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Jane Eyre

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No, I think you misunderstand, GERBAM. I'm not suggesting it is Charlotte Bronte trying to pretend this is her life, rather that it is intended for the readership to think of Jane as a real person relating her life story. It is a conscious illusion that the readership enters into - they know fundamentally that it is a story - but part of the pleasure of the reading experience is in that suspension of disbelief, so masking real place names helps to further that illusion. This was why I placed 'genuine' in inverted commas.

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No, I think you misunderstand, GERBAM. I'm not suggesting it is Charlotte Bronte trying to pretend this is her life, rather that it is intended for the readership to think of Jane as a real person relating her life story. It is a conscious illusion that the readership enters into - they know fundamentally that it is a story - but part of the pleasure of the reading experience is in that suspension of disbelief, so masking real place names helps to further that illusion. This was why I placed 'genuine' in inverted commas.

 

 

As usual David your answer is on target. I agree witih you completely and feel confident that we are both on the 'same page.' :)

 

PEACE

GERBAM

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What do people think about the conclusion to the novel?

You can find my thoughts in post #6, ladyaemy. I'm also a little uneasy about it, as you can read there, and it's clear that, as you say, it follows certain conventions. There is a symbolic thread of sin, judgement and redemption that is fulfilled in this close and so the 'neatness' is inevitable in a way. Also

 

 

the fact that Rochester is a different man does seem to push credibility if considered solely as a result of the fire, but I suppose we should also bear in mind his inner torment from the events around his intended marriage to Jane previously. This will doubtless have weighed heavily on his conscience, making him ripe for reform.

 

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I found the sudden shifting of ground when Jane goes away and the St John storyline unfolds a tad too jarring, actually, and there is something about the ending that I find uncomfortable. Yes, it all works in terms of a sin being paid for and so overcoming a seemingly insurmountable barrier, but all the same...

 

 

Is it actually a sliver of male pride that means I don't like seeing Rochester almost emasculated in his blindness and having lost a hand, being made dependent on Jane? Am I uncomfortable that Jane's 'destiny' is to look after Rochester? I'm not quite sure, but it leaves me uneasy!

 

 

A great book, though, skilfully told.

___________________________________________________

 

Thanks, David; I did find this post since I posted my earlier question about the conclusion, and felt a little chagrinned (sp?) that I hadn't gone back far enough to find it sooner. It's a lively and very large site to explore - but I just must bring your post up again, b/c it hits the target absolutely for me about the ending, especially the (wry?) content of your spoiler.

 

I don't think (if I may say so) that it's

"a sliver of male pride" at all that makes or made you react. I too find that Rochester comes perilously close to being "emasculated" and "dependent" - even though he acquires a son, and there is some mention, I think, of faint portions of his vision partially returning. If it's meant as a punishment for his initial pride and deceit, his "greater-than-God" disregard for concealing an existing (if disordered) wife, well, yes, it fits the conventions of Bronte's time.

 

But it's still an overwhelming punishment; the Rochester we first knew had touches of humour and gentleness as he got to know Jane - it wasn't all arrogance and self-will, although that was clearly there. But it seems he's a desperate man in a desperate dilemma, (who was deceived, I think, into marrying Bertha, without knowing her full condition -true? I get the Wide Sargasso Sea plot sifting in here sometimes), and we seem to find desperate, dark characters, as you say, given, if not endorsement, at least a kind of recognition in Wuthering Heights. JE has an obvious "moral" ending, but the price of re-union is very high, and seems to change Mr. R's character into someone not just appropriately chastened, but different: "All is changed, changed utterly" .. but no "terrible beauty" here, I think.

 

 

And I am still baffled by the interlude with St. John Rivers ... it is brief enough, and the reader can slide over it, but still ... what do you think was Bronte's purpose in giving him this vivid corner of the conclusion?

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And I am still baffled by the interlude with St. John Rivers ... it is brief enough, and the reader can slide over it, but still ... what do you think was Bronte's purpose in giving him this vivid corner of the conclusion?

