This post contains spoilers through chapter 23 of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
In case you missed it, Gingernifty wrote about the literary-inspired webseries “Autobiography of Jane Eyre” on her blog. I really need to watch that show.
How is the reading going? These chapters are a bit of a psychological seesaw. I mean, I’m pretty sure we only have a couple of chapters left. They’re getting together, Blanche is out of the picture, Mrs. Fairfax can’t help but approve…..
Oh wait there’s still half the book left. Um. Well. I’m sure it’s all honeymoons and libraries from here on out.
I can’t remember when I first read this book, but when Rochester is trying to calm everyone down that one night when Mason won’t stop screaming, and says, “It’s a mere rehearsal of Much Ado About Nothing“, I totally thought he was legitimately trying to pass off a midnight rehearsal of a Shakespeare play with him and Mason as the primary characters. Because I am an optimistic lunatic. Mason would probably make a good Claudio, though. There’s another Shakespeare reference in the chapter when Jane is trying to form a response to Rochester’s vague-and-somewhat-menacing request to justify his behavior. “Oh, for some good spirit to suggest a judicious and satisfactory response! Vain aspiration! The west wind whispered in the ivy round me; but no gentle Ariel borrowed its breath as a medium of speech: the birds sang in the treetops; but their song, however sweet, was inarticulate.” Ariel is a spirit that serves Prospero, an exiled duke and magician in The Tempest.
I can’t decide if Jane is brave or insane to stay in that room with Mason while some mysterious blood-sucking monster is just on the other side of the door: “What creature was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman’s face and shape, uttered the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of prey?” Love really is blind because let me tell you I wouldn’t let Rochester get away with “everything is fine, shhhh don’t ask questions, we’re all fine here, now.” What would YOU do if you were in Jane’s situation, possessing only the knowledge she has at this moment? DISCUSS.
Rochester as good as tells Jane that he plans to marry Miss Ingram. He says it again in the next few chapters, and I’ve been thinking about it and I really don’t understand why. Is he trying to goad Jane into admitting her feelings for him? Is he actually considering marrying Blanche, as a way to protect Jane from his hot mess of a life? DISCUSS.
He also has these delightful mood swings going on, as when he is telling Jane all of his feelings, breaks himself off, and then “his face changed too; losing all its softness and gravity, and becoming harsh and sarcastic.” I can only guess that he keeps being lulled into spilling his feelings to Jane because she’s a great listener, and then he’s like WAIT WHAT AM I DOING I AM A PROFESSIONAL CONCEALER. But more on that later.
Best quote of the chapter:
for if I bid you do what you thought wrong, there would be no lightfooted running, no neat-handed alacrity, no lively glance and animated complexion. My friend would then turn to me, quiet and pale, and would say, ‘No, sir; that is impossible: I cannot do it, because it is wrong;’ and would become immutable as a fixed star. Well, you too have power over me, and may injure me: yet I dare not show you where I am vulnerable, lest, faithful and friendly as you are, you should transfix me at once.
-Rochester to Jane
I don’t understand why Jane claims that her dreams about the baby were a presentiment of her summons to attend to Mrs. Reed. Is she the baby, laughing and crying by turns, in this metaphor? Or is Mrs. Reed, because she’s lost so much health and wits? Or is Jane saying something else entirely? DISCUSS.
Blanche Ingram is such a perfect Mean Girl that I can’t help but enjoy her scenes. When Jane comes in to talk to Rochester, interrupting their billiards game, Blanche stares her down and asks Rochester, “Does that person want you?” Perfect. Write a manual, Blanche.
Rochester and Jane’s banter (or fight, or contest of wills, or all three) over whether she will go and for how long is one of my favorite scenes.
“but I shall advertise.”
“You shall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!” he growled. “At your peril you advertise!”
They’re a really good match for each other, and the book is constantly showing that through the way they counter each other’s arguments, how Jane’s stoicism calms Rochester down, how Rochester’s emotions help Jane open up…. IDK I JUST LOVE THEM, YOU GUYS.
I love books where a character returns to a place where they were treated poorly, but because they have changed and grown so much they are able to put the past behind them and show how much they are Unbothered. Jane’s return to Gateshead is triumphant, in spit of the tragedies that have befallen the Reeds. There’s a remarkable contrast between Mrs. Reed and her daughters, who don’t seem to care two straws about each other, and Jane and the family she’s formed at Thornfield. Even though the Reeds are a “real” blood family, the daughters want nothing more than to get away from each other and don’t seem upset about their mother or brother, either. Whereas at Thornfield, Jane honestly cares for Adele, Mrs. Fairfax, and Rochester, and they care about her.
