Sunday, May 29, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Preface to the Second Edition


Welcome to my Jane Eyre Read-Along!  I've been looking forward to this all year :-)  Jane Eyre is my absolute favorite novel.  I've read it all the way through five or six times, beginning when I was about sixteen, so twenty years or so ago.  But I've been known to read my favorite parts over and over and over, so some sections I'm very familiar with indeed.  I also studied it in college, and I'll be using some of the notes I made then for this.  If I get time, I might even dredge up some of the papers I wrote for that lit class and share them.  We'll see!


This was the cover on
the very first copy I read,
around the age of 16.
So... I'm a book nerd, and I read prefaces and introductions and notes and such-like.  Which means I'm going to open this read-along by discussing Bronte's "Preface to the Second Edition" today because it holds some interesting thoughts.  And because I always want to do a bit of housekeeping the first day of a read-along, and that can make a chapter post untidy and cumbersome.

First, the housekeeping. If you're new to my read-alongs, here's how they work: I will post about each chapter in turn, usually every 2 or 3 days. You can write up your own thoughts in the comments on those posts, discussing the book with me and each other. I encourage you to reply to each others' comments!  

I generally include a question or two that I think people might like to discuss, but you can choose to answer it or not, and bring up any of your own thoughts and questions too.  If you also want to post things on your own blog as we go, you're most welcome to, but it's not required.

Also, I'm not going to mark spoilers.  Anywhere.  I assume you have a working knowledge of this story.  I'm sorry, but I just can't pussy-foot around, nodding and winking and saying, "I can't say anything now, but this will be important later!"  This book is rich and meaty, and there's a lot of foreshadowing and so on that will pretty much require that we allude to future events as we go along.  However, I Will Not be mean and post spoily things unnecessarily, so if this is your first time reading the book and you don't know how it ends, please don't give up now.

Finally, I'd love to have some of you contribute guest posts!  I'm particularly interested in reviews of the various movie versions -- I'd love to include as many as possible.  If you can think up something else you'd like to write about, suggest it in the comments and we'll see!  I'm usually pretty open about them.

Now, on to the preface.  When Jane Eyre was first published, it received mixed reviews.  While some people like William Makepeace Thackerey (to whom Bronte dedicated the second edition) praised it highly, others condemned it for being un-Christian, unladylike, even coarse.  This preface is her refutation, as it were.  And I think that when she says here that "Conventionality is not morality" (p. 6), she's summing up the entire novel.  Throughout the story, Jane Eyre defies convention when it conflicts with her moral beliefs.  She acts according to her beliefs, even when (especially when?) doing so makes her life more difficult, even miserable.

Bronte also touches on the idea that "appearance should not be mistaken for truth" (6).  We're going to see that theme over and over in the book too, of appearance versus reality.  Jane Eyre appears little and weak, but she is as strong as tempered steel.  Mr. Brocklehurst appears virtuous, but is spiteful and vindictive.  And on and on and on.  We'll come back to that idea often, I'm sure.

Finally, she mentions people who think that "whatever is unusual is wrong" (p. 5).  The romance between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester is most unusual.  Jane Eyre was, at that time, a female character unlike any the literary world had seen before.  A story in the style of Gothic romance which doesn't involve a wilting, helpless heroine was unusual.  All these reasons, and countless others, kind of freaked out people when this was published, and that reaction in turn led to Bronte writing this preface.

Okay, that's all for today.  I'm hoping/planning to post about chapter one tomorrow, but it'll be Memorial Day here in America, and I might not get to it until Tuesday.

Possible Discussion Questions:

Have you read Jane Eyre before?  

Have you seen any movie versions?

Do you generally read prefaces and introductions and suchlike?