It comes as a strange section after the intensity of Jane's experiences with Rochester, but in terms of the structure of the novel it's quite important. Although her time at Thornfield is rich in many ways, Jane has been there in a subservient position: Rochester is in every way her master and Bronte's purpose seems quite modern in many ways because she is determined that Jane evolves beyond that.

In her new teaching position she actually has independence and can exist as her own person before returning to Rochester on very different terms. Obviously her inheritance is a more obvious way of providing this too.

 

 

It's also about finding the right balance in her life between passion, morality, independence and religious faith.

Part of the inherent problem with marrying Rochester whilst Bertha was still alive was that it would be wrong in the eyes of God, as would being his mistress (which would also be another problem with independence). Moving on from this she's presented by St John with the chance to follow a true religious vocation as a missionary, but that, she realises, would be a loveless situation if done as his wife. The balance is found in her caring for Rochester - an action that is good, provides her with equality with him and which grows out of true love. The sections with St John provide the personal preparation for this denouement as well as an important juxtaposition that helps to point up this significance. If they can feel slightly 'off', then perhaps that helps things to feel more 'right' when she returns to Rochester.

 

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Thank you, David.

 

The points about "balance" are very helpful, both in the plot structure overall, and also in Jane's life - the "passion, morality, independence, and religious faith."

 

It's her story, after all, as the title declares, and the points about her improved "status", her independence, are good to remember. Courage and good judgement ("discretion"?) seem to be Jane's special strengths also, and they seem to increase as the novel progresses.

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HI

I love the posts as they move along in this discussion.

 

The question about Jane meeting the Rivers family is a real one. :confused:

Why?

David i think you hit on part of it when you spoke of balance. But I think there is more to.

 

JE is a BILDUNGSROMAN which requires {usually} a female protagonist to take a journey from harsh and humble beginnings through a long series of what might be called "tests" before she blossoms a whole self. With this in mind I think it's easy to understand why CB brought Jane to these people. After all it turns out that they are distant cousins; then Jane hears of her inheritance which she immediately shares with her new family. She never had either of these things and now her hellish experiences are beginning to heal. "Bronte consistently uses the opposed properties of fire and ice to characterize jane's experiences."(Gilbert and Gubar)

 

When St.John wants her to go with him on his missionary travels he is offering her a sterile and insulting 'marriage'. She knows that she is able now to recognize her passionate nature and can't agree to live that kind of life ... and no love exists between them.

 

David if I read you correctly you are referring to the balance/differences between a life with St.John and a life with Rochester. Also a balance between her going from post to worse and finally understanding what it is like to have unconditional love from the girls. She is nearly 'there' in her quest to fulfillment

 

When she goes back to Rochester they are equals. His emasculation from the fire is not permanent and his blindness is a symbol of his ability to now see more clearly and like Jane draws strength from within.

 

I heartly recommend anyone interested in women writers of the 19thC take a look at MADWOMAN IN THE ATTIC ... and search sites that are devoted to the Brontes and their work.

 

ENJOY

GERBAM

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Hi all,

 

I've almost finished Jane Eyre, just the last few pages to go.

 

In common with others, I found the last parts a little less compelling, after she has fled Thornfield and wandered lost and desolate on the moors.

 

Rivers is a fairly repulsive character, and sexually ambiguous. I wonder whether the fact that Jane is tempted to accompany him to India, on her terms, is in some sense, an act of penitence on her part for her feelings for Rochester. She says quite candidly that every night, in bed, her thoughts turn to Rochester......conjure that how you will.

 

From a psychoanalytic perspective, the blindness and the loss of a limb suffered by Rochester renders him no longer the sexual predator that he once was. Blindness is associated with the loss of sexual potency, and the loss of a limb is a fairly obvious metaphor for the same thing on a physical level. To what degree a nineteenth-century reader would have interpreted this in this way, I'm not sure, but I have no doubt that there is an abundance of critical literature dealing with the subject.

