Friday, June 3, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 2

Well that turned Gothic in a hurry, didn't it?  I'm always disappointed that Mr. Reed's ghost doesn't return to punish his family for maltreating his niece.  He disappoints me, that uncle of Jane's.

But anyway, wow, so much going on in this chapter.  Jane resists her captors as they drag her to the Red Room, which she says is "a new thing for me" (p. 17).  We can tell she's been inwardly resisting people and ideas for a while already, but this is the first time she put up a physical resistance.  Good practice for her future.

It makes me sooooo angry that the maid, Abbot, says, "What shocking conduct, Miss Eyre, to strike a young gentleman" (p. 17).  Shouldn't it be the other way around?  Shouldn't it be shocking for a young gentleman to strike a little girl?  She's bleeding!  Everyone has to know her head wound isn't self-inflicted.  But no one cares.  No one cares.  Oh, it's a good thing I can't slip inside books like Thursday Next, because I'd probably take a shotgun to everyone in the Reed household.  A horsewhip, at the very least.

But, really, why does no one care?  Because Jane Eyre is different from everyone else in the house.  She is other.  Jane, by the end of the chapter says this herself:  "I was like nobody there" (p. 21).  Her differentness in temperament, intellect, emotion, behavior, interests, and bloodline keep the Reeds (and their servants) at a distance.  She simply does not belong.

Be that as it may, I still want to wreak vengeance on them.  I don't understand a lot of people, but that doesn't make me mistreat them, lock them up, or let them be beaten and tormented.  I often say I don't like the beginning of this book, even though I love the book as a whole dearly, and much of that is because it makes me very angry.  With Jane, I yell, "Unjust! unjust!" (p. 21).

Okay, I'll try to move on.  I do like that glimpse Jane catches of herself in the mirror.  "I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie's evening stories represented" (p. 20).  Which is precisely what Mr. Rochester accuses her of being on their first meeting.  Oh, I love that bit of foreshadowing!

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you think Mrs. Reed's attitude toward Jane is understandable?

Do you have any theories as to why Bronte gave Jane such a thoroughly miserable childhood?

25 comments:

  1. 1). Understandable? Maaaaybe. Excusable? No.

    2). Well, since I haven't read the whole book before, not really. But maybe(partially) to keep readers interested? As a reader, I want to keep reading to find out if her life ever gets better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meredith, I feel the same way on 1.

      And we'll just have to wait and see on #2 for you then, huh?

      Delete
  2. I think Jane's bleak, friendless childhood gave rise to her independent, indomitable spirit. There are many instances in the book (no spoilers here) where she is brave and willing to stand alone. I believe it was her hardships that shaped her into the strong woman she became.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sereia, I like that! I think that's a big part of it.

      Delete
  3. As to question one, maybe if Mrs. Reed had received Jane when Jane was eight, she might have had some bonding problems. But didn't she get her as a baby? How do you not bond with a child you see daily for the first eight years of their life?

    As to question two, I think Jane's childhood endears her to readers, especially those who felt like misfits when they were young. Also, I think Sereia's answer is so true!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucy, I know! It boggles my mind too. Of course, they were wealthy, so Jane and all the kids probably spent much more time in the care and company of maids and nurses and other servants than Mrs. Reed.

      I agree with your answer to #2 too. I think that, from a reader's perspective, it makes us sympathetic to Jane from the very first. I think, within the story, it helps her learn she can rely on her own abilities and not have to lean on others. She's going to need that.

      Delete
  4. Oh, totally agree. I tend to dislike the beginning of the book, too. It's just so miserable and unfair and cruel! Bessie obviously likes Jane, and yet she does not stand up for her when Jane was mistreated. I hate how Jane is looked down on just because she is odd or not as pretty as the other girls. She's still a child who needs love and affection! Mistreated children always make me sad in books. I just want to adopt them and hug them and be their friend.

    I never noticed that bit of foreshadowing before I read the book this time, and I loved it!

    Perhaps Jane's miserable childhood is given to her in order to strengthen her for the ordeal with Rochester--and to make her happiness at the end of the book shine brighter because of the misery she has had to bear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Natalie, yes. Miserable. I shudder.

      And I think yes, the more miserable she is, the more scope there is for her to be happy eventually!

      Delete
  5. They didn't have it easy themselves, those Brönte girls. A lot of what Charlotte writes later in Jane Eyre comes from her own experiences, such as Lowood school and working as a governess. But I've never heard about mistreatment at home for the Brönte siblings. I believe they were actually very close to their father. Maybe Charlotte heard such a story from one of her friends at the boarding school?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Birdie, you're so right. I imagine that, though the Bronte kids weren't mistreated at home themselves, they probably knew people who were. And they may have seen such things as governesses too.

      Delete
  6. I can't understand Mrs. Reed's feelings toward Jane. All of her children were young when Jane came to live with them, and the child could have been worked in to the family so easily. My heart just breaks for Jane. I know that Bessie has some feelings for her, but I cannot abide that Abbot. She's just plain mean.