40 comments:

  1. I've read Jane Eyre more than once, but not sure how many times. I think I've seen two different movie versions of Jane Eyre. I'll have to look up which one was my favourite. I haven't read Jane Eyre for quite a while and have never done Read-Along so I'm really looking forward to this. I think it will be fun.
    Sometimes I read prefaces and introductions. It depends on the subject matter and how I feel and how eager I am to get into the actual book.
    Anyway, this was fun to read tonight, and I just have to say again that I'm really looking forward to this. Now I'm off to make sure I have a copy of Jane Eyre on my Kindle so I can start reading it when I go to bed. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer, I'm so excited you're joining this read-along! I haven't read this all the way through for quite a while either -- I'm thinking probably about 7 years.

      I try always to read prefaces, but I tend not to read the introduction if I don't already know the story.

      I'm hoping to get chapter one up by the end of today, we'll see.

      Delete
  2. Yay, it's begun!

    I read chapter 1 today, in hopes of staying on track with this. :)
    I think this is my second time reading Jane Eyre, but I've seen at least 4 movie versions. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Natalie, yay! I hope to have my post for chapter one up before the end of the day. We'll see!

      You've seen as many movie versions as I have!

      Delete
  3. I have never read Jane Eyre before or seen any of the movies! So I am coming into this honestly not knowing the story line, the characters, or ANYthing. I understand that spoilers are sometimes very needed for the sake of fruitful discussion, and while I appreciate that you will not do so unnecessarily, thank you for the heads up!

    In terms of prefaces and introductions, I always have to and love to read them. But I tend to do so only after having started the first chapter or two of the book. I want to dip my toe into the story, and *then* back up to add in any history and context provided by those preceding sections, before then jumping back into the story again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kenia, wow! I'm excited for you to be encountering this story for the first time. I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum, honest.

      That's an interesting practice! I either read an introduction before starting a book, or after I finish it, depending on whether I was familiar with the story or not.

      Delete
  4. So, I didn't own Jane Eyre on my Kindle which surprised me a little, but for two cents I was able to remedy that. And the version I bought had the preface that you talked about so I read it (which I probably wouldn't have otherwise) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was reading parts of it to my husband which he patiently endured because really he just wanted to sleep. Then I read the first chapter, and it was just as good as I remembered. Maybe even better because I read it slowly since I was just going to limit myself to the first chapter.
    I'm having lots of fun already. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer, yay! Kindle really is excellent for stuff like this.

      My husband is similarly patient when it comes to enduring me nattering on about some literary thing or other that's exciting me :-D

      Delete
  5. Well, let me answer your 3 question, and then let me made a commitment:
    (1) No, I have not read Bronte's novel.
    (2) Yes, I must have seen a film version (long ago on TCM) but remember very little about it.
    (3) Yes, in most cases, I cannot resist any supplementary material related to novels and stories.
    Now, as for the commitment, I will begin reading _Jane Eyre_, and I will be commenting upon it at Solitary Praxis (and at your blog as I try to keep up with your reading and posting schedule).
    Here is the link to Solitary Praxis.
    http://solitarypraxis.blogspot.com/
    You will notice that I am also at the time revisiting Jane Austen's world. I hope that I do not become confused by attempting both Austen's and Bronte's worlds at the same time. All the best, Tim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tim, oh boy! Your first time through -- what fun! I really hope you enjoy it. And I think it's different enough that you won't get it confused with Austen.

      Delete
  6. You and I must be kindred spirits. I love reading introductions and prefaces! You learn no much. For instance, Bronte's introduction makes me now want to read William Makepeace Thackerey.

    First read Jane Eyre as a teenager. Now reading it as a mother. The child abuse bothers me more now, especially Jane being locked away in that awful red room for hours. The 2011 movie version does a good job of showing the terror it produced in a young child.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Library Luggage (shall I call you LL?), yes! I love what I can learn from the intros.

      I agree that the child abuse gets more awful as I age. I'll get into that soon.

      Delete
  7. I'm so excited! :D This is my first time reading Jane Eyre, I'm sure I'll really like it. :3

    As far as movies, I haven't seen any yet as I have promised myself to read the book before I see any movies based off one whenever possible. But the first one I am going to watch after I finish the book will probably be the 2006 BBC miniseries, mostly because it has Georgie Henley as little Jane Eyre and she's one of my favorite actresses. :-)

    ~Lydia~ <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lyida, oh boy! I'm really excited by how many people here are reading it for the first time. You are in for a treat.

