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.


Lindsay said...

Glad to hear how much you have enjoyed the novel Brian! Sad I didn't manage to re read it at this time but I do want to re read it very much.

James said...

I am cheered by your enjoyment of the novel. We agree on many aspects of the novel. While I share your opinion that there is a strong connection between Jane and Rochester, I am not quite as convinced that it is evidence of some universal force. I consider it simply magic.

JacquiWine said...

Like Lindsay, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this novel. I haven't been reading along with you, but I'm going to re-watch the Mia Wasikowska / Michael Fassbender film just to reacquaint myself with the story.

Suko said...

A wonderful continuation of the discussion of this book! I look forward to the "wrap up" post next week. Congratulations on finishing this classic novel!

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Lindsay - Indeed I love this book. If you read it I would love to read your thoughts are on it.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi James - You may be correct. I sometimes think that I do read in to things a little bit too much. Either way I think that it works nicely in with the mood that all the references to mythical beings has created up into this point in the novel.

Brian Joseph said...

I still really need to see that screen version. Hopefully I can do so next weekend.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Suko - I too am really looking foreword to sharing my thoughts on the novel as a whole. Stay tuned.

Vonnie said...

Wonderful answers, Brian!

You know, I never thought of the idea of what would happened if Bertha would have still been alive if Jane returned. Hmmm...I guess I would have to agree with you. Jane would have simply accepted Rochester's proposal of being together even though he was still married.

Also, I very much enjoyed your explanation of whether or not Rochester changed at the end. It's not very clear since not much is said about him, but we can conclude that he is finally at peace and is very happy to be with Jane. The fact that he depends on her so much now has diminished his dark side and brought out his vulnerability instead. It makes me wonder if he would have changed if he wasn't so permanently disabled at the end.

Well, it has been great reading your responses! Can't wait for your review :)

Heidi’sbooks said...

I've been following your posts throughout the read-a-long and have really enjoyed them. I'll be looking for your wrap-up thoughts.

I thought Rochester really betrayed Jane's trust when he went to the altar to marry her. He deceived her because he knew she wouldn't marry him if she knew he was already married. Marriage has to be based on trust. So, while I was heartbroken when she ran away, I was very proud of her for standing on principle.

I don't know how I feel about the ending though. I was so happy she went back, but I didn't want Rochester handicapped and diminished in spirit. I think we see some hope when he can see shadows, etc at the end that he may recover his eyesight a bit with Jane at his side. It is hard to see him in such reduced circumstances. But, by the end, I feel quite certain she can trust him again.

Felicity Grace Terry said...

As always some thought provoking questions and answers. I can't help but wonder that if St. John Rivers and Jane were to have joined a modern day dating agency if they would have been picked as in any way a potential match.

Maria Behar said...

Very insightful answers as always, Brian!

We all agree that a marriage to Rivers would have been very bad for Jane -- not only physically, but also psychologically. I still find it incredible that Rivers would propose such a marriage to her! He was obviously unable to see Jane as she really was.

I really liked question #2, and you're absolutely right -- although Rivers and Rochester re very different personalities, they do share a trait -- they need to have their own way, regardless. It's also very interesting that both of them are attracted to Jane, for different reasons.

I think you might be right that the mysterious incident of Rochester's voice coming to Jane in the middle of the night could be another hint thrown out by Bronte about a non-Christian supernatural force. Who knows? It might be explained by some sort of telepathic connection, of the type that would arise in cases of dire emergency. Whatever the source, this is a very significant omen for Jane. And, as you say, it reinforces the fact that there's a VERY strong bond between her and Rochester, that the forces of destiny have irrevocably thrown them together.

As for the ending of the novel, I have some mixed feelings about it, as you know. I really don't think Bronte had to have Rochester be that badly injured. He initially became very dependent on Jane, although, when he recovered his sight in one eye, he no longer needed for her to lead him around by the hand. Paradoxically, it was his dark edge that made him interesting, but I'm also glad he has reformed. More paradox....

In spite of what I've just stated above, I share your satisfaction about the ending, to some degree. Aesthetically speaking, the novel did indeed end well. Jane and Rochester are happy together, and that's what we all wanted! As an incurable romantic, I am especially pleased about this!!

I think you're very right to raise the issue of ambiguity about the ending, also. Has Jane surrendered her independence, her freedom of thought? She does sound very content in her married life, though. It appears that Rochester has learned his lesson with her, and will never attempt to impose his will on her again.

Of course, this is a GREAT romance novel, although it's also so much more!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!! It's been a very interesting, fun experience, co-hosting this read-along with you!

I'm now looking forward to your review!! : )

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Vonnie - Thanks for the good word.

The book does lend itself to some interesting questions.

I do not think that Rochester would have changed had the fire not occurred.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Heidi - I look at Rochester's deception of Jane in an odd way perhaps. From an outsider's point of view it was horrendous.

If Jane were a friend I would advise her to get away from Rochester as a result.

But that is not what seems to have prompted Jane to leave nor is she all that concerned with it later on. Thus I have mostly disregarded it in my analyses. Thinking about it, the act comes close to being unforgivable in a relationship.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Tracy - that is a great thought! I wonder who St John Rivers would be paired with!

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Maria - As for the psychic connection, something that I missed in my commentary: that was some dramatic moment when it manifested itself!

As for the ending, I glossed over the negative aspects, either way there was a great moral victory. Perhaps we are not sure who the victor was however!

I must admit that the romantic elements of this book really worked for me!

JaneGS said...

Jane is definitely one of the most memorable characters in fiction. Glad you found the book satisfying--CB put everything she had, which was considerable into that book.

I enjoyed reading your posts and insights.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Jane - I actually do not know much about the history of Charlotte Bronte's writing of this book. However, based on its tone and intensity, I am not surprised that she put so much into this.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian. Enjoyed your review. I never thought about the fact that Jane could not have known that Bertha was dead. However, she probably needed some closure.

As for Rochester's physical mutilations, Bronte took that straight out of the Bible: Matthew 5:29,30

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

I enjoyed how Bronte used the symbolism from the Bible to bring Rochester to salvation.

What a great book! So glad you got to read it. Here's my review, not nearly as in depth as yours, just one post.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon - Thanks for the good word! I never made the connection with Matthew though I am very familiar with that passage. You are absolutely correct. Undoubtedly the message Rochester needed to lose some things in order to be redeemed.

So many books, so little time said...

I am also one who didn't get to read along with you all but this is one of those unique themed posts that, although we didn't get too join in we have still felt included. I have loved hearing your thoughts and musings over the chapters and everyone elses take within the comments. I look forward to the wrap up :) - fab job on creating a read-a-long theme and getting the blogging community included even when we couldn't actually manage the read along.


Brian Joseph said...

Thanks Lainy - this has been such a fun event. I do feel that we had some great discussions. Even though not everyone was able to join us, lots of folks had read this book sometimes in the past.

Thanks for contributing to the discussion!