Monday, October 13, 2014

Jane Eyre Read Along Chapters 11 - 14

Welcome to our discussion on Chapters 11 - 14.

This week’s questions and my answers are below.

Jane meets her pupil, Adela Varens, in Chapter 11, and we learn more about her in subsequent chapters. How is this little girl contrasted with Jane herself, when she was a child?

Adela is a little girl who has also been left parentless. However, the similarities to Jane mostly end there. We see little sign that Adela possesses the strength of character or conviction that Jane did as a child. She seems to very interested in material things such as clothing. At one point Jane comments, “

My pupil was a lively child, who had been spoilt and indulged”.

One might argue, that such a sheltered childhood would less likely produce such a strong a character like Jane's. Perhaps Bronte is attempting to communicate this in her portrayal of Adela.

How does Bronte set the general atmosphere surrounding Jane's awkward meeting with Mr. Rochester, in the country lane, which takes place in Chapter 12?

The initial meeting and impression of Rochester is curious. First Rochester is shown to be a strong man. He projects an imposing character on  horseback. Jane even uses the adjective “masculine’ in describing him.  Yet there is something mysterious and dark, perhaps tied to other dark and mysterious aspects of the novel. At one point Jane describes his dog Pilot as a Gytrash , which is a mythical, magical creature that supposedly roams English roads. This is only the beginning of the references to magical folklore in reference to the relationship between Jane and Rochester. There are also signs of Rochester’s grumpiness as Jane comments that he is “swearing”. This seems to be another aspect to Rochester’s character that will continue to manifest itself.

Jane states that she would not have offered her help to the fallen rider, had he been conventionally handsome. What does this tell the reader about Jane?

This is really an interesting point. Once again there is something a little dark or at least offbeat  portrayed in Jane. There is an aspect to her  that is different. She is alienated, at least just a little bit, from the normal and the conventional. This observation indicates that she is attracted to what is usually unattractive. It indicates that her feelings and beliefs, run contrary to convention. Thus, this strange comment is consistent with the Jane that we are getting to know.

What further information about Jane's personality, and her philosophy of life, do her paintings convey?

I knew immediately when the paintings were described that they had meaning. The painting of the hill is gloomy, and the icy landscape is also bleak. These clearly reflect the darker side of Jane’s nature, which I have commented upon several times.

The paintings are full of various imagery. I must confess that no mater how much I attempted I decipher this imagery , I was stumped. I cheated and did a Google search. There are some differing opinions out there as to the meanings of the paintings. However, it seems that there is a consensus that they represent various aspects of Jane’s personality and her psyche.  Furthermore they are filled with mythological and Biblical imagery. I am relatively familiar with the Bible and familiar with some, but not all, aspects of Western mythology, yet I needed help dissecting all this.

While many of the interpretations that I read seem plausible and convincing, since I was unable to figure any of it out myself, I will refrain from discussing the various theories and leave my readers to their own interpretations. Anyone of course, can  consult Professor Google himself.

What do you think is the real purpose of Mr. Rochester's interview of Jane? Or do you think it's the typical interview an employer would conduct, when hiring a new domestic employee?

This certainly is not a typical interview. Rochester is tasking in his questions and even a little bullying. He also exhibits sarcasm. I think that Rochester sees some of Jane’s extraordinary nature and is testing her. For all his good intentions this behavior exhibits a degree of arrogance.

There is something else mentioned in the interview. Like Jane did when she first saw Rochester, here Rochester makes reference to folklore and jokingly alludes to the fact that Jane might be connected to these mythical doings.

“For the men in green: it was a proper moonlight evening for them.   Did I break through one of your rings, that you spread that damned ice on the causeway?” 

I am going out a little on a limb on this, but I think that perhaps Bronte is building something of a Universal view of existence, or at least existence as viewed from the point of view of the human mind. There are a lot of noble characters who are strong Christians as well as positive references to scripture. However, there are also these odd hints of a world also populated, at least symbolically, with pagan and other mysterious  beliefs that that are connected to nature worship.  Bronte seems to be constructing a complex worldview indeed.

Do you see any hints of foreshadowing in Chapter 14? Please explain. 

While several aspects of the chapter may indicate foreshadowing, What struck me most were the hints that in the future, some of Rochester’s darkness might be dispelled. At one point Jane speaks to him,

Only one thing, I know: you said you were not as good as you should like to be, and that you regretted your own imperfection;— one thing I can comprehend: you intimated that to have a sullied memory was a perpetual bane.   It seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve; and that if from this day you began with resolution to correct your thoughts and actions, you would in a few years have laid up a new and stainless store of recollections, to which you might revert with pleasure.”

