Monday, May 30, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 1

The first copy of JE I owned
myself had this cover.  My friend 
Julie gave it to me for my 18th 
birthday, and I took it to college.
Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd I just lost everything I'd written about this chapter.  ARGH!  A whole, beautiful, completely finished post down the tube because I got interrupted by a little mouse who should have been asleep an hour ago, come to complain that he was lonely.  Sigh.


Okay, well, I will try to reconstruct my thoughts.  But it's 10:30 at night and I'm pretty tired, so I apologize right now if this is disjointed or whatever.

I think the very first line is splendid.  "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day" (p. 11).  No possibility.  Because, for Jane Eyre at this point in her young life, there are no possibilities at all.  She's a penniless orphan stuck living with relatives who don't want her, some of whom actively dislike her.  No possibility.

In the second paragraph, she surprises us.  "I was glad of it," she says.  Right from the start, she is different, isn't she?  I mean, compare her to Jane Austen's heroines, who all love to wander around outside in every sort of weather.  Jane Eyre doesn't like long walks because they make her feel sad and inferior.  She would rather stay inside and read.  But this marks her as different.  And her aunt disapproves of different.  Mrs. Reed wishes Jane would be "lighter, franker, more natural."  Which tells us that Jane seems dark, secretive, and unnatural.

Those three adjectives are soon confirmed.  Jane hides herself away behind heavy drapes (secretive), preferring the dreary view and a book full of bleak pictures (dark), and she enjoys trying to understand a volume of paintings far above her comprehension level (unnatural).  In fact, the most ordinary-sounding picture we get a description of, that of a lonely graveyard, she can't understand at all -- ordinary sentiment escapes her, but the wild and weird pictures, she has a real feel for.

Don't you think those first three paintings are so representative of what's to come in this story?  Surely "the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray" (p. 12) is meant to portray Jane herself, standing alone against so many troubles.  And "the broken boat stranded on a desolate coast" is Rochester, shattered and lonely and isolated.  But then that "cold and ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking" -- is that Rochester's first marriage?  Is it what happens to Jane and Rochester's relationship when she learns the truth?  I don't know.

But then there's John Reed.  Oh, ick.  What a terrible person he is.  Fourteen years old, tormenting his helpless cousin, on the road to becoming a perverted piece of scum.  He disgusts me.

And what an ending to this chapter!  "Take her away to the red-room, and lock her in there" (p. 16).  ACK!  So ominous and scary!

Favorite Lines:  I was then happy; happy at least in my way (p. 13).

Possible Discussion Questions:  Do you think I'm all wet when it comes to interpreting those paintings?

Are there helpful and good lessons to be learned from reading about things like child abuse?  Can we learn anything useful from characters like John Reed?

36 comments:

  1. That's so interesting how you interpreted the first lines. Especially the "no possibility of taking a walk" part. I never thought of applying that instance to Jane's whole life, but it's true.

    I always found it odd that the paintings Jane studies in a book about birds....have no mention of any birds in them (except for one picture, I think.) I just looked up the "History of British Birds" on Wikipedia and discovered that though it was indeed a book about birds, not all of the pictures were focused on a bird. I feel a little less confused now. ;) Was anyone else ever confused by that?

    I love how you interpreted those paintings!

    John Reed. Ugh. :P

    I'm looking forward to chapter 2! You did a great job on this post. :) (Sorry your first attempt got ruined!)

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! That whole idea of possibilities just struck me this time through. Jane seems to have no possibilities time and again, and yet through her own determination (and some Victorian-novel coincidences), time and again, possibilities come to be.

      Haha! I never noticed that her book about birds doesn't involve birds. That's so amusing! Hmm, I'd like to find that book some day and see what those illustrations looked like for myself.

      Thanks! I managed to remember most of what I'd written, though a few things slipped by. But that's okay. Life!

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    2. I would have never thought of looking for the "British History of Birds" online. I looked up the Wikipedia article mentioned. They did have one of the pictures mentioned - one that scared Jane too much for her to linger on it. I also found a website where someone has put up the entire book, however after way too much time spent searching I can't find the pictures that Jane talked about. It was all very interesting though, so thanks, Natalie, for reminding me once again that you truly can search for anything online.

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    3. Hamlette,
      That would indeed be an interesting thing to see the illustrations!!

      Jennifer,
      Haha, not a problem. I'm so glad you were able to find some interesting things!

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  2. I read this right away yesterday morning, Rachel. Then every time I tried to sit down to write a comment I just couldn't. :P
    I enjoyed your take on the pictures and don't find your interpretation wrong. I never realized you could really analyze literature this way until my Grade 12 year of school. I had an amazing teacher who took us through "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Ivanhoe". I loved picking the books apart. Sadly, I just don't seem to get these things on my own. So I love it when someone else points things out.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this first chapter except for John Reed and his mom. I hate it when adoptive moms or stand-in moms put their children on a higher level than the children entrusted to their care. What is up with that? I mean, here's a poor child who has lost everyone she holds dear and then you demonize her? Makes my blood boil every time. I also hate moms who defend their wretched sons.

