Monday, November 10, 2014

Jane Eyre Read Along Chapters 29 - 33

Welcome to our discussion of Chapters 29 – 33 of the Read – Along. This week’s questions and my answers are below.

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?

This tells us a lot about St. John Rivers  as well as the relationship that he will subsequently form with Jane. He will eventually propose marriage to her. He will come to have enormous appreciation for Jane’s morality and character. However, from a romantic, point of view, he will show no passion for Jane.

St. John Rivers eschews physical and worldly pleasures. He is so dedicated to this dispassionate coldness; that he chooses not to marry the beautiful Rosamond Oliver, who he loves in a more traditional way. His decision not to enter into the obvious relationship, but instead to propose to the Jane, who he drawn to intellectually and morally,  who he views as “wanting” grace and beauty, highlights his fanaticism.

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

I do think that that the cousin connection is an unrealistic coincidence. However this raises a larger issue. I believe that such a coincidence is appropriate in a novel like Jayne Eyre. Though many of the events in this book are realistic, there is a larger then life, melodramatic tendency to this work. In light of this, such coincidences seem to fit well into the narrative.

Having read a lot of nineteenth century English novels I want to ask, my tongue firmly in my cheek, does not  every poor young women eventually find that she is an heiress?

This is course unrealistic and somewhat clichéd. It does serve an important purpose in the plot as it gives Jane material independence from the very strong men in her life.

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

It seems that the two trios of cousins are meant to contrast with one another. The families are almost a mirror image of each other. The Reeds are cruel, vain and materialistic. They are so very much the opposites the Moor House' cousins who are extremely virtuous and not  materialistic. The Moor House clan also embody kindness, even in the case of St. John Rivers, whose kindness is real but very cold. Alongside all this, St. John and his sisters exhibit strong Christian virtues as oppose to the hypocrisy and the wonton immorality of the Reeds.

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

There is something frightening and even potentially destructive (Jane believes that if she marries him that she will be led into hardships that will lead to an early death) about St. John Rivers and his zeal. Rosamond represents the one force that may pull him away from this his fervor and his coldness. Jane, an extremely perceptive person, seems to want what is right for him understands that such a course might not be the path to balanced normal life.

How would you contrast the landscape surrounding Moor House with that surrounding Thornfield Hall, and what is the purpose of this?

Thornfield Hall borders a garden that includes fruit trees. Despite the gloominess of Rochester and his mansion, he is a man full of life and emotion. This is reflected in the vibrant foliage that surrounds him. Perhaps the fact that these fertile gardens are surrounded by moors says something about it being an island of emotion in a very grim and dark world.

In contrast The Moors come right up to the appropriately names Moor House. The cold and harsh  personality of St. John Rivers is reflected in the country surrounding Moor house.

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

St John is an enormously strong, important, and well sketched character. His interactions with Jane are instrumental in plot, character and theme development of the novel. Understanding his virtue, combined with a determined and cold fanaticism are key to understanding the later parts of this work. He is a great literary creation that Bronte takes her time in painting. I am very glad that she spends such time upon him.

Next week we will be discussing Chapters  34 – 38. 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?

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

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?

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

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?

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

Since this is the last set of questions for the Jane Eyre Read-Along, we have included an extra, "wrap-up" question at the end. Feel free to answer it or not.

How satisfied are you with the ending of this novel?

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


Suko said...

Another thought-provoking discussion! I almost feel as if Ive reread this book alongside of you. This novel does seem to skillfully capture psychological complexity.

Maria Behar said...

Interesting insights on question #1, Brian! Yes, Rivers is very cold, and strictly controls his passions. He looks at the prospect of marrying with a detached, objective eye. Instead of marrying for love, he looks at marriage from a purely practical standpoint.

We definitely concur on most of the other answers.

