Monday, November 3, 2014

Jane Eye Read Along Chapters 24 - 28

Welcome to the discussion for weeks reading chapters 24 – 28 of the Jane Eyre Read Along. The questions and my responses are below.

At several points both Rochester and Jane refer to each other in terms of mythical creatures and magic. Why do you think that they do this?

As I have commented before, I think that in Jane’s character, and the relationship between her and Rochester, Bronte is trying to get at something fundamental about the Universe. The strong Christian nature inherent in the author’s worldview is obvious. However, the allusions to magic, mythical creatures and general pagan symbols seems to round these views out with a connection to nature as one of the building blocks of reality. This view of nature seems to include some of the darker, or at least grittier, aspects of life.

In Chapter 24 when Rochester jokingly compares Jane to a Turkish slave girl Jane becomes indignant and replies sharply to him. Does this say anything about Jane’s personality and the relationship between the two?

There is something of a conflict between Jane and Rochester. They love one another, but both have enormously strong wills. At first it appears that Rochester is stronger. This may only be appearance however. Here Jane, is asserting herself in opposition to Rochester’s perceived dominance. Though at times seeming to be quite and passive, Jane has an enormously strong sense of self. Such a quip cannot remain unanswered and Jane is making it clear that morally and intellectually, this attitude will have no place in their relationship.

At one point, after gazing at the damaged horse-chestnut tree, Jane gathers apples in the garden and remarks “ I employed myself in dividing the ripe from the unripe” Do you think that there is any significance to this?

Whenever women and apples appear in literature, one is of course reminded of the story of Eve and temptation. I think that Jane is picking and choosing here in more ways then one. The apples seem to symbolize all that Rochester is bringing to her life. However, it seems that Rochester maybe tempting Jane into some things that she may wish to avoid. Perhaps the choosing of the apples is Jane sorting out the good from the bad. After the dramatic rupture between the two, this independence and selection will become vitally important for Jane.

In chapter 25 Jane relates to Rochester several of her dreams. What do you make of them?

One of Jane’s dreams involves a dark and stormy night as well as a winding road. Jane describes some kind of barrier between herself and Rochester. Clearly Jane has had a tumultuous life up until now. Furthermore the odd occurrences surrounding Thornfield and Rochester can also be described as tempestuous. Perhaps this is reflected in the weather and the road. We now know that there is indeed a huge barrier between Jane and Rochester. Even at this point in the narrative, there are signs of a problem looming.  It is not surprising that Jane  expresses all this in her unconscious sleep.

Later Jane dreams that Thornfield has become a ruin. This may be a refection of the manor’s dark secrets that will soon be revealed. It may also be foreshadowing of what will come in the future.

Rochester is revealed to have perpetrated a major deception upon Jane in regards to his first marriage. What does this say about Rochester?

Obviously this is the ultimate example of Rochester’s tendency to deceive in order to get his way. However, one must keep in mind that Rochester has fallen deeply in love with Jane. He is in a terrible position as he is burdened and tied to a malicious madwomen. One can understand his desire to keep facts a secret as these facts have the potential to separate him from Jane. It is natural for Rochester to want to escape his past to be with the women he loves. The only way that he believes he can do that is to keep his terrible secret.

What do you think of Jane’s decision to flee from Rochester?

My answer to this question gets me into tricky territory. The reason for this is that if I apply Twenty First Century values and morality to the question I will not be really be getting at what I intend to get at. Furthermore my answer will be of limited use.

Jane’s decision to flee should be viewed in the context of the values that are inherent  in the society that she lives in. An alternate course, one in which she stays with Rochester, must be analyzed as such.

With this said, a reality where Jane had decided to stay with Rochester seems to be presented in the text as a viable alternative. Thus my conclusion is that I cannot assess Jane’s action exactly as I would assess the actions of a person who is my contemporary. However I can view a choice to stay with Rochester as a realistic option.

Second, I think that there are a lot of potential reasons why a person might flee at this point, that simply do not come into play with Jane. One in particular would be the desire to get a way from a man who has been so deceptive. This however, does not seem to be a primary consideration here.

