Friday, June 24, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 9

Holy semicolons, Batman!

Anyway, this starts out cheerfully -- spring is here, Jane isn't frozen half the time, and she gets to roam around pretty flower gardens and the woods!  But then we learn that all is not cheerful -- "forty-five out of the eighty girls lay ill at one time" (p. 91).  Good heavens.  Places like Lowood, with too little food and too many people crammed into unhealthy living quarters, must have been regularly devastated by disease, don't you think?  Poor things.

Still, for Jane, life is looking up.  More food, more freedom, and another new friend.  And while Helen Burns' death obviously makes Jane sad, at the same time, I feel like she's relieved that her friend can be at peace now.

Favorite Lines:

Sometimes, on a sunny day, it began even to be pleasant and genial; and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps (p. 90).


Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all green, all flowery... (p. 91).

My favorite seat was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry from the very middle of the beck, and only to be got at by wading through the water -- a feat I accomplished barefoot (p. 92).

Possible Discussion Questions:

If Helen Burns had lived, if she'd just had typhoid instead of tuberculosis, what do you think her life would be like?

Bronte makes no mention of Christ in the discussion between Helen and Jane about heaven.  Helen's philosophy of "God is my father; God is my friend; I love him; I believe he loves me" (p. 97) strikes me as hollow, I must admit.  How would including the Gospel message of being saved by grace through faith have changed the emphasis of this chapter's ending?  Would it have changed Jane's reaction to Helen's death?

25 comments:

  1. We have to remember that over some 1000 centuries, Protestant Christianity has been interpreted in many ways,even in different ways during the same periods. You may remember my earlier post that I was raised in a "hellfire" church not too different from Brocklehurst's beliefs.He invokes a vengeful God, not a Savior through Jesus. In my church, salvation was escape from hell, not entry to heaven. I am very moved that Helen loved God as a beloved father. Somehow, maybe through her own Bible readings, Helen embraced Protestantism, although still seeing God as the Father, not the Son. I wonder how she would have shaped Catholicism, with its emphasis on the Holy Mother. Mary rather than Jesus is the avenue to God.

    I'm not supporting or denying any of these views - I just want to point out the flexibility across time and place. My Rabbi -founder & chief teacher of my seminary - explained his analogy that all the world's people are scattered, in groups and individually, around the base of a holy mountain,and slowly spiraled toward the top of the mountain, learning from each other as they passed,until they came together at the top of the mountain into the presence of G-d. (That's a Jewish way to write G-d so as not to take His Name in vain. Or, as Ha Shem, "His Name.")

    I do have to say it appears my childhood church as changed. My sister and a cousin have returned to it, and the officers of the church served a luncheon for us after my mother's funeral this week. I was skeptical of the message board "All are welcome here." I got a hug and kind words from a fellow with a long grey beard & hair & wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt. I asked my sister if he was the pastor, & she said, No, but 2 weeks ago the board of directors had fired the pastor, this fellow was acting pastor. He had been the pastor's assistant.

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    1. Kelda, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments. Thank you!

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    2. Oh yes, I'm quite aware of the multitude of varieties of Scriptural interpretation. I was just thinking that if Bronte had written Helen as having a more Christ-centric confession of faith here, the ending of the chapter might have been rather different.

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  2. The beauty of Lowood outside was such a contrast to the illness and death inside. I loved reading about Jane and her new friend, Mary Ann Wilson. Jane needed a friend who was not so serious as Helen, a friend who enjoyed the lighter side of life. Helen and Mary Ann in combination gave Jane such a complete set of friends. Both friends are necessary for Jane.

    The description of Jane and Helen's last time together was inspiring and lovely; however, it was a bit difficult for me right now. July 2 will mark 24 years since our son died. His was a sudden death, not a lingering one like Helen's. A week from tomorrow, Jay will have been with Jesus longer than he was with us. Forgive me. This may be too personal to share here. I'll be with Jay again someday.

    Back to the story. I was very much interested in the last word of the chapter -- Resurgam. So I did what I always do . . . I googled. I found a very interesting post with a Jane Eyre comment and comments by other readers. You may find it interesting, too: http://jayneroch.blogspot.com/2008/11/resurgam.html.