Speaking of the Reed girls, they should form a Mean Girls gang with Blanche: “Young ladies have a remarkable way of letting you know that they think you a “quiz,” without actually saying the words. A certain superciliousness of look, coolness of manner, nonchalance of tone, express fully their sentiments on the point, without committing them by any positive rudeness in word or deed.”
FYI: Dictionary.com informs me that quiz can mean “an eccentric, odd-looking person,” originating in 1775-85.
Eliza seems to be another Brocklehurst, except she only wants to affect her own behavior and life, not others, and Georgiana is fashionable but superficial. Eliza terrifies me, to be honest. I like routine as much as the next antisocial introvert, but she really takes it to the next level.
I do appreciate her tirade at Georgiana though, ending with best quote of the chapter: “if the whole human race, ourselves excepted, were swept away, and we two stood alone on the earth, I would leave you in the old world, and betake myself to the new.”
Jane’s meetings with Mrs. Reed are cathartic but at the same time really frustrating. Mrs. Reed is driven by guilt to confess to Jane, but at the same time is determined to think of Jane as a terrible person and to blame her for Mrs. Reed’s own behavior: “You were born, I think, to be my torment.” She also has a skewed perspective on her husband and son: “[Mr. Reed] was weak, naturally weak. John does not at all resemble his father, and I’m glad of it”, even though Robert, the servant, has told us John’s “head was not strong.” Mrs. Reed is a very confused sad lady. Jane remembers Helen Burns, and how she lived and died, and the contrast is enough to give her emotional whiplash.
“How people feel when they are returning home from an absence, long or short, I did not know.” Jane’s return to Thornfield absolutely kills me. She is so emotionally repressed, not because she isn’t passionate, but because she hasn’t had any outlet for positive feelings. But even her home-coming is poisoned by her feelings for Rochester, which she considers pointless: “I felt glad as the road shortened before me: so glad that I stopped once to ask myself what that joy meant: and to remind reason that it was not to my home I was going, or to a permanent resting-place.”
AND THEN EVERYONE IS SO HAPPY TO SEE HER and I want to die from all the feelings. Awwww. Jane+Home OTP 2017.
“Pass, Janet,” said he, making room for me to cross the stile: “go up home, and stay your weary little wandering feet at a friend’s threshold.” Kemendraugh pointed out on Twitter the similarity of Jane Eyre to Tam Lin, and I can’t stop thinking about it and I will probably do a post on it at some point, but also I never noticed this reference before. For those who aren’t familiar with her, Janet is the heroine of the Tam Lin folklore, who has to rescue her lover (Tam Lin) from Fairyland.
Rochester won’t let go of the Fair Folk jokes, but I assume when he mentions “a blue ignis fatuus light in a marsh” he’s talking about these. He also continues to be a dope about his supposed upcoming nuptials to Blanche, which, as I mentioned above, I do not understand his reasoning for.
Best quote of the chapter:
“I have been with my aunt, sir, who is dead.”
“A true Janian reply! Good angels be my guard! She comes from the other world-from the abode of people who are dead; and tells me so when she meets me alone here in the gloaming!”
Okay but are we going to talk about Rochester chasing Jane around the grounds of Thornfield with the power of his cigar smoke? “I walked a while on the pavement, but a subtle, well-known scent-that of a cigar-stole from some window; I saw the library casement open a hand-breadth; I knew I might be watched thence; so I went apart into the orchard” but then once she’s in the orchard, her “step is stayed-not by sound, not by sight, but once more by a warning fragrance.”
I’m not sure whether to laugh or be terrified.
Once he has a captive audience, so to speak, Rochester falls back on his marry-Miss-Ingram-and-banish-Jane plan. I was laughing at “Mrs. Dionysus O’Gall of Bitternutt Lodge,” which Jane takes at face value, but rukbat3pern on Twitter observed “how representative all of the place names are of Jane’s emotional states in this book”. I hadn’t noticed this before! Let’s go back and read the whole book again because I bet that is a fascinating trail! Write me a post, Princess Lessa!
This scene is amazing and all of the speeches are fantastic (please go re-read Rochester’s “it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs” speech and Jane’s very important “Do you think I am an automaton?” speech)and I WILL RETURN TO THIS CHAPTER LATER because of Spoiler Reasons, but take note of the way Rochester, with no help from Jane, is justifying his behavior and choices to himself, ending with “I know my Maker sanctions what I do” right before they re-enter the house. Sounds fake, Edward.
Best quote of the chapter: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.”