Jane’s actions, not only in fleeing, but in enduring terrible emotional and physical hardships (I am getting a little ahead in the book here) cause monumental pain. The pain not only affects her, but it devastates Rochester.  Jane’s flight was a supreme act of resolve. Jane makes a decision based on her morality and sticks with it with iron determination. For me, this enormously difficult and momentous course of action, based upon what seems like an abstract principal, places Jane above the typical strong willed character. I cannot overstate the dramatic effect of Jane’s decision and the impression it gives concerning her persona. This course of action seems to be one of pure and indomitable WILL. Furthermore it is an act of will directly in opposition to the very formidable will of Rochester. I would argue that it moves her into the realm of a titanic symbolic and literary character.

Generally I believe that a serious analysis of a work of literature should not be about one’s own values and morality. However as this is book blogging and not serious literary analysis, I would contend that how one relates to character’s decisions is within the realm interesting things worth discussing. I am just and sharing and pondering opinions here. Thus,  I will take a dive into some personal feelings about Jane’s flight here.

Once again, if I assume, even within her culture, that Jane could have taken the alternate choice, I find her decision disquieting. For me, genuine personal relationships are of the highest value. Jane seemingly throws away an extremely precious personal relationship based upon a very abstract moral code.

A relationship with a person such as Jane would terrify me. She has more then enough substance and character to attract strong and positive feelings. Yet she would put a very intangible, and one might say, at least from my point of view, less then rational, value system above personal feelings and vital considerations. Furthermore she is willing to cause enormous emotional harm to someone that she loves. At one point she actually observes,

I turned my prayer to thanksgiving: the Source of Life was also the Saviour of spirits.   Mr. Rochester was safe; he was God’s, and by God would he be guarded.  

While thematically consistent with the story and I believe Bronte’s worldview, the above seems to be a horrifying abrogation of responsibility owed to a loved one.

These are just observations. Contrary to objecting to this ploy development, all this adds to my sense if monumental nature of the as a literary creation known as Jane Eyre. 

Of course, something in these last ruminations on my part may be my Twenty - First Century Secular Humanist value system kicking in. Thus, perhaps one could argue be going to far here. However my thoughts here seem to be in line with Rochester’s reasoning, so I do think that it is a valid way of looking at the story.

*I am adding an addendum to the above based on the fact I believe that I was unclear. As I mentioned, I do value personnel relationships extremely highly. Perhaps the highest valued personal relationship for me is marriage. In the case of the marriage between Rochester and Bertha, I feel that the marriage relationship was abrogated by Bertha, thus I mostly disregarded it in my answer above. 

In light of this addendum, some of the below comments by my visitors  may seem not seem to make perfect sense.  This is the result of my lack of clarity and not the folks who commented below. 

Next week will  be reading chapters 29 – 33. Our questions are below. As always, answer as many or as few of them as you wish.

St. John Rivers makes the following very blunt statement about Jane, in Chapter 29: "Ill or well, she would always be plain. The grace and harmony of beauty are quite wanting in those features." What does this tell you about him, especially in light of subsequent chapters?

Do you think the fact that St. John and his sisters turn out to be Jane's cousins much too coincidental?

Why does Bronte give Jane three more cousins, and precisely two females and one male, as with her Gateshead cousins?

Why do you think Jane tries to convince St. John to marry Rosamond, and give up his dream of becoming a missionary?

Do you think the fact that Jane is now an heiress something that seems too 'providential', and thus, not realistic and believable?

Bronte dedicates many pages to describing St. John's personality. Why do you think she does this? 

Please do not forget to use the below widget to link your post so we all can read it.

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


Felicity Grace Terry said...

Yet another interesting post. I'm intrigued as to which mythical characters the pair refer to each other as.

James said...

I like your approach to the novel. Especially interesting is the reference to Eve. The added dimension of temptation adds even more complexity to their relationship.

I also like your reference to the importance of reference to Society's values when evaluating Jane's decision to "flee". The tension between her "Will" and her heart seems to me to be almost overwhelming.

JacquiWine said...

An interesting post, as ever. I had completely forgotten about the mythical and symbolic elements in this book!

Suko said...

Very thoughtful commentary, once again! There is so much to discuss in Jane Eyre. I look forward to reading about Chapters 29 - 33.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Tracy - The two use the terms elf, faery and sprite very often. At one point Jane refers to Rocherster's dog as a Gytrash, A mythical canine that supposedly roams the English countryside.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi James - The conflict between what many would do and what Jane does is indeed monumental. In the end, it is Jane's Will that wins.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Jacqui - There are so many nuances and little things like the mythical references. We could easily cover twelve questions a week.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Suko - Thanks so much.

