Monday, June 13, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 5

First, I'm sorry this read-along has gotten off to a slow start.  I was gone most of last week, then hosted a yard sale on Saturday, and spent most of yesterday recovering from that, lol.  Getting back on track now, and should be able to make these posts only have 1 or 2 days between them, not 3 or 4.  But hey, that's summer, right?

And here Jane is at Lowood School.  She makes her first solitary journey to get there, fifty miles by herself.  Don't you get the feeling that Mrs. Reed almost hopes or wishes that something would befall Jane on that trip?  Then she wouldn't have to be bothered by Jane's existence anymore.  Because surely, even waaaaaay back then, sending a little kid on a long journey alone was dangerous.  Think about Northanger Abbey when Catherine Morland had to travel home by post alone -- people freaked out, and she was way older than ten.  Just another example of Mrs. Reed's malicious neglect for Jane, I guess.

I don't know if the edition you're reading does footnotes or not.  I'm using the Barnes and Noble Classics, which has both end notes and footnotes -- the end notes explain things in a sentence or two, and the footnotes mostly just define archaic language, though later on they also translate the French passages, which I find invaluable.  Anyway, one of the end notes for this chapter explains that when Bronte writes, "...and away we rattled over the 'stony street'," she's quoting Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which I'm mentioning because we're going to talk quite a bit about how Mr. Rochester is a "Byronic hero" pretty soon.  And Harold is the original Byronic hero, so um... I guess I'm just saying, hey look, Bronte deliberately referenced Byron, so we know her creation of a hero patterned after his is no accident -- she was inviting that comparison.

Anyway, Lowood Institution.  It's like if you mixed Oliver Twist with Madeline, isn't it?  Terrible food, eighty little girls in two straight lines, etc.  So many of the words in this chapter are disagreeable:  dreary, gloomy, morose, blight, decay.  The very name of the school has "low" in it, which is never good.  But Miss Temple is there to cheer things a bit -- another name with some major connotations, huh?  Already, Jane worships her a bit.

I'm amused by the initial conversation between Jane and Helen Burns.  It's so like conversations I've had when I'm reading something and people ask me about it.  If my book wasn't interesting, would I be reading it?  Unless it was a textbook required of me, I mean.  When I worked 3rd shift for four years after I got married, I had a whole hour for lunch, and I would read and read and read.  And after a while, most of my coworkers knew not to bug me.  But there was this one guy who, every time he saw I had a different book from before, would come over and sit down and ask me questions about it.  Ohhh, the frigidity of my politeness.  Helen Burns is positively welcoming compared to me after the first few such incidents with that guy.

But I find Helen's response later very telling.  Jane asks, "Are you happy here?"  Helen doesn't say she is or isn't.  She just says, "You ask rather too many questions" (p. 62).  Tells us a lot about her AND about Lowood, doesn't it?

Favorite Lines:  I stood lonely enough; but to that feeling of isolation I was accustomed; it did not oppress me much (p. 59).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Helen Burns says that Miss Temple "is above the rest, because she knows far more than they do" (p. 62).  What does that assessment say about life at Lowood?  About Helen herself?  And about Charlotte Bronte?

29 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about summer. I'm a little late in commenting but I've enjoyed your posts! I read Jane Eyre earlier this year immediately after reading Charlotte's sister Emily's Wuthering Heights. What I noticed the most in the first few chapters of Jane Eyre is the wonderful narration from Jane's point of view. It's much more realistic than Nelly Dean's narration of Wuthering Heights. It is great getting to know Jane so well from her thoughts about herself and everything around her.

    Thanks for pointing out the reference to Byron. I would not have known that otherwise. I'm looking forward to reading more about that topic.

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    1. Dale, I'm glad you're enjoying the posts! I definitely agree on this book's superiority to Wuthering Heights as far as narration and just about everything else, hee.

      I never knew that was a reference to Byron either -- I'm really loving this edition!

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    2. Oh, dear . . . you have hurt my heart! I love, love, love Wuthering Heights (my students called it Withering Heights). You have to watch Nelly Dean, though, she's a very much prejudiced person, especially toward those who are ill. Actually, I love the books just about the same.

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    3. Sandy, I do want to try reading WH again some day, but at this point in time, nope, I don't care for it. Sorry!

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    4. That's OK. I can assure you that I had to do lots of songs and dances to get some of my students to even tolerate it!