      The 2006 is the one I've seen most recently, and wow, I reallllllly loved Ruth Wilson's portrayal of Jane.

      Delete
  8. I reread the book last year (the first time was about 7 years ago) and then watched 5 adaptations. I still need to see the Timothy Dalton version (it isn't at our library).
    I don't like reading intros, prefaces, reviews, etc. because I feel like it alters, biases, and colors me interpretation.
    This time I want to note all the "signature" moments and episodes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Livia Rachelle, ooooh, five! You're one up on me. But the Timothy Dalton -- I adore that one. You can watch it on YouTube, albeit chopped into pieces. Just search for "Timothy Dalton Jane Eyre." Don't know what the quality of the vids is like, but you could at least try it out.

      I feel differently about intros than about prefaces. I guess because prefaces are written by the authors, and are them trying to explain something about their books, whereas introductions are written by scholars or other novelists and are all about their interpretation, the history of how the book was written, etc. So while I always read prefaces, I only read an introduction if I'm already familiar with the story. Reviews... reviews I read on a case-by-case basis, hee.

      What do you mean by "signature" moments? I'm curious!

      Delete
    2. Well, the proposal is the best example, but one of my favorites is when she is going away and asks him for money; that hilarious and yet intense interaction. When she hears him call her name while she is in exile. Small, intense, significant occurrences; I am sure there is a better way of putting it.

      Delete
    3. Livia Rachelle -- I see! I was being too literal and trying to remember times when people signed things, hee. So kind of the essential moments, for you? I have a bunch of those too. The gypsy scene, her asking for money and refusing to give it back because he's not to be trusted, when he calls her back to him...

      Delete
  9. Oh man, I want to take part in this so much, but I don't have time for reading right now! Jane Eyre has been waiting on my list for so long though. Maybe I'll follow along with your posts anyway, or come back whenever I do read it... have fun! (I'm sure you will!) :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, either of those works for me! Or, if you find yourself with a chunk of time later this summer, you could catch up then! This will take us through August, I'm sure.

      Delete
  10. I almost always read both prefaces and introductions just because I want to see what the author and others have to say about the book. I also read all those blurbs that readers have written about a book. Just a curious old lady! I've read Jane Eyre many times. I probably taught it five or six times, and each time, I'd curl up in a comfy chair after doing dishes and grading papers and give myself pure pleasure for a while. I never felt comfortable teaching a book if I hadn't read it recently, preferably as the students were reading. But . . . it's been about 30 years since I taught the book; hence, I've forgotten lots. I know I've seen movie versions, but I don't remember much about them. Any suggestions as to where I can find the movies?

    Here's a comment and a question: The first time I commented, I was Forever Young. Now I'm Frank 'n' Sandy. I know where the names came from, but is there a way to change my comment name? I'd love to be "Sandy" or "Cerrillos Sandy." Just wondering . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sandy, I'm going to be teaching a niece Lit and English for 9th grade, and I'm definitely planning to read most of the selections with her if I haven't read it recently. It's just so hard to discuss otherwise!

      If you search YouTube for "Jane Eyre full movie," you'll find several versions. If you have Netflix or Amazon, they both have some too.

      As for changing your name for commenting, go here and click the orange "edit profile" button on the upper right. On the page that pops up, under the heading "Identity" you'll find a thing that says "Display name" with a box to the right. Put the name you want to sign things with in that box. (Should be right above where you can upload a profile picture.)

      Hope that helps!

      Delete
    2. It did help, Rachel! Now I'm Cerrillos Sandy and a very happy reader. Thanks so much!

      Delete
    3. Yay! Glad it worked for you, Sandy.

      Delete
  11. I have read Jane Eyre before, two times actually. But it's been a few years and I definitely think reading such a book together with others and discussing it will make for a new and very rich experience!

    I watched multiple adaptation of JE, my favourite is still the 2006 BBC miniseries.