This was really a great book for a Read Along.

Maria Behar said... I'm the one who missed something! Lol. How could I not have seen the obvious allusion to Eve and the temptation, with all of those apples lying around the garden?! OF COURSE!! With each apple, Jane was unconsciously trying to make a choice. Would she, or would she not, accept what Rochester was offering her? (Again, her unconscious mind knew what was really going on all the time.) I really appreciate your analysis here!

Your analysis of question #6 is nothing short of brilliant, Brian! Yes, it comes directly from your own secular, humanist perspective, and as such, is very well reasoned out and stated. Indeed, I think this is the analysis that would be typical of someone with such a worldview, and you do raise some valid points here.

In our present century, Jane's decision would not make any sense at all, as there is a widespread moral view that clearly is at odds with the Christian morality of Bronte's time, as well as with the Christian morality still in existence for 21st-century adherents, which I believe is NOT the prevailing morality of this century.

Since I do uphold this Christian morality, in spite of my doubts about the Bible, I fully concur with Jane's decision, difficult as it was. To me, marriage is not just a piece of paper; instead it's a very sacred life state, and the vows exchanged during the religious ceremony are to be taken very seriously. Therefore, there is no excuse for adultery -- none at all.

I was brought up Catholic, but, as I've mentioned before,have come to doubt some of the doctrines taught by the Church. One of these is the teaching on divorce. I TOTALLY disagree with the Catholic Church's position on the admissibility of divorce, and fully embrace the more liberal Protestant position. There ARE good reasons for divorce, such as infidelity. Another is domestic abuse. Both of these situations implicitly involve a violation of the marriage vows. In Rochester's case, I remember he did mention, at one point, that Bertha had been unfaithful, so I don't know why he didn't pursue divorce then. At the time, divorce was not permitted if one's spouse had gone insane.

Had this novel been written in this century, of course the insanity issue would have been speedily resolved; Jane and Rochester could then have married with no problem at all. Even if they couldn't, though, no one (except Christian Fundamentalists) would have been shocked, had they just started living together. As I stated above, such things are not as frowned upon nowadays as they were in previous years.

I think I will need to write another comment, as this one is getting much too

Maria Behar said...

Well, to continue...

As I stated above, your analysis is brilliant, even if I don't wholeheartedly agree with your views.

One thing I disagree with is your statement that Jane's decision is based on "an abstract principle". Within the context of Christian morality, adultery is not "an abstract principle", but a very serious transgression of the laws of God. ( Ironically, several Old Testament patriarchs had several wives, while women in the Bible NEVER had more than one husband, but well, that's another story. )

Within the context of Christian morality, Jane would have seriously sinned had she stayed with Rochester. After all,it wasn't Bertha's fault that she went insane. Again, Rochester should have divorced her when he found out about her infidelity.

Jane's decision brought her a LOT of pain, as you yourself stated, so I don't think she was "abrogating her responsibility" to Rochester in fleeing from him. Again, within the context of Christian morality, she was choosing to honor and love the Creator over and above the creature, which is the right priority for a Christian. Granted, this is a very thorny issue, especially when one considers how much these two love each other. On the other hand, what about Rochester's responsibility to Jane? He certainly should have considered her feelings, as well as her moral standards, which he at least paid lip service to, himself. ( Throughout the centuries, most men have paid lip service to Christian morality, while blatantly violating it. )

Within a feminist context, I also believe that Jane's decision was the correct one. Rochester did want to objectify her to some degree, as well as to impose his very strong will on hers. Jane was very right to resist, even if she had thought that there was nothing wrong with becoming Rochester's mistress. Besides, mistresses have always been at the mercy of their lovers. It's a very degrading way to live, even with all of the attendant luxuries and comforts. Jane is fiercely independent. So this was a triumph of her will, against Rochester's.

I know I have a curious mixture of conservative and liberal views in this comment, as well as in the previous one.....These are deep waters indeed....

Well, I think I'm done....Lol.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Maria - I was very unclear about my views on marriage and added an addendum above to clarify.

