Thursday, June 30, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 11

We're at Thornfield Hall!  We're at Thornfield Hall!  ::Cue lots of excited bouncing::

Um.  Yes.  I have been known to just start the book here.  When I'm pressed for time and need a dose of Jane + Rochester.  I've read the middle section and the very end probably half a dozen times more often than I've read the whole book.


Anyway!  This is a longer chapter, but I figure lots of people will have a long weekend coming up if they need to catch up.  SO much happening here!  Jane arrives at Thornfield, Jane meets Mrs. Fairfax, Jane thinks Mrs. Fairfax is awfully nice for an employer, Jane realizes Mrs. Fairfax is not really her employer, Jane meets her new pupil and they chatter away in French, Jane asks a lot of questions about the as-yet-unmet Mr. Rochester and is unsatisfied by Mrs. Fairfax's answers, Jane explores the house, Jane hears weird and creepy laughter, Jane meets Grace Poole... busy times!

What is up with the guy at the inn in Millcote not knowing there's a place called Thornfield nearby?  Dude, it's huge, full of Gothic Foreboding, very gloomy and atmospheric... that ringing any bells?  Huh.  Maybe he's new.

I love that Mrs. Fairfax right away distinguishes Jane as not being one of the servants.  I know that governesses in that time occupied a sort of weird middle-world, not servants, but also not equals with their employers.  How lovely for Jane to have another person in that middle realm whom she can confide in!  And isn't Mrs. Fairfax a dear?  Prone to chatter, but still, so kind.

And Adele is reasonably cute.  I've always liked her line, "Aire!  Bah!  I cannot say it" (p. 120).  That's always struck me as something a spoiled little girl would say, somehow.  Though then she sings that song about a forsaken lady with a perfidious lover -- do you think her mother taught it to her in hopes that some day she would happen to sing it around Mr. Rochester and wound him?

But Thornfield -- wow, Bronte pours on the Gothic atmosphere, doesn't she?  Right from the first, we hear about "the eerie impression made by that wide hall, that dark and spacious stair-case, and that long, cold gallery" (p. 116).  Then the outside has those "mighty old thorn trees strong, knotty, and broad as oaks" (p. 118) -- don't they remind you of Mr. Rochester himself?  Yet Jane's own room, and Mrs. Fairfax's little sitting room, are cozy and homey enough.  And I would love to curl up in that library!  Especially if I could coax a certain lord of the manor to give me the keys to all the book cases.

Mrs. Fairfax does tell us a few things about Mr. Rochester by what she doesn't say.  Jane asks if she likes him, and she replies that she does because "the family have always been respected here" (p. 124).  She says "his character is unimpeachable, I suppose (p. 124 -- emphasis mine), and that he is "rather peculiar" (p. 124).  But why is Jane so very curious about him?  She isn't satisfied with Mrs. Fairfax's account of him, and she ponders it -- but Mrs. Fairfax has already said he's rarely at Thornfield, so why should it matter to Jane what he's like?  Unless she's worried about him showing up and making untoward advances or something, but she seems too sheltered to really have that on her mind.

Several bits of foreshadowing going on here too.  Jane feels she's looking forward to "something pleasant; not perhaps that day or that month, but at an indefinite future period" (p. 117).  And then when Jane sees all the old furniture in some of the bedrooms on the third story, she says they make Thornfield Hall seem like "a shrine of memory" (p. 125).  Or perhaps a place to contain and lock away memories?

And here comes the Gothic Creepiness again -- Jane asking about ghosts, Mrs. Fairfax admitting the Rochesters "have been rather a violent than a quiet race" (p. 126), and then that "distinct, formal, mirthless" laugh that Jane says was "as tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard" (p. 127).  But the laugh gets attributed to Grace Poole, as unromantic and unghostly a person as Jane can imagine.  Still, Mrs. Fairfax cryptically rebukes her with "Remember directions!" (p. 127).  Ahhhh, something weird is going on here.

But Adele's hungry, and it's lunchtime, so never mind the creep factor, huh?

Oh!  Does your copy have translations for the French?  If not, try this page for some illumination.

Favorite Lines:

"I will do my best -- it is a pity that doing one's best does not always answer" (p. 112).

"A child makes a house alive all at once" (p. 115).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Does Adele annoy you?  Do you feel sorry for her?  Do you not care about her much one way or the other?


