Thursday, June 9, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 4

Mr. Brocklehurst is creepy, and that's all there is to it.  I mean, come on, dude -- that's how you speak to a child?  Try to scare her into obedience, give her tracts about children you identify with her getting sent to Hell, and then tell her stories about unctuous little yes-men who know how to weasel two treats out of you by telling you what you want to hear?  Bleah.

I'm sure Mr. Brocklehurst thinks he's helping.  But he makes Austen's Mr. Collins look positively charming and intelligent, doesn't he?

Okay, anyway, what I like best about this chapter is that Jane finds the courage to stand up to her aunt.  Twice.  Yes, her aunt is in authority over her, and we should respect our parents or others God has placed over us.  But I don't think Jane is being disrespectful in this chapter so much as trying to defend herself the best she can.  She appeals to her aunt's conscience first, asking her what Uncle Reed would say if he were alive.  But after hearing Aunt Reed denounce her to Mr. Brocklehurst most maliciously, ten-year-old Jane feels she must defend herself.  Is she more passionate than strictly necessary?  Yes.  But she's ten, and about to be sent to her doom at Mr. Brocklehurst's school.  If not excusable, I think her passion is at least understandable. 

(Incidentally, Mrs. Reed is my age.  I now loathe her even more.)

Favorite Lines:  You think I have no feelings, and that I can live without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so (p. 45).

Even for me life had its gleams of sunshine (p. 49).

Possible Discussion Questions:  How do you view Jane's outbursts toward her aunt?

Do you agree with Bessie that if you dread someone, they'll dislike you?

28 comments:

  1. I thoroughly appreciated this chapter. I feel that adults (even ones that are not as horrible as those in this chapter) can often use their position and power to lie (perhaps unintentionally) to and about children and then expect children to have no response because it would be "disrespectful." Respect is an attitude and it is the height of corruption of power to disable the weaker person from having a say. I do have to say that I feel Jane's outburst was rather articulate for her years though. I realize educational standards were higher then, but I am not sure a ten year old could fully have expressed everything thus clearly as Jane did.

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    1. Livia Rachelle, that is such a good point. I love how you put all that! There's a difference between saying something an adult doesn't want to hear and being disrespectful.

      And yes, Jane's very articulate. Helps underline her "otherness," I think. The other kids, what little dialog we get from them, seem much more "normal," don't they?

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    2. I like what you had to say about respect, Livia Rachelle! Totally agree. :)

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  2. I think it's pretty clear that Jane's outbursts are presented in a way that conveys to the reader how she is starting to become her own person, and in fact, is elevated above Mrs. Reed in these scenes. However, on the other hand, in losing her temper I feel she is allowing herself to become what Mrs. Reed is accusing her of, so I'm rather conflicted. I think if she'd found another way of standing up to her, it might have been more effective, but then again, she's a child and there's only so much we can expect from her. So, I don't know .....

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    1. Cleopatra, I agree. By losing her temper, she basically stooped to Mrs. Reed's level in some ways. But then, she's ten. And if she were perfect, not only would she be less believable, she'd be less interesting and less Jane, don't you think? She always has to struggle to do the right thing, it doesn't come easily and naturally to her, which is one of the things I admire so much about her.

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  3. I have never read the book . . . but from everything I've heard about Mrs. Reed, I'm convinced that whatever Jane said to her was completely and totally justified.

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    1. Jessica... really? Oh dear. I hope you get a chance to crack it open before too awfully long!

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    2. No, I never have read it :-) I know it's a classic and it's really good and everything . . . but I tried it a year or two ago and simply could not get beyond the first few pages. Everything that was happening was just SO SAD and so horrible and I was like, "blech, this is doing dangerous things to my blood pressure, guess I better put it down."

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    3. Jessica, it does begin with a lot of awful stuff. You could always skip the first nine chapters, then go back and read them later on -- I would not look askance at you.

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  4. It struck me reading this how apparently such books as Mr. Brocklehurst gave Jane were written in the Victorian era and really used to scare children! How horrible!

    I agree with Bessy in so far that when you're afraid of people who are already horrible, they will 'walk over you' easier.

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    1. Birdie, I know! Ick! So awful that people thought this was wise and good. I mean, I'm all about teaching kids Biblical truths, but beating people over the head with the law never does anybody any good.

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  5. Mr. Brocklehurst. I cannot describe how much I loathe that man. I dislike him even more than Mrs. Reed. I'm not sure why....perhaps because he's SO pompous and hypocritical. He thinks he's the paragon of excellence and yet....ugh. He's so cruel to so many children and cannot even see it. I always want to step into the story and give him a harsh lecture. Ha.

    I certainly am glad Jane was able to stand up for herself. :)

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    1. Natalie, yes! Pompous, hypocritical, and sanctimonious -- blech.

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  6. As a comment to your age and Mrs. Reed's, I'm more than twice as old as either of you, so I REALLY dislike the way she treats Jane. Until I saw her age (at least what Jane thought was her age), I was amazed. I thought she was much older, but I should have known that she wasn't because of the ages of her children.

