Jane Eyre: Further Reading (1)

I’ve tracked down some interesting blog posts and articles about subjects mentioned in recent-ish chapters of Jane Eyre. I won’t be discussing chapters 17-19 until this weekend, but WOW do I love all of the drama going on, especially with the influx of new characters.

Through Jane’s situation at Thornfield Hall, and especially via her interactions (or lack of) Rochester’s visiting friends, we get a good idea of what life was like for a Victorian governess. If you’d like a nice overview of the kind of job women like Jane had, read The Figure of the Governess by Kathryn Hughes:

Life was full of social and emotional tensions for the governess since she didn’t quite fit anywhere. She was a surrogate mother who had no children of her own, a family member who was sometimes mistaken for a servant. Was she socially equal or inferior to her employers? If the family had only recently stepped up the social scale, perhaps she’d consider herself superior. She was rarely invited to sit down to dinner with her employers, even if they were kind. The servants disliked the governess because they were expected to be deferential towards her, despite the fact that she had to go out to work, just like them.

Kathryn Hughes apparently has written a whole book on the subject of governesses.

Here’s a letter from Charlotte Bronte in which she talks about governesses and how important it is for women to be financially independent. I couldn’t find the full text online aside from the scans of the original letter.

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Painting by Richard Redgrave. Source with painting commentary. 

Meanwhile, Jane and Rochester still haven’t shut up about Physiognomy, so I found another article about it, including some interesting visuals from Victorian phrenologists/physiologists, showing how they analyzed faces to learn about the person’s personality.

Together these pseudosciences should not be viewed as fanciful, benign, or just misguided scientific endeavors of the 18th and 19th century, but rather portentous and troublesome practices, leading to or even perpetuating prejudices and long-standing biases. People could be easily categorized, labeled, and judged, not on merit or deed, but by their mere physical appearance. As a result, phrenology and physiognomy caught the interest of certain individuals with strong ideological convictions who wish to use these pseudosciences as justification for social, racial, religious, or political change.

Last but not least, the mysterious Mr. Mason (who shows up in this week’s reading), is from Spanish Town, Jamaica. I found you some awesome old maps of that area, for no good reason at all except OLD MAPS, Y’ALL.

Jane Eyre: Chapters 12-16

This post contains spoilers through chapter 16 of Jane Eyre.

I realized that I haven’t been making as many jokes or using as many gifs with this book as with the others. I’ve been trying to figure out why, but all I can conclude is that I take this book more seriously than our previous readalong books. Is that fair? You tell me.

That being said, I will try to include more gifs this time around by assigning a gif to each chapter that I feel encapsulates that chapter as a whole. Spoilers: I love these early chapters with Rochester. I love watching Jane turn him upside down in every conversation, his crazy unexplained moodswings, and their progression  into a weird friendship.

Chapter Twelve, or

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actual footage of Rochester’s entrance.

Jane is content with her life at Thornfield but is getting complacent and even bored with the sights and people. Fortunately for her (and the narrative) Rochester crashes his way onto the page because he doesn’t know how to drive, apparently.

Best quote:

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a constraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”

This was revolutionary thinking for the time that Jane Eyre was published. It’s still revolutionary for some today, which is sad.

“Gytrash”: For some reason I’m having a hard time finding references to this mythological dog that AREN’T just quoting Jane Eyre. Here is a good blog post on it.

Chapter Thirteen, or

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Rochester has an odd idea of polite conversation.

Best quote:

“Arithmetic, you see, is useful: without its aid, I should hardly have been able to guess your age. It is a point difficult to fix where the features and countenance are so much at variance as in your case.”

Jane Eyre is an old soul, and Rochester recognizes this almost immediately. I think it’s interesting that whereas Jane thought of the gytrash creature when she heard his horse, he suspected her of being a fairy when he first saw her. These crazy kids need to calm down with their flights of fancy.

Physiognomy: Victorians were REALLY into judging the outward appearance of a person and using it to figure out what their personality was. It also helped them be even more racist than their wildest dreams. Jane is referring to physiognomy when, for example, she notices his “full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler.” Rochester is also referring to it when he asks Jane about his large forehead in the next chapter.

Chapter Fourteen, or

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Jane is good at avoiding conversational blunders.

Best quote:

“It seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve; and that if from this day you began with resolution to correct your thoughts and actions, you would in a few years have laid up a new and stainless store of recollections, to which you might revert with pleasure.”

“Justly thought, rightly said, Miss Eyre; and, at this moment, I am paving hell with energy.”

“Sir?”

“I am laying down good intentions, which I believe as durable as flint.”