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    1. Jennifer, I feel your pain! I tried to write up my post on chapter 2 for three days before I finally got it finished. This is life as a mom.

      Speaking of moms, mine asked me a while back where I learned to analyze stuff like this, which college prof taught it to me. And I said it was her, because I got to college knowing how to do this.

      But yes, I don't do "close" readings like this with every book I read. Which is why I enjoy hosting and participating in read-alongs, because they let me slow down and read for the details.

      Moms who defend their awful offspring need help.

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    2. When I read that you had found information about British Birds on Wikipedia, I decided to check it out. Very interesting! I especially liked the info about the "tails" attached when extra room remained after describing the birds. When I read that there were still copies of the book(s) in print, I naturally checked Amazon. Voila! We can order copies for only $499.00!

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    3. Sandy, well... if we all pooled our money...

      Hee! Wow, that's a big chunk of change.

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    4. Let's pass on that one. Now I just want to find the 1944 movie of Jane Eyre. My bookstore lady recommended it because of all the old actors.

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    5. I haven't seen the 1944 yet, but I'm sure I will one day! I hope you can track it down. I really like Orson Welles' voice.

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    6. I'm searching, too. I believe that I've seen it, but I want to see it again. Let me know if you find it. I'm watching a 1997 version right now. It's good. Can't remember the actors' names, but I'll check.

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    7. Sandy, you can buy it on DVD on Amazon here.

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    8. WooHoo! I found the 1944 Jane Eyre!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AisgaNrMSA

      Haven't watched it yet because I just finished a version that was almost funny it was so different from the book. I'll write about it later.

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    9. Awesomesauce! Thanks for the link, Sandy.

      Was the other version you watched the one with Ciaran Hinds? They changed a lot of the dialog and so on for that one, I remember.

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  3. Great write-up on Chapter One! I think your interpretations of the paintings are very perceptive.

    I kind of glossed over any literary elements in my reading of Chapter One. I just know that if you give me a story with a good villain or two, I'm in. Mrs. Reed and John certainly qualify. I'm rereading Jane Eyre and can't remember if John gets his comeuppance in the end. I'm hoping he does.

    By the way, I'm Lucy. Would it be easier for me to go by that instead of my blog name?

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    1. Thanks, Lucy! (And yeah, that's a little less unwieldy, huh?) Villains are your thing, huh? Well, these two are certainly villainous, even if they don't figure into a lot of the story. (And yeah, he kinda does.)

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    2. Lucy, Hamlette told me how to change my name. I did, and it was easy!

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  4. Oo, I have a feeling I should prick up my ears more listening to JE during this read-along, you're already doing some serious literary analysis!

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    1. Birdie, hee! Well, I did say we were going to dig deep with this one ;-)

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  5. Excellent analysis!

    I liked how the first chapter sets up strong emotions right from the get-go, and then ends, like you said, on an ominous and somewhat suspenseful note.

    Sorry, this is my first read-along and I'm a little ignorant about the way it works-- am I supposed to read the chapter before or after you write a post about it?

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    1. Thanks, Meredith! Sorry it's taken me a couple days to get back to you -- been a weird week here. Usually I'm right on top of replying to comments.

      Yes! No dilly-dallying with this book -- it leaps directly into problems and conflict. Good stuff.

      As for reading the chapter before or after I post, that is up to you. I write them assuming everyone has already read that chapter, but if you want to use them as hints for stuff to look for, that probably works too!

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  6. I've read Jane many times, but I still can't put it down. I'm on Chapter 5. But I still haven't written about Chapter 1. I'd best get to it!

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    1. Sandy, I'm not having much trouble sticking to just one chapter at a time for now. But when we get to Thornfield, that will become a big problem for me, I expect.

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  7. Even though I've read the book many times, my stomach was still in knots as I read how Old Lady Reed (please don't consider this rudeness, Hamlette) treated poor Jane. And that John Reed! He's a jerk.

    I used to have my students do double entry journals . . . quote from the book and then respond to the quotation. I may do some of this while responding to chapters. One of the lines that grabbed me was "Jane, I don't like cavilers or questioners; besides, there is something truly forbidding in a child raking up her elders in that manner." (Mrs. Reed) Did this remind anyone else of what our parents (at least mine) used to tell us: Children should be seen and not heard. I always hated that!

    One thing that is really puzzling me is how Jane can remember so many details from her childhood. Because it's fiction, I guess. Anyway, I love the book and am enjoying reading it again. Thanks for the read-along. Also, I'll try not to be so verbose in the following chapters.

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    1. Sandy, that's it -- I'm thinking of Mrs. Reed as Old Lady Reed from now on! It's too perfect. (The names I'd like to call John Reed, I can't say, cuz there's preschool toys present...)

      That's a cool idea! I may "borrow" it for teaching my niece 9th grade lit this fall.

