Monday, October 20, 2014

Jane Eyre Read Along Chapters 15-19

Welcome to our discussion chapters 15 - 19. This week’s questions and answers are below.

Rochester seems a very strong personality. Is it surprising that he would become enamored with someone like Céline Varens?

I think that Rochester’s in infatuation with Céline is problematic, but it is, in the end believable. Rochester is both intelligent and has a strong personality. Furthermore he expresses the opinion that he is looking for a mate with similar attributes. Céline seems to be vacuous at best. Though unexpected, based upon observation of real people, I find that this fictional relationship is plausible. In real life, sometimes these very powerful personalities will gravitate towards a persona less intelligent and with less gravitas. I think that such relationships generally do not work in the long run. In the time of Jane Eyre, where marriage was more or less permanent, matrimony in this case would likely lead to very unhappy participants.

We find that Thornfield Hall is a place with strange servants, where demonic laughter is heard and mysterious fires are set. Are these just clever and atmospheric plot devices or is Bronte saying something more?

As I have written previously, I think that Bronte is trying to say something about the Universe in this book. In the author’s reality there are mysterious things about. The world is a strange place with some very dim recesses in it. Some twisted and frightening things are going on. The nature of this  darkness is in of itself mysterious. Perhaps this is all a manifestation of the human mind.

Either way I think that Bronte is trying to dig into something fundamental here. This is manifested in various aspects of this work including the nature of the inhabitants, and the goings on in Thornfield Hall. In my commentary thus far, I have been admittedly vague about this gray part of existence. I am waiting until I am through the book in order to say anything too definitive about it.

At one point Jane rebukes her self as a result of her attraction for Rochester and resolves to suppress that attraction. Is this a realistic reaction of a person falling in love? Do people act this way in the real world and the present day?

I do think that Jane’s reaction here is very realistic.  Personally, I have known people who, when falling for someone attempt to resist doing so. Sometimes, depending on circumstances, personalities, as well as how far deep they are in the process, such endeavors fail. I suspect that they will also fail with Jane and that she will continue to fall in love with Rochester.

Jane believes that Rochester is planning on marrying for the benefit of connections. Is she accessing his character fairly? Based upon what we know about Rochester at this point, would a man like him likely enter into marriage for such reasons?

From the outside looking in, it seems obvious that Rochester would never marry for such materialistic reasons. However, no matter how intelligent and perceptive that Jane is, from her point of view, her assessment of the situation is certainly understandable. The evidence indicates that Rochester will marry for these reasons. A reader of a novel also has the advantage of concentrating on the character traits that the author wants us to see. Thus, while Jane’s hypothesis is off base, it is not unfair of her to believe it.

At one point Blanche Ingram insults and acts cruelly to a passive Jane. Rochester allows this to go on and he takes no action to stop it. What can be concluded from his behavior?

I was curious as to why Rochester does not intervene. In some ways, though a man of strong emotions, he seems detached especially when it comes to the needs of others. I get the impression that he considers the insulting behavior to be  trivial and will not allow it to occupy his thoughts or time. Another possibility is that, as in the interview, he may be testing Jane to see how she reacts to it all.

Rochester disguises himself as a fortuneteller and deceives Jane and several other characters. Is this the act of a trustworthy person?  In reality can someone who acted this way ever be worthy of trust?

Once again Rochester shows himself to be flawed hero. The entire episode seems to be another of his tests. One thing about Rochester is that he is single minded and arrogant. It seems that he planned this charade and was determined to carry it out regardless of the fact that he was practicing deception. As far as this goes, while not a pernicious character, he cannot really be trusted to act honestly in his everyday affairs.

Next week we will be reading chapters 20 -24. The questions are below.

The events of Chapter 20 are very strange, yet Jane does everything Rochester asks her to do, and continues to trust him, for the most part. She does ask him some questions, but makes no demands for an explanation of what's really going on at Thornfield, nor does she seek another position, in spite of her fears and inner doubts. How can her behavior be explained?

Rochester pressures the doctor to rush Mason out of the house and away, even though the latter is seriously injured. What do you think of this action, and why he took it?

What do you think of Eliza and Georgina as adults? 

Do you think Jane was right to forgive Mrs. Reed in light of the important information the later withheld from Jane for three years?

What does Jane's impassioned speech to Mr. Rochester, while they're in the orchard, tell the reader about her?

A terrible storm suddenly springs up, as Chapter 23 draws to a close. During the night, lightning strikes the horse-chestnut tree, at the base of which Jane and Rochester had sat earlier. The tree is split in two. Do you think this is a bad omen? If so, what do you think it means? 

Please do not forget to add your name and the link to your latest post below.

Week 5: Oct. 20th

Reading: Chapters 20 - 23
Discussion Questions: Chapters 15 - 19
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 6: Oct. 27th

Reading: Chapters 24 - 28
Discussion Questions: Chapters 20 - 23
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 7: Nov. 3rd

Reading: Chapters 29 - 33
Discussion Questions: Chapters 24 - 28
Discussion Question for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 8: Nov. 10th

Reading: Chapters 34 - 38
Discussion Questions: Chapters 29 - 33
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 9: Nov. 17th

Discussion Questions, Chapters 34 - 38

Week 9: Nov. 21st

Book Reviews Posted


James said...

Once again you have provided some insightful comments giving me pause for thought when they differ from my views. I am intrigued by your reference to the universe and find myself agreeing with you that the world is a "strange place".
I was not so hard on Rochester in the last two questions, but find your assessment of his actions understandable. I may reevaluate his character as we get more information.