This whole conversation, but especially this bit, tells us so much about their characters. Jane has a rigid code of morality, and she holds to it, but she thinks that others are, or can be, as disciplined as she is. At the other extreme is Rochester, who is so aware of his own faults that he self-sabotages himself by being convinced he won’t hold to any resolutions he may make. Rochester on the whole in this chapter is very determined to show us how wretched he is, but can come across as whiny. I go back and forth with this guy.

Chapter Fifteen, or

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Best quote:

“In short, I began the process of ruining myself in the received style, like any other spoony. I had not, it seems, the originality to chalk out a new road to shame and destruction, but trode the old track with stupid exactness not to deviate an inch from the beaten centre. I had- as I deserved to have-the fate of all other spoonies.”

Rochester is a pretty sketchy guy. I like that Jane, as shocked as she must have been by this whole story, doesn’t dismiss him based on it but considers him as a whole, and observes his current faults and his current strengths. Ughhh I just love their friendship but I also love the part where she saves him from the fire and then he’s all “UGHHH I LOVE YOU SO MUCH” but doesn’t actually say that? I have feelings, people, about this chapter and these characters.

Apollo Belvedere: presented without comment.

Chapter Sixteen, or

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Jane finding out about Blanche, probably

Jane is getting real thirsty in this chapter, as well as incredibly frustrated by the cover story for the fire that she has to go along with.

Best quote:

When once more alone, I reviewed the information I had got; looked into my heart, examined its thoughts and feelings, and endeavoured to bring back with a strict hand such as had been straying through imagination’s boundless and trackless waste, into the safe fold of common sense.

Arraigned at my own bar, Memory having given her evidence of the hopes, wishes, sentiments I had been cherishing since last night-of the general state of mind in which I had indulged for nearly a fortnight past; Reason having come forward and told in her own quiet way, a plain, unvarnished tale, showing how I had rejected the real, and rabidly devoured the ideal-I pronounced judgement to this effect: –

That a greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of life: that a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on sweet lies, and swallowed poison as if it were nectar.

Jane has no chill, especially not when she feels she’s let herself fall into unrequited love. I really love and relate to the above quote, though. Self-talk is never harsher than when you feel like you’ve made a huge mistake, especially when you knew you knew better. You know?

DISCUSS:

What were your favorite scenes from this section? Favorite quotes?

Did anything strike you as strange or confusing?

Do you find Rochester as a sympathetic character or just whiny?

What do you think of Adele? How does Jane treat her? How do other characters treat her? Do you think Adele is treated well or poorly by those around her?

How effective is the Mysterious House and Mysterious Grace Poole plot? How is the suspense being built, or what parts of the story/characters/setting are adding to the suspense?

 

 

Jane Eyre: Chapters 7-11

This post contains spoilers through chapter 11 of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

How is the reading going? Fallen behind? Racing ahead? I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to this next week’s reading. Because reasons.

In case you missed it:

  • The #EyreAlong tag right now is mostly me. Y’all need to step up your Twitter game or I’ll just keep live-tweeting Jane Eyre movies.
  • Jane Eyre: Jedi Knight? on the blog.

Continue reading “Jane Eyre: Chapters 7-11”

Jane Eyre: Jedi Knight

This post contains spoilers for chapters 1-9 of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. We should be through chapter 11 by Saturday.

Readalong PSA: If you haven’t checked out or contributed to the #EyreAlong hashtag on Twitter yet, what are you waiting for?

I’ve been reading the Lowood chapters and watching how much Jane learns and grows while she’s there, especially through the influences of Helen Burns and Miss Temple. I realized that Jane’s growth arc so far has a lot of similarities with a Jedi-in-training.

(Yes, I am a huge Star Wars nerd, but if you didn’t know that about me already, then it is good that we are having this talk.)

Without further ado, let’s look at the parallels between Jane’s upbringing through age ten of her life (and through chapter 9 of the book) and a Jedi Pawadan’s training during the Old Republic.

Jane leaves her family at a young age, just like a potential Padawan would.

All right, so most Padawans are taken from their families as babies or toddlers, but I mean, if starting his Jedi training a little older worked for Anakin, it should be okay that Jane is older, too, right?

Right?

In Jane’s case, she has zero regrets about leaving her home with the Reeds and while her thoughts may dwell with her “mother” Mrs. Reed, they are thoughts of blame, not fear for Mrs. Reed’s safety. She doesn’t have a lot of emotional entanglements, which Jedi frown upon.


Jane grows up in an austere educational institution where practicality and quiet are valued.

Jane objects to way the students are constantly harangued for their behavior, and how unimportant the needs of the body are considered by those in charge. Young Jedi Padawans live and learn at the Jedi Temple and have to learn to value the galaxy at large over their own feelings and needs.