So maybe we can look forward to a changed Rochester in the future.

Next week we will be reading chapters 15 - 19. Our questions are below.

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

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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

Week 4: Oct. 13th

Reading: Chapters 15 - 19
Discussion Questions: Chapters 11 - 14
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

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...


I appreciate your interesting thoughts about the reading for this week. The connection with mythology and magic is certainly important and Mr. Rochester's darkness is forbidding and may possibly be subject for a change. The mystery seems to grow in the fourteenth chapter. Our discussion continues apace.

Felicity Grace Terry said...

Yet more proof that not all of the women in the so called classics were simpering. another interesting post, thanks Brian.

Maria Behar said...

Great insights here, Brian!

I really like your observation that Adele's rather comfortable upbringing would not have produced a character as strong as Jane's. You are absolutely right!

I also agree with your point that myth and magic are quite important in the meeting between Jane and Rochester, as well as in the novel, in general.

I'm glad you also mentioned the fact that Rochester had some bullying tendencies, as well as arrogance. Yes, he's quite an overbearing character, and I'm seeing that much more clearly in this second reading!

As for Jane's paintings, they mystify me, as well, so I will definitely consult Mr. Google!

Thanks for your fascinating analysis of these chapters! : )

Suko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suko said...

This is a fascinating discussion! I had forgotten so much about this novel, but the plot and themes come back to me as I read these posts.
A few quick things:
It does seem that Jane is bullied by Rochester (and others!) due at least in part to her extraordinary nature. I agree that the paintings may symbolize or depict Jane's bleak surroundings, and the world in which she lives, which would contribute to a dark "inner" life.
(Thank goodness for the Impressionists, who "lightened up" the world in the 19th-century!)

Excellent post, Brian Joseph and Maria! I look forward to the next one.

Sharon Wilfong said...

I'll have to disagree with you and the others. Rochester is no more a bully than any other embittered rich person used to having his way. Jane herself said that it did not intimidate her, that she would have been uncomfortable if he'd talked to her in a softer fashion.
England is rich with myth and lore. Again, Bronte is making reference to a part of her culture. I would be careful to impose a 21st century worldview on her.
Finally, concerning Adele. I think Bronte simply didn't like the French. Her prejudice shows here as well as in other books where she described the French in blatantly biased terms. She thinks them frivolous, shallow and Popish. All things offensive to her Victorian Protestant soul.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi James - I do find Rochester a little more difficult then I find him forbidding. There is defiantly a bit of darkness in him.

This has definitely been an interesting discussion.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Tracy - Jane is defiantly not simpering. If you give this one a read I would love to know what you think.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Maria - The mythology is definitely getting really interesting. More great stuff to come!

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Suko -Your comment reminds me of the fact that I really need to learn a lot more about art and art history.

The thing about Rochester is that his difficult treatment of Jane, oddly reflects a respect for her.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Suko -Your comment reminds me of the fact that I really need to learn a lot more about art and art history.

The thing about Rochester is that his difficult treatment of Jane, oddly reflects a respect for her.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon - I do think that the bullying was on the milder side. I might describe an embittered rich person having their way as perhaps overbearing and bullying :)

Indeed I may be pushing some twentieth century terminology on to what I think Bronte may be doing here. However, I do think that there is a history of writers mixing in other belief systems with Christianity well before Bronte. Shakespeare is one that comes to mind.

Vonnie said...

I like your response about Jane's character when it came to her paintings. I agree that her paintings show a darker side of her since she seems to portray people in a negative light.

JacquiWine said...

I'm very impressed with the depth to which you are analysing various aspects of this book, Brian. I'm sure your posts and subsequent discussion will form a valuable resource on Jane Eyre. Fascinating questions, especially the comparison to how individuals in similar situations would behave in the present day.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Vonnie - Without a doubt those paintings indicate a darkness in Jane's psyche. They are also so packed with imagery and symbolism I think that one can spend a lot of time analyzing them.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Jacqui - Thanks so much.

Though I do think that people have changed, in some ways people are much the same today as they were on Jane Eyrie's time.

So many books, so little time said...

I seem to remember very little of this book. Despite not being \ble to read a long with you lovely people I think I will be keeping tabs on this as you go. Really interesting to see everyones analysis and thoughts as the book is broken down in chunk chapters.


Brian Joseph said...

Hi Lainy - There are too many books that I read that I do not now remember well. It is a pity that we do not have better memories.

Looking at this book in chunks has truly been both fun and enlightening.

Thanks for following along with us!