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.
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.
This week on Dracula: we learn, once again, that COMMUNICATION IS SUPER IMPORTANT.
Communication as power is a huge theme in this book, intentionally or not. Keeping people ignorant is a terrible idea especially when there are vampires out to get you – Lucy’s mom agrees with me, I’m sure of it! Like, I understand that Van Helsing is struggling with other people’s inability to believe in blood-sucking monsters, but GOOD. GRIEF. All of the dudes keeping Lucy and her mom in the dark about everything, Van Helsing and Seward trying to keep Arthur in the dark about Lucy, Mina and Jonathan trying to stay in the dark about whatever happened to Jonathan….UGH. JUST. COMPARE NOTES ALREADY.
Renfield is the only other dude besides Van Helsing who knows what’s up (“the blood is the life; the blood is the life!” (170) and he’s insane, and as we all know you can’t trust insane people. Right, Seward?
“I am beginning to wonder if my long habit of life amongst the insane is beginning to tell upon my own brain” (163).
The incredibly detailed interview with the zookeeper is super random, but also, why would you name your gentle loveable captive wolf “Bersicker” (164)? I’m not picking up what you’re putting down, zookeeper. I presume that the wolf that escaped from the zoo is the same wolf that breaks through Lucy’s window and allows Dracula to get in to her. But then Lucy talks about dust floating around in the room and it’s mesmerizing (174), just like Jonathan with the dust that turned into the vamp-ladies, and it seems like if Dracula could shape-shift into dust he could just dust himself through a closed window??? DISCUSS?
But to be honest, Lucy’s diary entry at the end of chapter 11 is one of the more terrifying parts of this book for me. It’s so claustrophobic and helpless-feeling: even though she’s in a house (in the middle of town?) with her mom and a bunch of servants they’re all trapped and essentially at Dracula’s mercy. I don’t know, was it scary for anyone else? Or was there another part that was scarier for you?
Ok but picture this:
you and your doctor bro are bustling around trying to save this girl you have a huuuuge crush on and you’re like “bro we need more blood” and suddenly you realize your American gunslinging bro has been sitting behind you on the sofa the whole time (179).
I don’t have a point to this, I’m just amazing Quincey doesn’t have an attack of the hysterics or something since the girl he likes is dying and stuff. He’s just…sitting there. Creepin.
Meanwhile, Van Helsing has his priorities straight:
“You’re a man, and no mistake. Well, the devil may work against us for all he’s worth, but God sends us men when we want them.”
182 Quincey knows about vampire bats and yet no one has a brain
183 Lucy tearing the paper up is also terrifying
185 “I love you with all the moods and tenses of the verb” mina/lucy 4evah
And sometimes when we don’t want them, to be honest.
I’m trying to stay focused, here, but there is just so much WEIRD STUFF in these chapters, friends! Let’s list a few real quick:
There’s a really good Renfield joke to be made here about how the older generation characters are dropping like flies, but I can’t quite manage it. Seriously, though: Lucy’s mom, Arthur’s dad, Jonathan’s boss, all in a couple of chapters. Van Helsing is lucky his grey hair hasn’t killed him yet.
There’s Van Helsing’s surprisingly pro-American comment on Quincey Morris: “If America can go on breeding men like that, she will be a power in the world indeed” (207)
There’s Arthur’s claim DURING LUCY’S FUNERAL that he’s totally married to Lucy now because they exchanged fluids (208) and Seward/Morris/Van Helsing probably all die a little inside
Van Helsing has an attack of the hysterics (208) but in a manly way I guess??? Seward’s comments on that are wild. Apparently you can lecture women right out of their hysterics, but men cling to their hysterics hard.
Ellen Terry name-drop, who was apparently a friend of Bram Stoker’s
Bizarre Twilight reference, ahoy: “I am daze, I am dazzle” (219). Are you sure Stephenie Meyer didn’t read this before writing Twilight?
I have two favorite scenes in these chapters.
Number one is when Mina and Van Helsing first meet. I absolutely love how she demurely hands him her notes, doubting if little ol’ me could possibly be of help to a brilliant physician – and then he can’t read shorthand. Of course, Stoker ruins it by making her reference Eve because Stoker hates fun:
“I could not resist the temptation of mystifying him a bit—I suppose it is some of the taste of the original apple that remains still in our mouths” (218).
My other favorite scene is the conversation between Van Helsing and Seward at the end of Chapter 14. Van Helsing completely tears apart Seward’s scientific empiricism and I’m here for it:
“Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain” (227).
“He meant that we should have an open mind, and not let a little bit of truth check the rush of a big truth, like a small rock does a railway truck. We get the small truth first. Good! We keep him, and we value him; but all the same we must not let him think himself all the truth in the universe” (229).
Whew! That’s all I got for this week!
But then again “Truly there is no such thing as finality” (225), so here’s some last facts:
Jonathon Harker makes a judgement of Van Helsing’s personality based on his eyebrows and Van Helsing mentions physiognomy. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically the study of human faces and how the way you look means you behave or think a certain way. Victorians loved it because it gives your racism some pseudo-scientific backing. Here are a couple of links.
There are a couple of references in these chapters to contemporary poems, and they’re both PRETTY EFFING DARK but enjoy:
“Death-bed” by Thomas Hood (short and what it says on the can)
“The Giaour” by Lord Byron (long and includes vampires)