    I know that Jane was "sassy" to Mrs. Reed, but I was shouting, "Good for you, Jane!" with every word that she said. I don't think Jane could have lived with herself if she hadn't said those things to Mrs. Reed. When she first started telling Mrs. Reed off, she said, ". . . it seemed as if my tongue pronounced words without my will consenting to their utterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no control." She just couldn't help herself.

    I love your favorite lines. Mine, too. But I also like Jane's description of Bessie's cleaning her up before going to Mrs. Reed: ". . . disciplined my head with a bristly brush, denuded me of my pinafore . . ." just for the vocabulary. By the way, I think part of Jane's adult vocabulary coming from a child's mouth is there because she's writing from a distance . . . when she's an adult. But I may be wrong. Beautiful, encouraging last sentence in Chapter 4!

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    1. Sandy, I certainly agree that it's written from an adult's point of view and with an adult's vocabulary, remembering what things were like as a child, but putting it in an adult's words. Reminds me a bit of Shane by Jack Schaefer in that respect, though Jane does more judging of her childish self than does Bob Starrett.

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    2. Maybe I'll reread Shane. I read it a while ago when I found out that the author wrote it while living in a little house right here in the neighborhood of Cerrillos, NM.

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    3. Sandy, no way! That's so cool! I just did a read-along of Shane earlier this year -- you can find links to all the chapter posts here. I owe that read-along my newfound love of Alan Ladd :-D

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  7. There are not words enough to describe how vile Mr. Brocklehurst is. Jesus said that anyone who offends a child should have a millstone hung around their neck and be thrown into the sea. I could see this as a fair punishment for this guy. People who try to scare children into being good are despicable, besides which children generally recognize this for the ploy that it is.
    And how horrible for Jane to think that she cannot really make a new start in a new place because of her aunt's slander.
    Moving on to Jane's response to Mrs. Reed who among us as adults has not lashed out at sometime when being unjustly accused? I love that on reflection Jane shows her softer side and realizes she was not entirely in the right.
    I love that this chapter is in a way an interlude of relative peace between what Jane's life has been and what it will be. Her relationship with Bessie sweetens too.

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    1. Jennifer, amen!

      I'm so glad Jane at least had Bessie to be kind to her occasionally, or she would have been so bitter by the age of 10.

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  8. You are ever so right about what should be done to Mr. Brocklehurst! And to think that he considers himself a man of God! Have you ever been in a store and heard a mother say to her child who is misbehaving, "If you don't behave, that lady will get you"? I've heard that and have seen her pointing at me. My response . . . "No, I won't!"

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    1. Thankfully I've never had that happen, but I have seen parents point out police as someone who will get the child if they don't behave. I think that will make the child afraid of police when it's not necessary. I hate the senseless mean threats that some adults use with children

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    2. It drives me mad when parents use Jesus as a threat as well -- "If you do that, you will make Jesus sad. If you do this, you'll make Jesus happy." Our actions are supposed to spring from thankfulness and joy, not worrying how we'll make Jesus feel.

      And the police thing too. Come on, people! Police are here to HELP us, not keep us in line. If you teach your kids that the police are enemies, they're probably going to grow up antagonistic toward them.

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    3. I heard a mom doing that at the library one day, and I felt like saying, "Seriously? What would Jesus think about your parenting right now?" I think it's a form of lazy parenting. They don't want to deal with the problem so they try to make the child deal with it by scaring them.

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    4. Jennifer, I agree -- it's laziness. And also wanting to foist the "bad feelings" off on someone else. "Don't get mad at me because I told you to stop being naughty."

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  9. I simply hate Mr Brocklehurst! I use him as an example in just how much you can come to hate a character in a few pages - he's so patronising and trying to scare Jane, and worst of all he is a hypocrite (that is my main reason fro disliking him).
    But I loved the moment where he asked Jane what she must do to avoid going to hell, and she answered: "I must keep in good health and not die" - you can't argue with a child's logic:)

    Secondly, Jane's outbursts: I think the first one could have been considered insolent, but the second was completely justified. Mrs Reed had just defamed Jane's character to a stranger and she felt the need to defend and explain herself. I love that passage.

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    1. Rose, indeed. Mr. Brocklehurst isn't just patronizing and didactic, he's two-faced and... yuck.

      I agree with you about the difference between Jane's two outbursts. One was a bit spiteful, but one was just her trying to defend herself since no one else would.

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  10. That is funny that Mr. Collins is more charming than Mr. Brocklehurst. It's funny because it is so true.

    If I look upon Jane's outbursts with an impartial and neutral eye, I see them as disrespectful, which they are. If I know how Mrs. Reed treated Jane, her outbursts are much more forgivable. I felt slightly sorry for the aunt, though, at the end before Jane left. I usually tend to have a softer heart for people when they say sorry.

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    1. Ekaterina, yeah... Mr. Brocklehurst is a wonder. Not the good kind.

      Good point about the circumstances coloring how we view Jane's outbursts. And that even if someone behaves wrongly, they can be forgiven. Adult Jane does seem ashamed and repentant over her childhood behavior.

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What do you think?

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)