Monday, November 17, 2014

Jane Eyre Read Along Chapters 34 – 38.

This week we are discussing Chapters  34 – 38. These are the closing chapters of the novel. Our questions are below. As always feel free to answer as many or as few as you would like.

The  marriage that St. John Rivers proposes to Jane would be unconventional from an emotional point of view. What do you think about this hypothetical match?

Marrying St. John Rivers would have been poison to Jane’s psyche. Much of Jane’s life has centered around the search for human connection and love. Though there is a friendship, as well as mutual admiration between herself and St. John Rivers, the lack of both passion as well as genuine love would have effectively represented the end of Jane’s emotional life. This would have been exacerbated by the fact that that St. John’s unceasing dedication to his mission would have overwhelmed so much else about Jane.

In what ways are St. John Rivers and Rochester alike?

Though different in very fundamental and basic ways, there are some interesting similarities between the two. Both men have immensely strong and charismatic personalities. They naturally influence those who are around them. Along with this tendency, is an almost obsessive single mindedness and an enormous drive to get their own way.

Of course, they both, in very different ways, are attracted to Jane.

Is it surprising that someone with the strength of character that Jane posses would be so influenced by St. John Rivers as to almost accede to his marriage proposal?

This gets at, what I think is an interesting contradiction in Jane. As I have written elsewhere, our heroine has an enormously powerful will. Yet at times, she seems to be willing to be led by others.

Of course the temptation to give in to St. John Rivers is understandable in some ways. As I noted above, St. John Rivers has a very powerful personality. Jane is a person with a very coherent and strong moral framework. Thus, St. John Rivers’s moral zeal is extremely attractive to he. In fact, had she accepted his proposal, she may have lost herself in it.

Of course in the end, Jane rejects the proposal and ultimately it is her will that wins out.

What do you think of the seemingly psychic connection that manifests itself between Jane and Rochester at a critical moment in the plot?

I liked this plot device. It is clear that there is a real connection as Rochester “called” to Jane from afar and Jane “heard” the call.

This indicates that there is an extremely strong connection between the two. I think that it ties into my theory that the relationship between Jane and Rochester seems to be connected with something very basic and important in the Universe.

One can say that this development is proof that the two “were meant to be.” One can likewise argue that some external force is helping this along. Perhaps it is a Christian God. However, for me this smacks a little more of the non – Christian, supernatural forces that I think Bronte is dropping hints about, throughout the novel.

What do you think would have resulted if, upon her return to Rochetser, Jane had found Rochester’s first wife, Bertha, to be still alive?

This really gets to the core of who Jane is. There seem to be two basic possibilities. First, Jane could have given in to Rochester’s original plan and taken the role of his wife, despite legalities and her moral objections. This outcome would seem to negate some of what is built up around Jane’s personality as well as  some of the moral themes of the book.

The second possibility would that Jane accepts the fact that she must be around Rochester and that she cannot marry anyone else, while at the same time refusing to marry, or become Rochester’s mistress. This option seems somewhat impractical and would present all sorts of difficulties for Jane.

Though hard to decide between the two alternatives, I think that in keeping with what we know about Jane, as well the basic themes of the novel, as difficult as it would have been, Jane would have chosen the second path and stayed true to her beliefs.

By the end of the novel, how has Rochester changed?

I read the last chapter twice in order to answer this question. This is more difficult to answer then I presupposed. Physically Rochester is diminished and very dependent upon Jane. I was initially tempted to say that his character was also diminished. Perhaps a combination of his physical weakness, as well as his domestic bliss, had caused him to lose his dark edge, which, after all, comprised much of his life force.

However, I find that I cannot really reach these conclusions. Bronte really does not tell us enough about Rochester’s personality and character after his marriage. Perhaps the omission is in of itself evidence that Rochester is not, psychologically, the man that he used be. Or perhaps Bronte just left this out and this is a very rare flaw in this novel. I really cannot be sure.

The one conclusion that I can draw is that Rochester has reached a degree of happiness and fulfillment that has eluded him previously.

How satisfied are you with the ending of this novel?

I am very satisfied on multiple levels. From an aesthetic point if view, the novel ends fabulously. The characters of Jane and Rochester are so well fleshed out and complete, at least at the time of their marriage.

Thematically there may be some ambiguity. Can we consider Jane’s life to be triumph of individuality and will, or did she surrender her values in returning to Rochester? I tend to believe in the iron willed Jane, but one can argue either way. This uncertainly actually adds to the aesthetic satisfaction for me. Pat answers are often a flaw in a book such as this. In addition, by the end of the novel, so many important elements have come together, morality, love, the connection between the two main characters, to name just a few.

From a purely gratuitous standpoint the work is also immensely satisfying. I confess to wanting to see Jane and Rochester together in the end. I am not usually overly romantic but this book really had me hoping that the two would end up married. I did not want to see Jane marry St. John. As someone who is at time critical of overly happy endings, I am glad that this book had one.

We have completed the novel! Next week we will be posting our wrap up thoughts.