, like guytrash and the people under the hill.  ALL OF THAT BEING SAID, Rochester seems to be taking the metaphor pretty far at this point. We talked about the Tam Lin reference in the section for last week, and Rochester alludes to a similar story when he tells Adele the story in the carriage: “It was a fairy, and come from Elf-land, it said; and its errand was to make me happy.” I mean, I guess that’s cute? Except that it means Jane’s entire existence is for Rochester’s personal gratification. We can come back to fairy-stories and Jane’s purpose at Thornfield again later, but for now, eek, Rochester, kinda weird, bro.

I keep thinking we’ve reached the end of WEIRD CONVOS in this chapter but then there’s the whole part where Rochester is like “I’ll be your Turkish slave-dealer, baby” and Jane is like “I’ll be over here, stirring up slave-mutinies like a normal Victorian woman” and I just whew boy. This book is great and terrible?!?

Speaking of slavery, we have repeated imagery of Jane and Rochester each enslaving the other, mostly from Rochester because he’s the weird one:

  • (to Jane) “You master me-you seem to submit”
  • (to Jane) “After all, a single morning’s interruption will not matter much, when I mean shortly to claim you- your thoughts, conversation, and company-for life.”
  • (to Jane) “it is your time now, little tyrant, but it will be mine presently…..I’ll just-figuratively speaking-attach you to a chain like this.”

I don’t know, do you think I’m being unfair to Rochester? Let me know because wow. Of course, there’s also the song he sings about the lady-love swearing to die with her lover, and Jane’s caustic response: “I had no intention of dying with him-he might depend on that.” It’s just a song, on the one hand. On the other…WHY ARE YOU SO WEIRD, ROCHESTER?

“I never can bear being dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester, or sitting like a second Danae with the golden shower falling daily round me”: this is a reference to a lady named Danae who gets locked up by her dad and then impregnated by Zeus in the form of a sunbeam. I’m assuming Jane isn’t talking about the impregnation part, but rather that she doesn’t want to be a passive locked up lady whose only hope is aid from someone outside. Which, when you think about it, says really disturbing things about poor Bertha, locked up in her room.

“Now, king Ahasuerus”: This is the king that Esther marries in the biblical book of the same name. I think Jane is comparing herself to Esther in that she doesn’t want monetary goods but for Rochester to trust her (good luck with that). There’s definitely an anti-Semitic vibe in her speech here though, which is uncomfortable and weird.

“don’t turn out a downright Eve on my hands!”: Rochester responds by comparing Jane to biblical Eve, who wanted the forbidden fruit that would give her wisdom – he’s implying that truth/knowledge/wisdom isn’t always a good thing to have so that he can justify not telling her about some stuff, like, oh, HIS SECRET WIFE, for example.

Best quote of the chapter:

“He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol.”

 

Chapter 25:

There is so much foreshadowing in this book that it is just rude. In chapter 23 Jane accused Mr. Rochester of being “a married man- or as good as a married man, and wed to one inferior to you-to one with whom you have no sympathy-whom  I do not believe you truly love.” She was talking about Blanche Ingram, but her entire speech also applies to Mr. Rochester and Mrs. Bertha Rochester and their relationship. Here in chapter 25, it opens with Jane preparing to become Jane Rochester: “Mrs. Rochester! She did not exist: she would not be born till tomorrow, some time after eight o’clock AM.” 

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There’s also the extremely disturbing (to me, at least) image of the chestnut-tree that was struck by lightning. Jane stares at it and notices the two pieces of it are just barely holding together: “a ruin, but an entire ruin” and “you are not desolate: each of you has a comrade to sympathize with him in his decay.” Jane and Rochester and their relationship are like the tree. If Jane stays with him and lives with his poor choices, even after learning everything, it would be really unhealthy for both of them, and morally they would be one strong wind away from crumbling completely.

This chapter is the most concentrated example of Rochester’s manipulation of Jane, especially when she questions things he doesn’t want her to know about – or even, like, when she literally SEES HIS SECRET WIFE IN HER ROOM and he still doesn’t tell her the truth. If you aren’t familiar with the term gaslighting, please read up on it, because this is a textbook case. Also please go watch Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman because it is amazing.

I’m pretty frustrating with Jane’s repeated acceptance of Rochester’s super fake lies, but then again, what else is she going to do?

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You didn’t see anything, Jane, it’s fine.

“Shall I tell you of what it remind me?”

“You may.”

“Of the foul German spectre-the Vampyre.” Jane has read Dracula: she knows how to identify a horror movie  and whether she’s in one. 😉

Best quote of the chapter:

“I found nothing save Fairfax Rochester’s pride; and that did not scare me, because I am used to the sight of the demon.”