I actually agree with you agree with you in a way. I do think that certain actions come close to freeing a person from their marriage vows, adultery and abuse among them. I may differ with you as I think that once a person goes this far, the formality of a divorce is less important. For whatever reason, it seems that Rochester was not able to obtain a divorce. I have some conservative views myself ☺

Based on those circumstances, I would argue that however important our various belief do systems value marriage, we are still talking about an abstract concept (I do think that abstract concepts CAN be very important, sometimes even worth dying for, I just often value personal relationships more).

My observation concerning Jane’s abrogating responsibility realty refers to the above quote. She made a decision that hurt Rochester greatly. That is fair enough, but she seems wash her hands of the decision with that comment.

I agree with you regarding Jane’s other reasons for leaving, particularly the objectification. These reasons actually mar my above reasoning and make this book oh so complex.

I laughed at what you wrote about the apples. When I read your commentary on them my impression was that I had got their meaning all wrong and you got them all right!

Thanks for the super comment!

Maria Behar said...

Hi, again!

The addendum was great, although I don't think you needed to clarify your views on marriage. However, it's nice that you put it in; you are ever mindful of keeping analyses clear and concise, so everyone can follow them without any problems.

So you thought that my own answer to the apples question was right, and yours wrong? Lol. I think we're both right. The allusion to Eve and the apple of temptation was very obvious; I don't know how I missed it!

BTW, I have found a very interesting article regarding Bronte's mixing of fantasy and realism in "Jane Eyre". Here's the link:

You know, I can see myself writing an entire dissertation on just one of the many aspects of this novel, which you, James and I have barely touched upon. This is truly an AMAZING novel!!

Thanks for the compliment on my previous comments, and thanks for yours, too! : )

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Maria - Thanks again.

There was the clarification issue. Marriage is really important and that was something that I wanted to fix.

Thanks for the link. The paradox between the realism and the mythical aspects of the book was something that I was planning to include in next week's answers.

Felicity Grace Terry said...

Gytrash? Ooh, there's a new one I'll have to google.

JaneGS said...

I always thought that Jane fled from Thornton to remove herself from the temptation of Rochester, not because of fear or antipathy, but because she couldn't trust herself to keep herself true to her morals and values if she remained near him.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Jane - I do agree that temptation was a major reason for Jane to flee. I still think that the same moral calculus applies.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I finally have been able to read all of your read-along posts! I really liked how you mention trying not to apply today's values and morality to Jane's decisions. I've only read Jane Eyre once, but I was very critical of her until I realized I had to view her situation in the context of that time period.

Vonnie said...

Wow, I absolutely enjoyed reading your thoughts about why Jane ran away.

"A relationship with a person such as Jane would terrify me." I'm sorry, but this made me laugh. I could definitely understand why you would feel that way with such a special person as Jane.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Ebooks - One thing that I ask myself is, even when I attempt to look at the book within the values of the time, am I letting my modern biases influence me?

It is not an easy question to answer.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Vonnie - A relationship with someone like Jane would be problematic for because of the special nature of her character combined with some big inconsistencies in our value system.

So many books, so little time said...

I wish I was reading along with you, I remember nothing of mythical creatures and not too much of what actually transpired in the book. It is so interesting to hear what people have taken from the chapters and think when I do finally pick mine up, I may hve to revisit these threads to compare my thoughts on you guys thoughts.


Delia (Postcards from Asia) said...

This is probably the most in-depth comment about Jane Eyre that I have read.
I do agree with Jane fleeing, it wasn't only the flight from temptation but maybe also a way to gain some perspective from afar. Rochester
was used to having his way and while Jane may not have that luxury, she has strong values that guide her. For that time I'd say she made the right decision. Perhaps even for this time we live in as well.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Delia - I think that what complicates the issue of Jane fleeing is the fact that there are lots of good reasons for her to do so. Getting a perspective away from the situation is indeed one of them, as well as the deception.

With all that, it seems that these things are not so much a consideration, Instead it seems that her flight is mostly based upon a single moral ideal.

I may be misreading the text on this and a reread of this book might give me a different perspective.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Lainy- The mythical creatures really only were quick references.

This experience during which we are sharing ideas, has really enhanced my understanding of the book. In a way I wish that all my readiness could be like this.