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    1. ((Thank you)) for sharing. I'm painfully slowly trying to get an interfaith blog started, thanks to an infinite amount of help from Hamelette. Maybe you'll join me there.

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    2. I surely will! Just keep me in the loop . . .

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    3. Sandy, that's a great observation -- there are so many instances in this book of outward appearances versus inward qualities. Plain little Jane with her tremendous inner strength, Lowood's pretty surroundings and death-filled interior, Thornfield's respectable outside and secret-filled insides, etc.

      And you have my sympathies. I can't imagine what it is like to lose a child, especially suddenly.

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    4. Kelda, give yourself more credit! All I did was get your blog domain name for you and add it to your account. For the rest, you've been on your own.

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  3. I completely agree that while Helen's heart is in the right place, the way she describes her faith is a little disappointing. We certainly can't have true happiness without Jesus, and while I have to think Helen WAS trusting in Jesus for salvation, I wish she put more emphasis on Him in her talks with Jane.

    It certainly would have been interesting to see what Helen became, if she lived!

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    1. If she married, she had the personality to be a pastor's wife. A pastor's wife needs a great deal of patience since she shares him with congregation that lop-sidely so! I think she would also be well suited as the caretaker for a family's nursery-age children. Or, had she lived through the improvements at Lowood, she might have been a teacher, especially with the youngest girls. I think of her as a gentle, meek woman who would let her heart fill with her vocation.

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    2. Natalie, I'm wondering if Bronte purposely had Helen display a very simplistic faith to emphasize that she was still young, since she's so mature in other ways and might have started sounding too adult? Just a thought.

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    3. Kelda, hey! If Helen Burns had lived, she could have married St. John Rivers! Perfect missionary's wife.

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    4. We would have to write a substantially better health for her or St John Rivers would have martyred her in some exotic land. And she would not have had the simple grave marker Jane bought for her.

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    5. Well, yes, that's why I said "if she had typhoid instead of tuberculosis."

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    6. Even here in modern times,there are some 22 million new cases worldwide. The US annually sees about 6,000 cases, but at least 75% were infected while traveling in the third world. It is transmitted by contaminated water & food. I got lazy & quit here without looking for estimated fatalities then and now. Tired! K&I learned about it during an on-line homeschooling cross curriculum site WestwardHo.com.
      A spoiler - if you go Westward Ho, pick up that muddy sign before you water your livestock & fill up your barrels and canteens. It's fun,and takes about a month to go through the daily lesson.



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    7. And TB has made a resurgence in Eastern Europe of late too. So hard to eradicate these things!

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    8. Hamlette,
      That makes sense. :) And Kelda, those are certainly occupations I could see Helen having!

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  4. I could see Helen doing some kind of church/missionary work with her life, but perhaps not as a leader since she admits that she is not very orderly. :)
    It would have felt more hopeful to have had more of a gospel message, but can children always express their hope in a clear Biblical fashion. I see hers as a simple, child-like faith. It would have been nice though to have Jane been able to be comforted with the thought that she could one day be reunited with Helen.

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    1. Jennifer, I'm not very orderly either, so it's probably good I only lead one Sunday school class.

      I do feel the saddest for Jane here, with her doubts.

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  5. Helen herself says that she has 'not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world' and I thought I agreed, especially in the 19th century. But then I read the comments above about her being suited to a pastor's wife and I agree with that as well. If her husband was understanding and accepted her as she is.

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    1. Birdie, yes -- I think Helen would have done well as a helpmeet, not as a leader. She was very encouraging and compassionate.

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  6. This chapter was unique to me in its upbeat feel despite the tragic closing.

    Helen's beliefs are definitely a little confusing. She mentions faith, so that's something, but she never brings up Christ's role in her salvation...

    Now I'm curious to discover where Jane ends up spirituallly.

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    1. Meredith, I agree -- this does feel hopeful despite the sad ending.

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  7. I'm glad things became more cheerful in the book. After Helen's death, I didn't feel very happy.

    I'm not sure what Helen's life would be like. I've never thought about it. I guess she would be a kind teacher, a spinster who everyone would love. I can't imagine Helen getting married. I also can't imagine any guy being good enough for her.

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    1. Ekaterina, yes, I don't think I'd love this book if it was all like the first few chapters.

      It would be hard to find Helen the right husband, I agree.

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What do you think?

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)