 

I've really enjoyed reading Jane Eyre; I wish I'd read it sooner. I may have more to say about it when I've actually finished it, and had time to inwardly digest its substance.

 

Best wishes,

Sam

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The quotes below are copied from the 19th Century Novels and Strong Female Characters thread. I'd like to continue the discussion here, if others are interested.

I understand why you included Jane Eyre in your list, but I have a somewhat different take on her. Throughout much of the book she does indeed express independence and feminine strength, but at the end Bronte tags on the final episode where she reverts almost totally to the traditional subservient female role and devotes herself entirely to the care and feeding of a man, leaving behind all sense of herself as a independent woman.

 

I admit to being mystified as to why Bronte chose to make this major change in her character, but it seems beyond question, to me at least, that she did.

 

Is there another way to understand the final few pages of the novel?

Yes, I understand what you mean. I must admit I felt a little disappointed with her at the end after all that she'd had to battle through previously.

I've never felt that Jane became subservient to Rochester, indeed I don't think he could have borne her doing so. Does taking on the responsibility for the care of another human being necessarily turn one into a weak and willing doormat?

I'm sure that Jane took her independent mind into her marriage, and retained it into motherhood. It was she who found a suitable school for Adèle, she and her husband 'talk...all day long', neither of which I would presume were usual in most families at the time. She would have, of necessity, been at least equal partner with Rochester in all decision making, she could in the circumstances easily have taken the dominant rôle.

I suppose I must concede that the 'never did I weary' passage does smack of servitude, but why is service performed in love more demeaning than service performed for money?

First, thanks for the welcome. And I have gone ahead and posted a few words about myself in the introductions section.

 

Perhaps subservient was a bit too strong, but she seems to have given up any sense of personal independence. Yes, she did make decisions (she pretty much had to during Rochester's time of blindness, didn't she?), but when she says "I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth..." she seems to me to have yielded her personal independence for a life merged with that of a man. Which isn't a bad thing; her marriage does sound like a melding of equals, and equally perhaps Rochester has given up his separate independence as much as she has. But given the feistyness and spunk which carried her through almost all of the book, it seems that Bronte is saying that those characteristics were okay while she was finding a man to love, but that at that point it was time to cast them off.

I'd be interested in seeing suggested alternative scenarios for Jane after she turns down StJohn Rivers proposal (or accepts it, if that is considered to give her an opening to a more independent life).

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But given the feistyness and spunk which carried her through almost all of the book, it seems that Bronte is saying that those characteristics were okay while she was finding a man to love, but that at that point it was time to cast them off.

 

I think Bronte is saying that these characteristics were necessary until Jane found what she wanted from life, so that she didn't get stuck with something she didn't want, ie a life as a teacher at Lowood, or as Rochester's fake wife when he had a wife still living, or a missionary. As for what she wanted, I don't think it was a man to love, I think it was Rochester, and that's a different thing.

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Hmmm. Let's see. I suppose it should be something that ties in reasonably with the book, so it's probably not fair to suggest that she could have done a Mary Kingsley and traveled in Africa (or China or South America or elsewhere) as a single British lady, even though she certainly had the spirit and spunk for it.

 

And since it's also probably not fair to introduce a new male love interest for her right at the end of the book, if she doesn't marry St. John or Rochester, there's nothing left for her but spinsterhood. It's too bad that John Reed is dead -- she could have found that he had learned from his misfortunes, become a good man, and could have married him and lived happily ever after.

 

One possibility is that she could have gone back to Lowood as a teacher or perhaps headmistress and used her talents and money to make life better for the next generations of orphans. She and Miss Temple could have lived together comfortably as old maids and companions for each other. With several old tabby cats who would purr in their laps during the evenings.