Tracy Terry said...

I don't know about Rochester being single minded etc but having read about his deception of Jane and the others here (and given that I haven't read the book) it seems to me he may well be an emotionally immature person. Perhaps someone willing to pay whatever the cost to get what he wants.

Suko said...

There seems to be an abundance of trust and honesty issues here. Very interesting commentary today!

Sharon Henning said...

I'll have to assume that you haven't read the book in its entirety so I won't give anything away. However, one of the traits I like about Rochester is that he is honest about his morals. He is also honest about what a naive, immature person he was when younger which is why he fell for someone as vapid as Celine. He is an older, wiser, although by no means perfect, Rochester now.

What I found amazing was that he would confide in a young governess. He seems to be surprised himself at it.

In the time period of this novel, it was imminently unrealistic for a hired person, an orphan with no connections or money to even imagine marrying an aristocrat. This is something Bronte explores. How equal Jane's mind is to Rochester's and how unequal Blanche's is, yet she has money and Jane doesn't.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi James - I reevaluate my answers too based on the responses of others too!

I am indeed a little harsh on Rochester. With all that said, I ultimately find him a likable character and hope that he and Jane do wind up together.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Tracy - Rochester id indeed sigle minded and willing to behave dishonestly and do all sorts of things to get what he wants, but I do sense there are limits to what he would do. We shall see.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Suko - I did not intend to make it the focus of my questions, but indeed, trust and honesty are big drivers of the plot!

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon - Though I am somewhat far along in the book, I did sense even here that Rochester had moral core and that his "dishonesty" only went so far.

The equality of minds and to some extent characters is indeed striking.

Maria Behar said...

It's very obvious and true that Rochester is a fundamentally flawed hero. Yes, I agree with you that he seems detached from the needs of others, yet, with Jane, he is not completely so. He does follow her when she excuses herself from the drawing room, after Blanche's insulting remarks regarding governesses. He notices that Jane is on the verge of tears, too. The first time I read this book, I was expecting him to declare his love for her right then and there, because by this point, it's very obvious that he does indeed love her. Why didn't he? Because of his pride. He decided to carry on the charade of his courtship to Blanche just a bit longer. I totally dislike his behavior regarding this whole thing of courting Blanche! Poor Jane suffered unnecessarily because of this.

Your answer to the second question is a very interesting one! I hadn't thought of approaching it from this angle, but now that I think about it, you may be right that Bronte is trying to say something important about the workings of the Universe. Could it be that her message is that light has to be balanced by darkness? What do you think of this? Well, you did say that you would elaborate on this point when you finish the book, so I'll wait for that. I'm very curious about it, though!

As for Rochester's deception in the fortune-teller incident, I think this is foreshadowing. No, he definitely cannot be trusted; he will stoop to deception whenever it suits his needs and plans, and Jane would do well to notice this, and take heed.

Great answers as usual!! Thanks for your comment on my blog! Looking forward to next week!!
: )

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Maria - Without a doubt Rochester has some good and not so good in hi. I may have overemphasized the bad a little bit here :)

He really does show a core of decency and he does show real concern for Jane.

I admit that I may be going a little overboard on this, but I think that this novel is more then just a great character study. I suspect that it really is trying to get at the fundamentals of either existence itself, or at least people's perception of existence.

If that is the case Bronte is showing us a world that is both light and dark.

Thanks for the great comments!

JaneGS said...

Flawed heroes are the best, though I wouldn't say that Rochester is the most realistic character I've met. I think CB was masterful in depicting the attraction between Jane and Rochester. He tries her and tests her, but she has a steel core that doesn't bend. A lot like Austen's Fanny Price in that!

I enjoy reading your posts during this read-along.

Heidi’sbooks said...

I just love seeing this through your eyes for the first time. I too was mad at Rochester for the deception during the Gypsy scene. My daughter loved the Gypsy scene. I wasn't so forgiving.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Heidi - I actually really liked the scene.

Rochester does do a lot of maddening things.

I am not one to look for "likable characters". With that said, for all his flaws, I like Rochester.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Jane - Thanks!

I am beginning to see Jane as a very strong character. In fact I am thinking that ]both her and Rochester are larger then life fictional giants so to speak. i will likely write more about this.

I have not yet read Mansfield Park. But I do see Jane Austen as a writer who creates more realistic characters.

Morrighan Rose said...

It has been so long since I've read this book, and your post makes me want to devour it again. I forgot how much I fell in love with this novel, so thank you! I cannot wait to read it again (:
Morrighan @ Elysian Fields Reviews
( )

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Morgan - thanks for stopping by.

This is the first time that I am reading this novel and I do see why it appeals to so many. It is definitely worth a reread.

Delia (Postcards from Asia) said...

Your thoughts on the novel are similar to mine. I thought Rochester cruel at first, and saw his disguise as a test for Jane. I think he doesn't trust people easily, and maybe he has good reason; what he wants is to see if Jane really is as kind and selfless as she appears to be.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Delia - Ultimately I see Rochester as mostly decent. However, he has some interesting flaws that include the tendency to be harsh as well as to be dishonest.

Guy Savage said...

I've always been of the opinion that Jane appears mousy but is in actuality an incredibly strong human being. I think of that line; "I stand here." Everyone underestimates Jane but she is her own woman.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Guy - Indeed, outwardly we see two sides to Jane. Inside she shows enormous strength.