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The Jedi Temple. Source

Jane has to pass a few tests at Lowood, just like the Initiate Trials of a potential Padawan.

Jane doesn’t know anyone at Lowood when she first arrives. She has to defend herself against older bullies. She has to defend her reputation when Mr. Brocklehurst tries to turn everyone against her. She’s behind in academics and has to struggle to catch up.  Jedi Padawans have to pass their own test when they join the Jedi order called the Initiate Trials. This is to prove that they’re worth training to use the Force.

Jane has a lot of Feelings that she has to master or let go of.

Helen Burns is constantly calling Jane to the floor for being disproportionately angry, vengeful, or self-pitying. Due to her influence, Jane tries to at least suppress some of her darker emotions. Of course, as we all know, letting go of one’s fear and anger, but also stretching out with one’s feelings, are very important for the Jedi order. Padawans are trained in serenity and calm.

Jane admires kind older girls like Helen Burns and teachers like Miss Temple, just as a Padawan emulates Jedi Knights and Masters.

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Symbol of the Jedi Order. Source 

Jane immediately gravitates to the forbearance and kindness of Helen Burns, another “Padawan” in training, although she’s older than Jane. Jane also  admires Miss Temple, the superintendent and a compassionate, educated woman. If Miss Temple is Jane’s Jedi Master, does that make Brocklehurst Yoda? I’m just asking. Jedi Padawans have to learn from Knights and Masters, and eventually are trained under one particular master who chooses to mentor them. Miss Temple is Jane’s mentor Jedi Master.

I can’t wait for Jane to build her lightsaber and complete the Jedi Trials.

What do you all think? Can you think of other ways Jane is emulating the Jedi Way?

All of that being said, I would still like someone to write me a Jedi AU fanfic of Jane Eyre. 

 

Jane Eyre: Chapters 1-6

 

This post includes spoilers for chapters 1-6 of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

How is the reading going for everyone? It’s a long novel so I hope it won’t be too agonizing to keep up with. I’m amazed by how engaging this book is, and even though I’ve read it multiple times, it still isn’t boring. Especially since Jane is a child for these early chapters, and I am usually very bored by child narrators/child protagonists. I guess I’m just terrible.

Jane. What a cool kid. What a terrible kid. What a frightening kid! Almost immediately Mrs. Reed admonishes Jane for being so outspoken, saying “there is something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner” (chapter 1). Of course, in Victorian times children were expected to be seen and not heard, but even so Jane is a very precocious little girl, constantly questioning her elders with a surprising amount of awareness. After her experience in the red room, Jane gets even more extreme with her thoughts and expressing them. Once she realizes that no matter what she does, she will be punished and abandoned by the people who are supposed to care for her, she has no chill whatsoever. Her situation is terrible but how she deals with it is entertaining to watch, although ultimately unsustainable.

That being said, here is my list of Sauciest Jane Moments thus far:

  • “They are not fit to associate with me” (chapter 4) Jane announces when told that Jane is not edifying company for her young relatives
  • Mr. Brocklehurst: “What must you do to avoid [hell]?” Jane: “I must keep in good health, and not die” (chapter 4). She makes a compelling argument…
  • “I was about to propound a question, touching the manner in which that operation of changing my heart was to be performed” (chapter 4), when told that her heart must be changed because it’s evil. To be fair, a lot of typical Christian terminology is REALLY CONFUSING especially when you’re a kid. I love that she wants to question everything so much, not because she’s skeptical, but because she wants to understand it.
  • When Jane has lost all of her chill and all hope that Mrs. Reed will ever love her: “You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so” (chapter 4). For a neglected and abused child, Jane has a lot of courage in confronting her caretaker so forcefully.
  • “Deceit is not my fault” (chapter 4): again, Jane is very self-aware for her age, although she has her blind spots. It’s hilarious that Mrs. Reed informs her that being “passionate” is just as bad. Very Victorian.
  • “Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time” (chapter 4), Jane says when she tells off Mrs. Reed. These early chapters really feel like a villain’s origin story.
  • Jane knows that in going to school she “shall soon have another set of people to dread” (chapter 4). Again, very aware of the world around her, very prepared to be careful and cautious (not surprising, based on the neglect she’s gone through for her whole life).
  • Bessie observes “How coolly my little lady says it” (chapter 4). I love picturing tiny Jane Eyre, self-assured and world-wise, calmly talking to adults and freaking them out 100% of the time. Again, she has her faults, which become clearer in later chapters.
  • “She has been my foe” (chapter 5): Jane finally is able to let go of any concern she had for Mrs. Reed’s opinion of her. Mrs. Reed is a “foe” and therefore someone to be escaped from. Even though she’s heading to school, Jane is freer now that she doesn’t worry about pleasing or displeasing Mrs. Reed.
  • Jane is sure “we should strike back again very hard” (chapter 6) at those who hurt us. She’ll have to learn otherwise, but I still respect her ferocity.