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  2. I was raised very haphazardly in a Christian Union church, and the teachings were various those of Brocklehurst's: sternness, hell-fire, plainness. God was a punitive parent, not a loving one. I admire Helen's gentleness and strength. Really I think Helen taught her to withstand her burdens and appreciate a loving God, and Miss Temple's example taught her her skills in child respect and education. They are Jane's first encounter with love, and shape her adulthood.
    ~Kelda

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    1. Kelda, yes, I admire anyone who can resist becoming twisted and bitter when they have that much Law and that little Gospel in their lives. You're definitely spot-on that Helen and Miss Temple are Jane's first positive role models and taught her that loving people do exist!

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  3. Your line, Rachel, is also my favorite. There are some others that grabbed me, too:
    "'Good-bye to Gateshead,' cried I as we passed out the hall and through the front door." -- I hope she awakened everyone as she left, especially Mrs. Reed.
    "The portions were handed round; those who liked took a draught of the water, the mug being common to all." -- No wonder so many little girls were sick!
    " . . . Maria Temple, as I afterwards saw the name written in a Prayer Book entrusted to me to carry to church." -- It seems as though things will be looking up for our Jane.
    "'Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.'" -- This seems to be rather ironic since there's hardly any way for the girls to show good works with all of the harsh criticism of them no matter what they do.
    And many more . . . I know this chapter is dark, but I like it because it gives such a good picture of what life was like for the girls at Lowood. I can't even imagine having to live in such circumstances!

    Thanks for the Byron info. I also liked doing a little investigating about Rasselas. It was perfect for Helen to be reading because it's about a prince escaping from his imprisonment. His prison and Helen's were entirely different. He wanted to see the world outside his beautiful environment.

    On to Chapter 6 . . .

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    1. Sandy, I love the idea of her hollering, "Goodbye to Gateshead!" loud enough to wake everyone.

      And yeah, Lowood is just a germ factory.

      I think that Bible verse is really appropriate for Lowood, where everyone is judged on what they do, on their works. It doesn't matter there (at first) what you think or believe or feel, just what you do.

      I hadn't looked into Rasselas -- that's so cool! Man, there's just layer upon layer of meaning everywhere we turn, huh?

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    2. Absolutely! And you, our dear teacher, are peeling them back like the proverbial onion. Thank you so much for all that you put in to our read-along.

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  4. I've often seen references to Byron & Byronic men. I never stopped to look them up til now. So last night I curled up with internet. My gosh - what a character! And for every plus there was a negative. What an extravagant, eccentric man! When you use it regarding Rochester, please be specific :^) Gotta be taken in by Byron's absolute indoor zoo,except for the horses! And - bless the children, who learned he had put out an enormous amount of money for a mausoleum when he lost his favorite dog, but there was nothing left for a memorial to himself, so the kids started a fund raising to honor the poet and adventurer.

    I like to play Director's Chair when I'm reading. How would I cast it, the outdoor and indoor settings, etc. Play along :^) It's fun to see it through friends' eyes, just so. The adult Jane: Olivia de Haviland (think the plain yet spirited Melanie.) And one that surprised me with the sudden 'hit': Robert Mitchum, broad chested, heavy browed,not afraid to string out a game, or a lie. I have to admit I'd like to see him as a hero rather than a villain.

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    1. Kelda, yeah, Byron was quite the odd guy. "Byronic Hero" though means that they're a fictional character like his fictional Childe Harold, not necessarily like Byron himself.

      Olivia de H. would have made a lovely Jane, especially when she was quite young, like Robin Hood era. And oh man, you have me drooling with the idea of Bob Mitchum as Rochester! I love him in so many movies, especially the ones where, like you said, he's not the villain. El Dorado and Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and Farewell, My Lovely <3

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    2. Now I'll have to look up those films :^) But it'll be hard to shake the images of -The Night of the Hunter- and -Cape Fear-. He is such a hulking brute. BTW, did you know he was the narrator for -Tombstone-? And he did his own singing for -Hunter-.

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    3. And I've avoided both of those movies because I want to keep liking him, hee. Yeah, I did know he was the narrator -- no mistaking that growly drawl. I like him in Out of the Past too.

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    4. -Cape Fear- is high grade suspense: bad guy stalks good guy's family, but -Hunter- is very different & soul-engaging experience.There's a wonderful balance between Mitchum's murderous self-styled preacher vs an elderly widowed woman who is estranged from her adult children, and fills her life with taking in homeless children during the Depression. I think you would love her character, especially when the children gather around her rocking chair to hear Bible stories.Young John especially loves Moses in the bull rushes. Peter Graves has a cameo as the children's father. The book & movie are wonderfully compatible;the book is only about as long as Shane.