 

Or, with Jane's new found wealth, Blanche Ingram could suddenly re-emerge and befriend her (gold-digger that she is) and introduce Jane to her set and Jane will be swept off her feet by a handsome and wealthy titled society blade and live a high society life between his London mansion, his country estate, and his shooting lodge in Scotland. (Oops -- I think the grammarians here will wince at the switches of pronominal antecedents in that sentence.)

 

Actually, by the last chapters, Charlotte has pretty much closed off most alternate futures for Jane, hasn't she? All the men she knew even reasonably well are either dead, abroad, or blind and partly crippled. She has no home, and no place for which she feels any homelike affection except the now destroyed Thornfield. Without introducing some whole new episode into the book, where can she go except back to Lowood or back to Rochester?

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She had a lonely and loveless childhood, would you send her out exploring, and spend her adult years alone?

 

In what way would marriage to some other man make her less subservient/more independent than marriage to Rochester?

 

She'd been a teacher at Lowood, and seen improvements made. She'd had enough of that place. And after having her passionate nature awoken, was she going to be happy as a spinster schoolteacher with a cat and another old maid as company?

 

You haven't offered an alternative that fits. I don't think independence is any advance on the mutual dependence of equal minds - which I think is what Jane and Rochester have.

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I used to have a problem with Jane's return to Rochester. For a seemingly independent woman who fought her own corner so single-mindedly, the conclusion just didn't sit well with me. However, after studying the novel this year, I have changed my opinion.

 

Gerbam notes that JE is a bildungsroman, which is a type of novel in which plot follows the protagonist from early to late age and which through the course of the novel, they learn, grow and change some errant behaviour to become a 'better' person. By better, I mean conforming to some Victorian ideal. This is not the case in JE. Jane is essentially the same person as she was at the beginning of the book. She returns to Rochester before she realises that Bertha has died - she still intends to commit some sort of adultery. By our culture and expectations we view the conclusion as safe or disappointing but for Victorian expectations the ending was subversive. JE, published in 1847, pre-empts the New Woman of the end of the century in that she makes her own decisions, one that suits her and that decision does not preclude a husband and a family. After all, a family is what she always desires, and Rochester, for her is the keystone of that family. She wants him no matter what and she returns for him. Pretty controversial stuff really for the time.

 

Now, I can't think of a better ending.

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I've recently listened to an abridged audiobook read by Juliet Stephenson. It was only 3 CDs long and, although well read, was a travesty. :rant:

I must read the full novel now. :yup:

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I agree that Hazel has explained that extremely well and that would certainly be my view of the mechanics of the novel and the way in which it would be viewed by contemporaries, though I still feel a tad uneasy from my own perspective, as I outlined earlier.

 

I think Jane is essentially the same person in terms of personality, but it's her understanding of the world and herself that's changed markedly, as well as her personal circumstances. The key point in this discussion, I would say, is that even though she ends up in a situation that we might think of in a limiting way, it has been her choice. She has evolved into independence and chooses to return to Rochester. Do we regard a modern woman as a failure who reverts to stereotype if she gives up a successful career to start a family with the man she loves? What she finds is a relationship of equals and a perfect balance between them: if part of that is her devotion to him, well that's what love's all about! She notes: "I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine." Which is as perfect as love could be, but this was still in an age when the wife was considered very secondary to the husband, so those last few words are - as Hazel suggests - pretty radical.

 

The truly fascinating part, as Hazel has noted, is that Jane chooses to find him when she's unaware of the events that have passed. That potentially raises a lot more debate, but an interesting thing to consider is that God is an important part of the novel's meditations and even that supernatural calling of her name is linked to God in the narrative when she hears Rochester's explanation, so possibly there is the sense that with the death of Bertha all is right and God allows the union to take place.

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And of course, it's easy to forget how radical the idea of Jane marrying Rochester was at the time. She was a governess, he was a wealthy man. I remember reading a contemporary comment from a woman who said that if she thought her governesses were harbouring any such feelings she would dismiss them at once.