    I do usually read prefaces, they're full of interesting information. But I'm listening to JE as an audiobook for this read-along and that one didn't have a preface.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Birdie, I'm so glad to have you along!

      Ruth Wilson is probably my favorite Jane. She really nailed the way I perceive the character.

      Silly audiobook to not have the preface! Tsk tsk. Who's the narrator? Are they good? I'm listening (in tiny snippets) to a novelization of Hamlet read by Richard Armitage, swooooooooooon...

      Delete
    2. I'm listening to a (free) LibriVox recording by Elizabeth Klett. I like her reading pretty well so far.

      Delete
    3. Birdie, free is my favorite kind :-D

      Delete
  12. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books.

    I've seen ten adaptions of Jane Eyre. You can read all about that experience on my blog. I wrote movie reviews for all of them and then a wrap-up post.

    Essentially:
    The best adaptation around two hours: Jane Eyre (1944);
    The best adaptation over two hours: Jane Eyre (1983)
    Well worth watching: 1973, 2006, 1996, 2011, 1997
    Worth watching just for laughs: 1934, 1949
    Least Favorite: 1970
    My favorite soundtrack: 1996
    My least favorite soundtrack: 1970

    As for prefaces and introductions, it depends on if I've read the book before. Some introductions are bad about spoiling big, big plot twists. But if I don't read them first before starting a book, I generally come back to them after finishing the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Becky -- WOW! Ten adaptations. I am agog. I've seen 4. I love the 1983 dearly, but I liked the 2011 enough to buy it (though a lot of that is because I'm a Fassbender fan). I liked the 2006's Jane a lot, but not Rochester much at all. I love your ranking of them!

      And you sound like me with introductions. They are often very spoily, and I only read them if I know the story already.

      Delete
  13. Huzzah!

    I tend to skip over prefaces, but sometimes they'll catch my attention and I'll read them. (I love that Brontë dedicated JE to William Makepeace Thackeray! I just recently read Vanity Fair and surprised myself by enjoying it.)

    Oooh, you're looking for people to contribute guest posts? Movie reviews? Well *cough cough* "I'm here and handy." ;D

    I'd love to try my hand at reviewing either the Zelah Clarke, the Ruth Wilson or the Mia Wasikowska versions--probably either the RW or the MW, because they are the ones I've watched more often. However, I did just recently rewatch the ZC for the first time in a long time, and ohhhh mah worrrrrd...I liked it. I liked it a lot :D)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Olivia, huzzah! You're here!

      I haven't read Vanity Fair yet :-o One day!

      I would love to have a movie review from you! Pick one to start with, and we'll go from there, how's that?

      (The ZC is my fave, yum yum, but I think RW is my fave Jane.)

      Delete
    2. Yes, t'is meself! ;D

      I think you may enjoy VF, too! It's odd, but I liked it :P

      Good plan! (Sorry it's taken me so infernally long to respond.) I thiiiiiink I'd like to try reviewing the 2006 one. Because, you know: Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. The only problem is I'm not quite sure when I'll be able to do it...is it all right if it's delayed awhile?

      Delete
    3. Olivia, don't worry about it! It's taking me several days to reply to blog comments lately on my own blogs. I'll put you down for the 2006 and whenever you finish it (as long as the read-along isn't over, lol), up it goes! You do have my email address, right?

      Delete
  14. I read Jane Eyre back in January, so probably won't read it again now, but I am really looking forward to discussing the plot in depth and analysing the characters:)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I read this book earlier in the year, but I had to hurry (a challenge), so thanks for letting me tag along een though you are almost done!

    I don't usually read preferences or introductions because I am too exited to read the book, but I liked this very much!

    I have only seen the 1934 version starring Viginia Bruce, and I saw that before I read it so I knew the story line, I haven't watched it since, but I own the disc and could do a review of that one if you like.
    Thanks again for doing this!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MovieCritic, I'm always happy to have people join in as we go along :-)

      I've never seen the 1934 version. If you get a chance to write up a review, that would be cool!

      Delete
    2. I'll try to get it up as soon as I can!

      Delete

What do you think?

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)