Your answer to question #4 is also very insightful, and brings in a point that I had missed. There is indeed something "frightening and potentially destructive" about St. John, and this is so in spite of his Christian virtues. Although he's not self-righteous, as Mr. Brocklehurst is (and good riddance to THAT character!), he IS very fanatical. Had Jane accepted his proposal, he would have been merciless in his efforts to have her keep up with him, with nothing in the way of sympathy or tenderness. So I believe you're right -- Jane wants to pull him toward a more "balanced, normal life".

I do admire Rivers's missionary zeal, but only to a point. It's great that he has these principles, and feels that he must follow the calling of God. On the other hand, it's not at all necessary to forgo ALL human pleasures in order to follow God's calling, so this is where he's mistaken.

One more thing: being a missionary at that time was also a risky business, not only because of the hardships involved, but also because spreading Christianity was probably seen by the Indians as another aspect of colonialism, and so, something that would have been resented, instead of welcomed.

And so we finish another great week of the read-along!! Thanks for your thoughts! : )

Sharon Wilfong said...

I appreciate your insights on St. John and your answers to the other questions.

I really hate that St. John won't marry Rosamond. It's so irksome that his view of sacrificing for God means giving up the very thing God specifically gave man (love and marriage) for a joyful life.

And his view that marrying someone he doesn't love isn't sinful is flat out perverse. Maybe that's too harsh a word but that's how I feel.

I hadn't made the connection between the first set of cousins and the second. That's a great point. I was too busy comparing Jane's cousins and their obvious quality, thought poor with the vain and shallow rich people that were visiting Rochester.

What I like about Rochester is that he too compares Jane and her real vitality with the shallow, empty lives of his social circle.

Thanks for a great review.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Suko - One nice thing about this read along is that I am seeing complexities I would not have seen had I read the book on my own.

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks for the good word Sharon.

St John really is going down an unnatural path. It really is sad how he does forsake his love.

Indeed Jane is such a breath of fresh air to most things in Rochester's life. It is no wonder that he loves her so much.

Credit Maria for making the connection between the two sets of cousins. I would never have picked it up myself.

Thanks for the great comment!

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Maria - While there are certainly admirable qualities about St John, I must admit that he disturbs me a little.

His fanaticism is definitely a problem. I dis get the impression from the text that he was headed for some very dangerous places!

Perhaps, despite his enormous flaws, I find myself identifying with Rochester so much, that I am really rooting against St John.

As for my other reasons for disliking him, I will elaborate a little more in next week's answers.

Felicity Grace Terry said...

Intrigued by St. John Rivers, he sounds like a fascinating character.

Vonnie said...

Hi Brian,

As always, you give such wonderful insights with these discussions. I have to agree that there's a melodramatic theme going on with this book. It's what makes it great :)

Also, I enjoyed reading your description on St. John. He is very instrumental to the plot, especially concerning Jane.

James said...

As others have noted, you have made some insightful observations. I agree with your assessment of Rochester's "dispassionate coldness". While I also agree with your comment about the novel's melodramatic tendency; however, the contrast between the two trios of cousins is something that I had not thought about.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Tracy - The thing about St Rivers is that such an interesting literary creation can exist in within a novel that already contains, what in my opinion are the titans, Jane and Rochester.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Vonnie - At first I was a little amused by the melodrama. But I see what a key part of this work is.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi James - Defiantly credit Maria for picking up on the parallels and contracts between the sets of cousins.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian. I forwarded your blog post to my sister who has a Master's in English Literature. I'm cutting and pasting her comment to this post:

Very well thought out and expressed. The writer brought out aspects of the story I'd never thought about. I haven't read it in a long time, and when I did read it, I was a very young woman more wrapped up in the romance of Mr. Rochester than any more profound meaning, I'm afraid!
Thanks for sharing. After reading such perceptive Commentary, I feel my own mind to be leathery and dull. It was refreshing to read such intelligent and pithy insights.

Sharon Wilfong said...

PS My sister homeschools her kids and is exhausted most of the time. That might be why she feels "leathery and dull".

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon - Thank you and thank your sister so much!

Despite the books profound meaning, the relationship between Jane and Rochester still draws me into the novel.

Sometimes I feel dull and leathery too!