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?