    Jane must have this miserable childhood in order for her to be able to withstand other problems that she faces. The strength that she will need begins here when she stands up to Mrs. Reed and John. Oh, what a terrible duo! And the girls aren't any better. The descriptions of all four children in the paragraph beginning on p. 46 in my book -- "Why could I never please?" -- are beautiful in the sense of being so very accurate.

    I agree with you, Rachel, that I want the ghost of Mr. Reed to come back. Hmmm . . . how would Charlotte have handled that? Would Jane have fainted or wanted to embrace him?

    Birdie, I like what you said! Actually, I enjoyed all of the comments. Thanks for the insights!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sandy, me either. Mrs. Reed has no excuse.

      Yes! Those descriptions are just loaded with meaning, aren't they?

      I like to think that, if Mr. Reed's ghost appeared to her, Jane would have said, "Do you see what's going on here?" and he would have gone and frightened Mrs. Reed into stopping her persecutions of Jane.

      Delete
    2. I agree wholeheartedly on what Mr. Reed's ghost would do!

      Delete
  7. I'm a little behind but not too bad.

    All these scenes so far have been wonderful for giving the reader a sense of Jane's isolation and engendering an intense sympathy for her from the reader.

    This is a little bit spoiler-ish ........ Mrs. Reed's treatment of Jane gives us sympathy for her now, but later on will also play a part in showing what an admirable forgiving nature our heroine has! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cleopatra, you're just fine :-) I don't expect to be posting the next chapter until tomorrow (Wed) at the earliest.

      And yes, it will do precisely that!

      Delete
  8. I can "understand" in the light of human nature to often feel threatened by differences/rivals but cannot condone such cruelty. A lot of the Brontë novels feature darkness and difficulty and apparently the Brontë family endured quite a bit themselves, but I also think that temperamentally they might have been brooding and moody and so focused on difficulties. Also, life for many people was much harder then. And many schools (see Dickens) were truly terrible (this was verified in a British history class I took).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Livia, I think that the combination of difficult lives and the seclusion they lived in much of the time did make the Brontes see things more darkly than they might have if their lives had been different. Who knows?

      Delete
  9. I'm behind due to church meetings and company, but now I'm back and catching up. I enjoyed your perspective on this chapter and all the comments.
    Mrs. Reed was totally inexcusable. There's something unnatural about a woman who can allow a child to be so miserably treated and actually add to the abuse herself. What she considers to be "love" for her son is actually another kind of abuse because she's helping him to grow up cruel. And that Abbot is an absolute wretch.
    I know that the more difficult a child's life is the more sympathy I have for them and the more I'm in their corner rooting for them. So perhaps that is why Jane's story has been set up this way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer, that's okay! I usually charge ahead and figure people can catch up as they have time, though these last two weeks have been super busy for me too. Life is calming down here too now.

      I agree that Mrs. Reed is basically abusing her kids with her neglect and forbearance.

      Sympathy for Jane is definitely one of the reasons I think the story begins so bleakly.

      Delete
  10. My dad once said if he would have ever hit a girl, my grandpa would have whipped him. Once a boy did something to my aunt that she didn't like, so one of my uncles beat him in a fight. Growing up with the mindset that boys should treat girls politely, I feel furious that John Reed did not get punished.

    I do not understand why Mrs. Reed should treat Jane unkindly. I do not understand how she spoils her children, especially her son.

    Even though I read the book once before, I do not really remember what happens in the end. There must be a reason why Bronte gave Jane a miserable childhood. Perhaps it was to make Jane stronger when she became older. That's usually the one thing that comes after having endured pain and suffering.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ekaterina, good for your grandfather!

      Yes, Jane definitely gains the ability to endure from this -- and the knowledge that she can survive difficulties. She will need those.

      Delete
  11. I'm an adoptive mom, and Mrs. Reed's abuse of Jane & careless heed for her own children's equal harshness of their cruelness toward their cousin anger me. I suppose I shouldn't be comparing today's adoption expectations since yesteryear's situations were to toss marginally a child of any age any 'family' situation. I think Jane's lucky she wasn't put out as a servant to strangers. Her opportunity to receive an education let her have a respectable profession.

    I have to mention just once, and no more. I never liked John -who would? But when I hit this passage, I was really rocked by anger, anxiety, and depression. Just recently my handicapped daughter was brutally attacked by a young man of John's temperment & physical appearance. I think I will either remove those pages or tape them together. She is coping much better me. He got out of town a few days before police called on him.

    -Kelda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kelda, they anger me too. Even if she didn't want Jane, she had no right to abuse her emotionally and physically that way.

      And ouch, that reaction is certainly understandable. I still keep hoping your daughter's assailant will get tracked down eventually.

      Delete
    2. I have a couple ideas,which I may or not get into legal trouble for trying them.For now, I guess my theory is it's as hard to catch a detective as it is to catch an assailant.

      Delete
    3. That sounds most mysterious!

      Delete

What do you think?

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)