Sunday, July 3, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 12

Jane settles nicely into her calm, comfortable life... and gets bored.  So very bored.  Jane, honey, it's not like you've had a calm and comfy life up to now -- why are you bored so quickly?  Is it just so weird and different?  No one's beating you or humiliating you or starving you, so life is now too dull?

Sigh.

However, here to rescue Jane from domestic dullness, and us from a suddenly whiny narrator, we have Mr. Rochester.  At last.  Finally.  My goodness, the man takes forever to show up!

Sorry.  Jane's whining is probably rubbing off on me.

It's just that... I love Mr. Rochester.  A lot.  He was my first Really Major Literary Crush as a teen.  I have horrible taste, I know.  He's damaged goods.  He's barely nice, even when he wants to be.  I don't care.  I fell for him when I first read this, when I was probably 16 (I really should look back through my records and journals and see if I can figure out when I did first read it), and I read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier soon after, and between Edward Rochester and Maxim de Winter, I was hooked on Byronic Heroes but good.  Have been ever since.  Fictional ones, of course.  In real life I'd probably be very annoyed with them and tell them to get a grip already.  But fictionally, I can't resist them.  They're so sad!  So tortured!  So desperately in need of a good hug, of someone to love them despite their flaws.  They need someone to help them be happy again.

That's all I want, really.  I want my Byronic Boys to be happy again.  Is that so much to ask?

Um, yeah, sorry.  Rochester has barely shown up, and I'm rhapsodizing already.  Let's talk about Jane's great little feminist manifesto for a minute, shall we?  
"Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing the piano and embroidering bags.  It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them; if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex" (p 130-131).
Well, amen, sister-friend!  I don't generally consider myself a "feminist," simply because that title seems to involve all sorts of man-bashing these days.  But although I myself love knitting and playing the piano, I also enjoy writing novels and not having to publish them under a male pseudonym because they won't be taken seriously if I don't.  I'm anti-stagnation for anyone, regardless of their gender, and want my daughters to grow up knowing that if they want to become farmers or lawyers, they can, even if there once was a time that those professions were relegated to the males of the world.  Similarly, I want my son to grow up knowing that if he wants to knit or embroider, make puddings or play the piano, he can, even thought there was a time when they were considered only for females.

I'm not saying men and women are interchangeable.  I firmly believe they are not.  But I also firmly believe that most activities in this world are perfectly acceptable for either gender to enjoy, practice, or learn.  Which, I think, is what Charlotte Bronte is saying here.  What do you think she means?  Is she an "early feminist," as people these days often claim?  Those can be our Possible Discussion Questions for the day.

Also, randomly, I love that it's Rochester's gruff frowniness that sets Jane at her ease and makes her insist on helping him.  She reminds me of myself there, and my oldest daughter.  

Favorite Lines:

It is vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity; they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it (p. 130).

In those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies, bright and dark, tenanted my mind (p. 133).

My help had been needed and claimed; I had given it; I was pleased to have done something; trivial, transitory though the deed was, it was yet an active thing, and I was weary of an existence all passive (p. 137).

Another Possible Discussion Question:

Did the whole idea of the "Gytrash" remind anyone else of the "Grim" from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?

14 comments:

  1. Yes, it feels like a sigh of relief when Rochester shows up - finally.
    I think you could say Jane was an early feminist. I think I'm the same as you when it comes to feminism. I love my roles of wife and mom, but I'm also glad I could go to college and have all the experiences I did before I married. They have enriched my life and helped me be a better person.

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    1. Jennifer, yes! I think my time in college helped me to grow and mature as a person so that when I did get married and become a mom, I had more to give to those roles. And am more content in them too, since otherwise I might have been wondering "what else is out there?" or "should I be doing something else?" That wouldn't have been exactly an option years ago.

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  2. Ow, yes, feminism, I was in college right in the middle of it,1970s. Gosh, bra-burning,promiscuity (why not, if it's OK for the guys), ERA, birth of MS magazine before it became an Australian clothes rag. So if those are the 'real' feminism, nope, I wouldn't label Jane as a feminist. She is smart, talented,intelligent, industrious, compassionate.In short, she's a self-sufficient woman.

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    1. Kelda, hee, yes, that would be what we think of today s feminism. And by those standards, neither Jane nor I am a feminist.

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  3. What a great write-up you did for this chapter! I felt the same way about Jane getting bored. It seemed out of character for her.

    I also read the book first as a 15 or 16-year-old. I was awkward at that age especially around cute boys. And so I could relate to Jane's first feelings around the stern-faced Mr. Rochester on the road.

    "I felt no fear of him, and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning him against his will, and offering my services unasked."

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    1. Thanks, Lucy! I guess it goes to show that all of us can get bored or be ungrateful. Keeps Jane from getting too saintly.

      I was 16 or 17 for my first read-through, and soooooo awkward around guys. I didn't date until I was in college (and I married the second guy I ever went out with), so I related a lot to that section too, then. And today, really -- I don't know many hot guys, but even attractive strangers I could never feel comfortable around. But a grumpy normal dude? Absolutely fine.

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  4. Maybe Jane did have rather a boring life in the last 6-8 years. First student, then teacher, never away from Lowood and I fancy rather monotonous days and weeks. I think she might have expected something more from her new place in live and that's why she felt bored so soon when the days and weeks started to look like each other again.

    I do think Charlotte Brönte was something of a feminist, however many meanings that word has. At any rate, her works and those of her sisters did shock the world in which they lived with their depictions of strong and self-sufficient women.

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    1. Birdie, good point! She was perhaps hoping for a more interesting life there, even if she didn't acknowledge it to herself.

      And yes, at their time, the Bronte's novels were very progressive and even shocking.

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  5. Grim & Gytrash? I'm getting a total blank.It has been around 10 years since reading Bronte & Rowlings,so you'll have to edify me. Hmm,then look at women taking on male names or initials only now as authors...Do you suppose JK Rowlings had that in mind?

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    1. Kelda, in this chapter, Jane fancies that the noises she hears (caused by Mr. Rochester's approach) are made by the Gytrash, a mythical beast that Bessie told her fairy tales about, that would take the shape of a horrible hound. In the Harry Potter books, Professor Trelawny sees a Grim -- a giant black dog that is a portent of death -- in Harry's future. It, of course, turns out to be my dear Sirius Black in his animagus form. And the Gytrash here turns out to be Mr. Rochester and his dog. So the whole "Oh, no, it might be a big, scary dog that's a portent of evil... wait, it's actually this nice guy with a tortured past" thing struck me as similar.

      I believe J.K. Rowling published under initials because her publishers knew that boys are less likely to read a book by a female author. Girls don't care what gender an author is, I guess, but boys as a rule will gravitate toward books written by either clearly masculine authors or those with non-gender-specific names.

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    2. Thank you very much for a tres bien connection. I like Sirius too.

      As Adele might say, "Pah! Boys!"

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    3. This is why, if I ever seek publication for one of my YA westerns, I suspect I may end up publishing under a more masculine nom-de-plume.

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  6. Yay for Mr. Rochester! The book definitely truly "starts" for me once he gets in the story. After all, without him there'd be no plot. :P (Or, at least, not a very dramatic plot.)

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    1. Natalie, yeah, I pretty much agree. I am a Mr. Rochester fangirl :-o

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