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.
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?