      I can remember a LOT of details from my childhood. Whole incidents, the gist of conversations -- I think it's a personality trait. But also, yes... it's fiction, and that always helps ;-)

      Verbosity is welcome!

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    2. Oh, thanks on the verbosity. To ruin a line from Hamlet: Verbosity, thy name is Sandy.

      Do use the idea with your student. Once my students got the hang of it, they wrote pages and pages. I have other ideas that you might like, but they'd take too long to explain here.

      I have a very poor memory, and, though, lots of very important things happened to me in childhood, I have trouble fleshing them out.

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    3. This is so frustrating! I want to be Cerrillos Sandy, but I keep being switched back to Forever Young. I think my original posts are Cerrillos Sandy, and my replies are Forever Young. Very strange!

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    4. Sandy, it goes by what Google account you're logged into, and that includes Gmail. If all else fails, when you're going to reply to a comment, before you type it up, look at the little drop-down list below where you write the comment -- it says "Reply as" and then a little list says who you're signed in as. If it doesn't say what you want it to, hit the "Sign out" button to the right and then sign in again as the account you want to use.

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    5. Thanks so much for the suggestion! Now it's using Cerrillos Sandy for posts and replies. Go figure! Technology . . . can't do with it, can't do without it. By the way, Cerrillos, NM, is where I live, a village about 25 miles south of Santa Fe.

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    6. Aha! I was kind of wondering. Thanks for the clarification. And I'm glad that worked out for you.

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  8. Hi Rachel!
    How are you? I haven’t been on your blogs lately. It looks as if I missed a lot. I peaked in your blog earlier in May and I saw that you were going to have the read along, but then my Finals decided to take my away to the land of stress. I did perk up when I saw the Jane Eyre read along. Ever since I’ve done the Little Women read along with you, I learned that I love read alongs.

    I haven’t read Jane Eyre in years. I just remember main points but I forget the little details. After reading this chapter, I realized that I missed the beautiful language. I had to reread the paragraph describing the three pictures. I was drawn into the descriptions of the pictures that I didn’t really realize why she was talking about it, but I had a ton of fun rereading the paragraph because it sounded beautiful.

    I didn’t think of the pictures foreshadowing what would happen in the book, but it makes sense now that you mention it.

    John Reed disgusts me too. Now he is a villain. I forget what happens to him in the book. Maybe he becomes better (I doubt it.)

    P.S. I found Harold Bloom's Hamlet: Poem Unlimited at a book store. I’m thinking of reading it and then reading the play again. Maybe the book might give me more insight into the play. I’m planning on reading the play either in the fall or in the winter. Perhaps in the winter because Hamlet sound like a good book to read with a blanket.

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    1. Hi, Ekaterina! I'm so excited to have you here :-) Are you back from the land of stress and all done with Finals? I hope so!

      Yes, I love the language. It's not just "get this story told as quickly as possible," but it's alllll beautiful and meaty.

      I love Harold Bloom's Hamlet: Poem Unlimited! Oh, it's just so crammed with wonderful insights. I get in the mood for Hamlet in the late fall -- isn't it funny how certain books are tied to certain seasons? I want The Hound of the Baskervilles in October, Hamlet in November, and The Lord of the Rings in January. Hee!

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    2. Yes, I am back from the land of stress. I'm going to start taking some college courses in the fall, so it will be interesting to see what the stress levels will feel like. I am taking a course this summer, but that shouldn't be too stressful.

      I think that it's funny and interesting how there are seasons for certain books. I thought it was just me who had those feelings. :-)

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    3. Ekaterina, yay! Enjoy your slower summer.

      I have certain seasons for movies too. I always want to watch the LOTR and Hobbit movies in December. And once the weather got warm this summer, I started craving The Man from UNCLE. Hee!

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  9. I always seem to join in late on these things, but at least I got the book started, although I'm only on chapter 6 so far.

    I've attempted to read Jane Eyre enough times that I practically have the opening chapters memorized. They're what I know best of the story. And it always reminds me how much I connect to young Jane. Preferring to read rather than participate, and for people to think she's not a healthy or likeable child because of it. I would have been the child in the window-seat devouring a book, grateful for solitude and praying no one would interrupt.

    I always end up broiling mad when I read about poor Jane's injustice simply because none of it was warranted. Mrs. Reed is a dreadful, pious woman who I will never be able to stomach, and this time is no exception. I don't usually out-and-out hate characters, but I revile her.

    Here's hoping I make it farther than my meeting with Rochester this time around. :)

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    1. Carissa, we're only 11 chapters in -- you're really not that far behind us. Give you a long weekend and you'll be ahead of me!

      I am an introverted daughter of an extroverted mother, and I spent so much of my childhood being shoved into social interaction when all I wanted was to hide and read. I have dreamed since I was in single digits of having a window-seat I could set on and read, preferably one with curtains to close, and I remember the first time I read this, I was like, "YES! Kindred spirit."

      So... why have you given up on this book so many times? Does Rochester annoy you? He's a little hard to get used to, it's true.

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What do you think?

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