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Jane Eyre establishes Jane’s upbringing and how it shapes her character so clearly and firmly in these opening chapters that we know exactly who this girl is. As she grows up and makes choices, her character is perfectly consistent. Even if that’s all this book does, it would be a masterpiece of character study.

Like I said above, “little roving, solitary” (chapter 4) Jane is really neglected and abused (hopefully you won’t try to argue with me on that point). As the adults won’t accept any of Jane’s affection, she throws all of her affection at her doll “in the dearth of worthier objects of affection” (chapter 4). Since she’s so young, it takes her a while to figure out that there is no reason for the way she is being treated. At least, no reason that is based on her behavior. She’s doing her best to obey. “I could not answer the ceaseless inward question–why I thus suffered; now, at the distance of–I will not say how many years, I see it clearly” (chapter 2). That makes it all the more interesting when, through her experience in the red room breaks through that childlike self-accusation and enables her to see who the real misbehaving ones are: the adults.

Bessie and Abbot, the maids, are convinced that at best Jane is a strange little imp and at worst that she’s “a sort of infantile Guy Fawkes” (chapter 3). To Mrs. Reed, “I was a precocious actress in her eyes” (chapter 2) despite the fact that Jane is brutally honest to everyone. In those rare moments that Bessie, and no one else, are even the slightest bit nice to her, “Bessie seemed to me the best, prettiest, kindest being in the world” (chapter 4).

Of course, Jane doesn’t understand how much her class/social status dictates how others treat her. Bessie tries to explain it, saying “They will have a great deal of money, and you will have none” (chapter 2). Bessie is trying to get Jane to accept reality but Jane is developing a very black and white understanding of justice and treatment of others. Mrs. Reed, in the same vein, tells Mr. Brocklehurst “I should wish her to be brought up in a manner suiting her prospects” (chapter 4). Mrs. Reed is kind of the worst, but she as well as Bessie knows that Jane doesn’t have the same future as the Reed children, and want her to realize this. Jane is furious with Mrs. Reed for again portraying Jane as a liar or actress to Mr. Brocklehurst: “I dimly perceived that she was already obliterating hope from the new phase of existence which she destined me to enter” (chapter 4), but to be fair Mr. Brocklehurst treats all of his students terribly, even if he doesn’t think they’re lying delinquents. More on Mr. Brocklehurst later, probably. In any case, Mrs. Reed knows that the girls at Mr. Brocklehurt’s school are “quiet and plain” (chapter 4) and that’s all she wants Jane to become. WILL SHE SUCCEED? TUNE IN NEXT TIME.

Bit that cracked me up: Brocklehurst’s story about the “pious” boy who gets two delicious nuts for saying he’d rather read Psalms (chapter 4). That kid knows what’s up.

I liked the bit where older!Jane is reflected on her younger self’s aversion to poverty: “[children] have not much idea of industrious, working, respectable poverty” and “I was not heroic enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste” (chapter 3). Considering Charlotte Bronte’s poor but industrious upbringing, I like seeing how she criticizes treatment of poorer classes while admitting the wide variety of poor people. They can’t all be shunted into a box, even if young Jane thinks they can.

 

I relate to Jane’s sentimental goth love of storms: “as it was, I derived from both a strange excitement, and reckless and feverish, I wished the wind to howl more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness, and the confusion to rise to clamour” (chapter 6).

Helen Burns is an excellent foil counterpart to Jane. Helen is a little older, and has had a very similar cold upbringing to Jane’s, and yet she is quiet, forgiving, forbearing, and patient. I love how Jane is fascinated by her, like a mix of contemptuous disbelief that Helen would put up with her tormentors, but also admiring her for that same tolerance. Helen herself doesn’t exactly look down on Jane, but does NOT admire the fierce attitude Jane has adopted. She tells Jane, “it is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear” (chapter 6), which is a very significant line for Jane’s whole life, really. Jane is very good at bearing things she doesn’t want to bear. Helen also criticizes Jane’s obsession with those who have wronged her: “What a singularly deep impression her injustice seems to have made on your heart”  (chapter 6). Unlike Jane, who is determined to survive, determined to outlast anyone who mistreats her, Helen says “I live in calm, looking to the end” (chapter 6). Helen has all of the chill, Jane has none.