Chapter 26:

This is possibly the most dramatic chapter in the whole book, and it’s really well done in terms of shock value and the nightmare-ish unfolding of events, but I don’t have a lot to say about it.

Most of the adaptations I have seen differ from the book scene in the attic in that Mrs. Rochester tries to attack Jane, and then is stopped by Mr. Rochester. Here she ignores everyone else and goes right for her captor, which I can understand and respect. But again, she is a homicidal mad person at this point – attacking people and drinking their blood is wrong, Bertha! I’ve also seen several movies that don’t show her sneaking into Jane’s room and ripping the veil, which is one of the most terrifying scenes in the book and I really don’t understand why you wouldn’t include it.

I’d like to know more about Mr. Mason – do his motivations come from love for his sister, concern for the family honor, his promise to Jane’s uncle, or a combination of all three? What do you think? We don’t get a lot about him besides his fear, and Mr. Rochester, at least, has a very low opinion of him. I’d forgotten that Mr. Mason knows Jane’s uncle in Madeira, and that those two sub-plots tie together. Rochester mentioned earlier that Mason could ruin him at any moment, and maybe Jane could too, and Jane insists she would never put him in danger. However, her letter about her marriage to her uncle unintentionally does just that. WHOOPSIES.

“Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman-almost a bride-was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale, her prospects were desolate.” Jane realizes how precarious her situation is now. She can either pretend that everything is fine (which would be very out of character and stagnant for the Jane we know), go back to how she was before, or move on.

In a previous post, I wondered about Jane’s dreams about the child, particularly mentioned at the beginning of chapter 21. This chapter seems to provide an answer as to the significance of those dreams, which started around the same time she became aware of her feelings for Rochester: “I looking on my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing; they lay stark, chill, livid corpses, that could never revive. I looked at my love: that feeling which was my master’s-which he had created; it shivered in my heart, like a suffering child in a cold cradle; sickness and anguish had seized it; it could not seek Mr. Rochester’s arms-it could not derive warmth from his breast. Oh, never more could it turn to him; for faith was blighted-confidence destroyed! Mr. Rochester was not to me what he had been; for he was not what I had thought him.”

Um. Yikes. DISCUSS.

Jane Eyre: Further Reading+Giveaway!

There are so many books out there by the Brontës, about the Brontës, and/or related to the Brontës’ work, and many of them are really amazing. For example, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is a really amazing retelling of Jane Eyre from another character’s perspective. You can see my old review of it here but SPOILER WARNING for Jane Eyre plot points.

Giveaway!

3-15-17: Our randomly-generated WINNER: Jessamyn/gingernifty! I’ll be in touch to get your prize to you! Thanks to everyone who entered!

This contest is closed.

I promised an #EyreAlong giveaway and I’ve finally got it together. There will be 1 winner who will receive 2 books, which I’ll talk about below. One of the books is an old favorite of mine, and the other is a book I’ve long been meaning to read.

The Prizes:

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The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde :

Genre: mystery+romance+time-travel+alternate history

Hey You Should Read It: Someone is kidnapping characters from books. One of the victims is Jane Eyre, and the book she belongs to by the same name is slowly unraveling. Thursday Next, a literary detective, is tasked with finding the kidnapper and returning the book characters. If that isn’t enough, along the way there are plenty of dodos and at least one irritating Danish Prince to keep  us all entertained. This is a hilarious, fast-paced story and perfect for bookworms. It’s the first in a series so there’s more where this came from, but The Eyre Affair also stands alone in terms of plot.

7881796Tales of Glass Town, Angria, and Gondal: Selected Early Writings by Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Anne Brontë, and Patrick Branwell Brontë:

Genre: poetry+diary entries+autobiographical+fantasy

As I mentioned in the introduction post to #EyreAlong, the Brontë siblings spent much of their growing up years writing stories for each other about fictional lands. While many of their prose stories are lost, this volume collects a lot of their early work, including poems about their imaginary countries and characters, and diary entries. This is definitely on my list of Brontë-related books to read! Between the sisters, they wrote several works of classic literature, and I’d love to see how they got to that level of skill, along with their own writing about their real lives.

How To Enter:

1 Entry: comment on this post with a link to an #EyreAlong post you have made (on any social media platform as long as it’s public, i.e. as long as I can visit it). It can be an #EyreAlong post just for the purposes of entering this giveaway, but hopefully you have already been participating in some way, even just as a lurker.

Optional Extra Entry: I love quotes, and I’d love to hear which lines from Jane Eyre you especially like. Include your favorite Jane Eyre quote so far in your comment, and any reason why it’s your favorite.

1 winner. Open to US/Canada only. Please include your email address so I can contact the winner. The giveaway will close 3/5/17 at 12 am PST.