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    5. Yeah, I've heard great things about Night of the Hunter. One of these days!

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  5. I do wonder about Miss Temple. As a good woman, how does she feel about working in such an institution as Lowood? Maybe she feels like it's better to be there and help in the little ways she can than not be there. Or maybe she has no choice as she needs to earn her money some way. Or maybe she does believe in the system somewhat.

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    1. I think Miss Temple had a background somewhat similar to Jane's & was orphaned at an early age. But whatever surviving family members there were were too desperately poor to support themselves, let alone another child. I don't remember any mention of how long Brocklehurst had been in charge of Lowood. Maybe he came along during Miss Temple's adolesence. As to why she doesn't leave sooner, look how caring she is toward her girls, even to the point of supplementing their diet when the cook burns the porridge. Come to think of it,why wasn't the cook fired? Every wasted pot of porridge is a wasted pot of money!

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    2. Birdie, yes, Miss Temple is interesting, isn't she? I feel like she believes she's helping, that the school CAN help these unfortunate girls, though obviously not the way Mr. Brocklehurst runs it.

      Kelda, yes, I want them to fire the cook. Blech.

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  6. This chapter ends with the line, "Such was my first day at Lowood." Wow, after reading about the horrible, inhumane conditions at this place I would say Jane has jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

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    1. Lucy, it certainly seems that way for now!

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    2. I just noticed the significance of Miss Temple's name: a temple, a shrine, a sanctuary for the girls in her care.

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  7. I'm reading Nicholas Nickleby to my children right now. There is a school for boys in it that makes Jane's school look like a party. What is it about people persecuting children?!
    In some ways I think the school is better for Jane because at least at the school she has people who love her and will look out for her.
    I'm like Helen - I hate being interrupted while reading especially if it's to answer questions that don't seem important. I will admit to sometimes being so engrossed in a book that my children are almost yelling at me before I emerge.
    Finally, I was amazed at how many times food is passed around and yet never enough to really fill the girls up. How do you plan that? I guess I noticed the food so much because I only hear "I'm hungry" about 65 times every day. :)

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    1. Jennifer, I think life was very horrible for unwanted children back then. When I read Jane Austen's England, I was moved to tears many times with accounts of how children with treated worse than animals. Little boys forced to climb narrow chimneys, where they would get stuck and sometimes died. Coal mines where they pulled heavy carts in the tunnels that were too small for ponies. AWFUL stuff! I can't stand people sometimes.

      So yes, Jane's lot in life is improving, slowly but surely.

      My parents used to joke that they could discuss my birthday presents around me as long as I was reading because I would be so engrossed, I would never hear.

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  8. I'm sorry I've fallen behind on the read-along! I think I should have more free-time in the next few weeks to catch up, so hopefully I won't stay behind for much longer.

    Ironically, that cover you posted is the cover of the book I recently transitioned to after kindle. It's an interesting cover.

    But anyways, I like your analysis and the parallel you drew between Miss Temple's name and her character. :)

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    1. Meredith, don't worry about it! I fell a little behind myself, hee, and went almost a whole week between chapter posts.

      It's an interesting cover indeed -- really brings out the "thorns" idea, huh?

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  9. I can't believe Mrs. Reed let Jane go to Lowood by herself. That is cruel.

    I didn't notice how Miss Temple's name and how Jane treats her correspond together.

    Helen Burns is a very fascinating character. I like her soo much, mostly because I know that I should be like her, so she is like a role model.
    I think Helen's comment about Miss Temple knowing more than everyone else shows how low Lowood is. I think it also shows how elevated Helen's and Miss Temple's thoughts are compared to other peoples. It is as if they know how to treat people kindly, which then gives them an advantage to life because they can see more. Since Jane became an odd from her life with her aunt, her thoughts also became more mature. I think this is why as a child, she is able to see how special Helen and Miss Temple are. What do you think?

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    1. Ekaterina, yeah, it had to have been scary for little Jane.

      Interesting idea on why Jane can speak to Helen and Miss Temple at a higher level than the others. I think her eagerness to learn, even when living with the Reeds, has contributed a lot to it too, don't you?

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    2. That thought hadn't crossed my mind yet, but I definitely agree that Jane's eagerness to learn has contributed a lot.

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What do you think?

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