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Jane and Helen, modern AU.

That’s all I have for this week, except Jane’s booklist below. Comment below with thoughts or questions, or if you disagree with anything I’ve said.

Jane’s literary influences (mentioned so far in Jane Eyre):

  • Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson: A lot of early novels, like Pamela or Moll Flanders, had plots that were a prototype of Jane Eyre. They followed a young woman who falls into the power of an older man, often an employer, who tries to seduce them. If the young woman lets herself be seduced, she usually winds up dying painfully because of her sins. If she resists, she often goes through a lot of terrible experiences before being rewarded. We can argue about how much Jane Eyre has in common with this earlier genre once we finish.
  • Bewick’s History of British Birds: This is an early field guide to birds.
  • The History of Henry, Earl of Moreland by Henry Brooke: The protagonist is a rich young man who wants to become a social justice warrior, as far as I can tell.
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels is possibly the most iconic satire of English literature, but when read by a child is often interpreted as a simple travel-adventure story.
  • some Arabian tales“: I’m going to assume this is One Thousand and One Nights. We should do a readalong of these!
  • Although it’s not to Jane’s taste, Rasselas by Samuel Johnson: The History of Rasselas is a philosophical novel that can be compared to Candide by Voltaire.
  • “like Felix” (chapter 6): This is a reference to the Roman governor Felix, who delays putting Paul on a proper trial until he’s essentially out of office. You can read the story in Acts 23-25 in the Bible.

It’s interesting that most of these books are from the 18th century, so somewhat recent “modern classics” for Jane Eyre, living in the 19th century. She’s familiar with the problem of bookworms everywhere:

“With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy: happy at least in my way. I feared nothing but interruption, and that came too soon” (chapter 1).

Jane Eyre: Introduction

This post contains NO SPOILERS for Jane Eyre.

That being said, have you all started reading Jane Eyre yet? I’m only a few pages in, but it’s as upsetting and brilliant as I remember. I don’t understand how a Victorian novel manages to feel and read and sound so modern, in terms of content and emotion. I won’t talk now about the plot, but I do want to talk about the Brontës.

The Brontës are my literary Squad Goals.* Charlotte, her sisters (those who didn’t die absurdly young) and her brother, were taken from school and kept at home, so they wrote and wrote and wrote. They wrote crazy adventures and scandals and tragedies, all taking place in connected fictional lands. Once the sisters started publishing, first their poetry and then novels, they did so under ambiguous pseudonyms. There’s a really great article on their pseudonyms, where they got them, and the thinking behind using them here. That article includes a quote from Charlotte Brontë, in which she explains:

Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called ‘feminine’ — we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice . . .

-“Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell” by Charlotte Brontë

Of course, it’s hard to say if and how publishing under their real, female names would have hurt or helped their books, but based on publishing in general, I guess it wouldn’t have been great.

This is another really good article from The Atlantic on the Brontë sisters and how they managed to be subversive in their writings even if they couldn’t be in “real” life.

Charlotte outlived the rest of her siblings to the ripe old age of 39. You can read a short biography of Charlotte here and see a timeline of her life here.  Keep her life experience in mind while reading Jane Eyre….or don’t. I’m all about ignoring authorial intention. But the parallels between Charlotte and Jane can be enlightening.

To wrap up, I’d like to share a quote from Charlotte Brontë’s Preface to Jane Eyre. I usually skip prefaces because they’re boring, but I read it this time and am really glad I did.

Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.

These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is — I repeat it — a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.

The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show pass for sterling worth — to let white-washed walls vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinise and expose — to rase the gilding, and show base metal under it — to penetrate the sepulchre, and reveal charnel relics: but hate as it will, it is indebted to him.

Keep the above attitude and belief in mind while reading Jane Eyre.

 

*Yes, I just linked to Urban Dictionary. You’re welcome.

Jane Eyre Readalong

49d64d716732e05cdd7d43a97ed90458Our Jane Eyre Readalong starts in January! We will be reading the entire book from Jan. 1 through Mar. 4.

The discussion hashtag will be: #Eyrealong

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.

There will be a Jane Eyre-related giveaway at some point. Stay tuned for details on how to enter.

Here is the reading schedule:

By January 7th  you should have chapters 1-6 read.

By January 14th you should have chapters 7-11 read.

By January 21st  you should have chapters 12-16 read.

By January 28th you should have chapters 17-19 read.

By February 4th you should have chapters 20-23 read.

By February 11th you should have chapters 24-26 read.

By February 18th you should have chapters 27-29 read.

By February 25th you should have chapters 30-34 read.

By March 4th you should have chapters 35-38 read.