There are some interesting contemporary reviews here

http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/bronte.html#reviews

 

amongst which are "Jane Eyre is, indeed, one of the coarsest books which we ever perused"

and

"It is true Jane does right, and exerts great moral strength, but it is the strength of a mere heathen mind which is a law unto itself."

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If we're going to get all psycho-sexual-analytical about it, you could say Rivers is the masochistic choice (she'd be punishing herself) and Rochester is the sadistic choice (he's been punished)....

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I remember reading a contemporary comment from a woman who said that if she thought her governesses were harbouring any such feelings she would dismiss them at once.

Blanche and her mother of course, are overheard saying that governesses were a threat to the family, mutinous and a bad influence. But it is wrong to assume that the majority of middle-class families viewed the governess position badly, after all the Governess Benevolent Institution that cared about the plight of the governess was set up in 1847. There was great concern about these women, although how the middle-classes would have felt about them marrying their men is another matter! I am sure Louisa May Alcott's Behind A Mask is another governess story.

 

Still, there are arguments on both sides about the conservatism or radicalism of the book. A contemporary review described it as "burning with moral rebellion". I fall into the radical camp after all Jane claims equality with Rochester and returns to 'have' him before knowing that Bertha is dead.

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I think Jane was a very strong woman in her time. If she had lived today, she certainly would have gone exploring the world. But she doesn't live now. Hazel had a great way of explaining the situation. Just the fact that she chose to marry him - she could have made a different choice but she didn't - shows how strong she really was.

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Of course, Jane's financial situation has improved dramatically by the end of the novel, so I'm wondering if the money would have made her intention to commit adultery any more palattable to the Victorians? She would have been on Rochester's 'level' then. I wonder what they'd think if she was still a pauper?

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Adultery or sex out of wedlock wasn't palatable to the Victorians in any form, whether you were rich or poor. It was against the teachings of the Church and broke one of the Ten Commandments. There are many Victorian novels which dwell upon the fate of adulterers or unmarried women and they usually come to a bad end. In George Eliot's Middlemarch, for instance, the mere inference that adultery might have been committed blights the life of Dorothea and Ladislaw, although Eliot contrives a respectable ending. And Tess of the D'Urbevilles, Hardy's unmarried Mum,

comes to a tragic end on the gallows.

 

 

There were also different rules about adultery for men because they could divorce their wives for infidelity or suspicion of it but women could not divorce their husbands. In Austen's Mansfield Park Mr Rushworth gets his divorce for adultery at the end of the novel and in James' What Daisie Knew the effect of divorce upon children is shown in what is the first novel to deal with child custody.

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Hi MegC. Can I just ask you to spoiler your specific comment on the ending of Tess of the d'Urbervilles? Although it is a classic there are many people on BGO who haven't read some of the great Victorian novels but who often note their intention to do so - obviously that's quite a key revelation that might spoil things.

 

If you're not sure how to do it there is an explanation here.

 

Thanks! :)

 

Edit: Hope you don't mind but I don't think you saw my post before you left this morning so I've just popped it in for you. If you click 'Quote' you can quickly see how I did it.

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Of course, Jane's financial situation has improved dramatically by the end of the novel, so I'm wondering if the money would have made her intention to commit adultery any more palattable to the Victorians? She would have been on Rochester's 'level' then.

 

Certainly, financially Jane, by the end, is in an elevated position to Rochester but would the contemporary readership still seen her as an equal? I don't think so, after all despite Roch losing his wealth and stately home, he still has lineage. Of course, you can also say though that by removing themselves from society, by hiding away in Ferndean, they effectively create their own classless 'society' a kind of new Eden which the name suggests, where they can both be considered equals. But it can also be said that they hide themselves away in shame.

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Adultery or sex out of wedlock wasn't palatable to the Victorians in any form, whether you were rich or poor.

 

...Except that a lot of them went ahead and had sex out of wedlock anyway - they were human beings after all with the same biology as us...so I think readers might have found the idea of running away to Europe with Mr Rochester appealling as well as slightly terrifying.

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