  1. No, Adele doesn't annoy me at all.Children do really liven a house if they have been loved. If, of course, they have been loved and not spoiled like the Reed brats! My 2 daughters were adults & one out of the home when my partner decided, separately, to adopt a 4 1/2 year old & a 16 month
    year old. I would wheel the older one around in a grocery cart while she chattered & pointed, trying to teach dense Kelda Chinese. At the end of the shopping,she was allowed to make one purchase. Most things just overwhelmed her - way too fancy for an orphanage child. I remember one treasure was her very own pencil. I think Adele would have been very disappointed with that :^)Now the 18 month old was essentially 'Americanized' from the start and she had a hearty love for pretties: princess dresses and fairy wings. She was most like Adele.

    Why do you think Rochester really took in Adele? That gruff manner of his -if there was DNA at the time, he would still hold to his denial of paternity. I was puzzled and taken in for awhile, because he wasn't charitable, & thank goodness was not like the Reeds.Do you think there really a time when he loved Adele's mother until she betrayed him? He certainly had no 'lucky in love'with women. Maybe he tried to cover up the bitterness by burying it deep in his heart and not even admitting to himself that
    he loved Adele. Look how long it took him to realize he loved Jane,and all that while continued to tease and torment her.

    1. Adele doesn't annoy me in the book, but I think if I knew her in real life, she might. However, she's kind and nice, a little spoiled and over-petted, but NOT like the Reed brats!

      I suspect that Rochester, whether he believes he's her father or not, took Adele in because he'd had such a rough young-adulthood himself, banging around Europe and left to his own devices. Maybe he was hoping to spare her that. And perhaps he feels like being reminded of her existence was good penance and a reminder not to fall in love ever again. He never seems warm or affectionate toward her, but of course, that was not an era where men had much to do with children, I don't think. (Then again, thinking of how kind Edward Ferrars is to Margaret Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, it wasn't always necessarily so.)

    2. I just happen to seem to not get through the posts here without adding more titles to my reading list! BTW, not only was the French translations for JE fascinating & fun, but it linked to reviews for
      :^)Japanese monster movies.~Snoopy Dance.

    3. Kelda, my reading list is so large that I think I'd have to have a multi-year vacation from life to get through it :-)

      What a crazy random happenstance! I'm so glad I linked to it.

  2. It feels like the story really starts here which, of course, is wrong. You really do need the backstory to give a fullness to all that is coming.
    I don't mind Adele. She's had a hard life, and I think Jane handles her with just the right mix of firmness and compassion.
    I have a confession to make. I have been very good - up to this point - at just reading one chapter at a time as you posted them. However, that has all changed now. Now that Mr. Rochester is here and things are heating up, so to speak, I'm reading whenever I get a spare minute. I just can't hold back.
    Oh, and two more things: 1) I got the book Helen was reading "Rasselas" for free on my Kindle - one word - BORING. I think I get why Helen enjoyed it, but what a book! I just ended up skimming through it as quickly as possible.
    2) My Kindle translates! Yeah! I've been using it a lot. You can generally figure out what Adele is saying, but to have it translated is fun.

    1. Jennifer, yes. Because I know the whole backstory, I feel no real shame in beginning my reading here sometimes, but someone new to the tale really needs all the early chapters.

      And I am similarly going to have a harder time not reading ahead. I suspect chapters posts will be coming thicker and faster now :-)

      Thanks for the tip on Rasselas! I won't bother finding it, then.

      The first couple of versions of the book I read didn't have the translations, which always irked me. At the same time, I could tell they were mostly commonplace stuff that didn't matter to the plot, so it wasn't awful to not know what was said completely. But I do really like knowing what they actually say :-)

  3. I was mostly struck with the contrasts in this chapter. There's a lot of Gothic atmosphere descriptions, yes, but there's also the happy and light and cozy descriptions, from Mrs. Fairfax room, Jane's bedroom and the morning when she wakes up. In most adaptations, I feel, they heap on the Gothic and don't manage to touch upon this combination of both. Also, in some adaptations Mrs. Fairfax is much to stern and aloof. I almost forgot what a genuinly nice lady she is!

    1. Birdie, yes! The cold and forbidding exterior of Thornfield needs to contain a warm, nice interior (parts of it anyway) to mirror Mr. Rochester's contrasting interior and exterior. Too many movies miss that.

      Dame Judi Dench remains my favorite Mrs. Fairfax because she really pours on the kindness.

    2. Ah, I never thought to compare Thornfield to Mr. Rochester, but it makes a lot of sense!

  4. When I was reading this chapter, I was reminded of some brief dialogue in Downton Abbey about governesses or nannies not really having a place between the masters and servants. Interesting how you mentioned it too!

    Huh, Adele doesn't annoy me exactly, but she does seem unrealistically precocious in some ways.

    1. Meredith, that's interesting! I haven't watched a lot of Downton Abbey, but from things I've read, like Jane Austen's England, it does seem to be a prevalent problem.


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