Friday, July 8, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 14

For days, Jane has little to do with Mr. Rochester.  Sometimes they pass each other, and she learns that he has very changeable moods.  Then he calls for her company again, along with Adele and Mrs. Fairfax, and thus begins a most extraordinary conversation.

I don't blame Jane for being a bit confused by him, do you?  I've read this book and know most of what he's talking about, alluding to, and planning, and I still get dizzy trying to keep up with his "deep and rather sarcastic voice" (p. 155).

So if you've never read this before, and you're a little lost and trying to figure out what he's talking about, don't despair!  He's talking to hear himself think, at some points.  And Jane may be right -- he may have had a bit more wine with supper than he ought to have, who knows.

But anyway, I'm heartily amused by the early parts of their discussion, when Jane tells him she doesn't think he's handsome, then tries to apologize for her truthfulness, and he won't let her.  He obviously likes her so much for being unconventional.  This was a great comfort to me when I was an unconventional teen!  Maybe I would be stuck with a man whose past was filled with dark secrets, but at least I wouldn't have to be alone forever just because I found so many conventions irksome.

And who can help but love Mr. Rochester for insisting on not treating Jane as his inferior just because he inherited his money and she earns hers?  Though he's not especially kind to Adele.  Still, it's so decent of him to keep and raise her, even if it is "rather on the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or small, by one good work" (p. 167).  As I recall, this is about as close as he comes to accepting paternity of Adele.

But Jane, of course, is correct that an idea is not right and good just because it is attractive.  Sigh.  Mr. Rochester, you have a lot to learn.  Good thing there's lots of book left for you to learn it in!

Favorite Lines:

"Confound these civilities!  I continually forget them" (p. 155).

Instead of speaking, I smiled; and not a very complaisant or submissive smile either (p. 159).

"I am sure, sir, I should never mistake informality for insolence; one, I rather like; the other, nothing free-born would submit to, even for a salary" (p. 161).

"I mentally shake hands with you for your answer" (p. 161).

"Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse is the poison of life" (p. 163).

"Your language is enigmatical, sir; but though I am bewildered, I am certainly not afraid" (p. 165).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Rochester and Jane disagree as to whether repentance or reformation is the cure for remorse.  What is your opinion?

18 comments:

  1. I think you do a better job of understanding their intellectual banter than I do. I couldn't follow it at times, though I did enjoy the overall tone.

    I do think there are bits of wisdom in their conversations. I love the same line you mentioned, "dread remorse when you are tempted to err...(it) is the poison of life." This is so true. I think we mostly gain this realization by age and experience. As to the question which is the cure for remorse, repentance or reformation, in my case, it's a little of both: confessing to God and working and working not to repeat the same sins. Though Mr. Rochester is right, remorse is poison that is hard to get out of my system.

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    1. I think we would have to agree on a definition of remorse first. In the past 10 yrs, I've set in motion two large changes of household. I truly wish they had not been necessary, but they were. Necessity overrules remorse. I'm not sure why Rochester is remorseful about Bertha. He was the victim in this scheme, and need not feel repentance or reformation. This title may be slightly off, but another Bronte wrote _The Tenant of Wildfield Hall_ in which. I think, the lead character has divorced her abusive, alcoholic husband. Long time since I read it - so someone here might be able to correct me. If I'm right,though, we have an era acceptable action of divorce for dire circumstances. Rochester should have the same right, even more so since he was initially deceived & would probably continue to support her.

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    2. Lucy, hee. Might help that I've read this section many times. (And I love the word play he uses, especially pairing "err" and "Eyre.") I tend to struggle with regrets more than remorse, myself.

      Kelda, you're right in that remorse is usually defined as being sorry you did something. I think Rochester is remorseful over having allowed himself to be shoved into marrying a woman he didn't really know, over not having the wisdom or intuition to see what she was like beforehand, and generally sorry that he is the victim. I think he feels like he should not have allowed himself to be victimized, if that makes sense.

      Was divorce allowed in cases where a spouse went mad? I don't know much about laws and practices back then.

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    3. JE was published in 1847. In 1857, Parliament passed an Act of Marriage law, which moved divorces from ecclesiastical courts to secular courts. They became very expensive as both parties took attorneys for representation. Men had more protection: the wife could win a divorce only if the man committed adultery. Women could be divorced for a much larger range of behaviours, although I didn't find a specific reference to mental illness. From the list given, I have no doubt it would have been included.

      Going way back, in Biblical era, only a woman could commit adultery, by having sexual intercourse with a man not her husband. This included even rape. However by the very definition of adultery as a woman's flaw, it could not be applied to a man.






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    4. Kelda, good to know! Perhaps there was just still too much of a stigma attached to divorce for Mr. Rochester to want one. Perhaps he was convinced he would never want to get married again anyway, so why bother?

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  2. Jane is really a remarkable young woman. If someone would speak to me like that, mysterious and rather brusque, especially someone who is, in many ways, my superior, I would nervously laugh and be silent. But Jane, she fully and intelligently engages in the conversation!

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    1. Birdie, I agree! I do not have Jane's temerity. Part of why I admire her.

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  3. I too liked that "mentally shaking hands" bit. It would be a great response to remember to use in the future. :)

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    1. Natalie, indeed! I should remember it more often to.

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  4. I don't think that Rochester advocated either. I think that he was considering his plan for Jane even then. He was never repentant or reformed (you cannot have truly one without the other). He just wanted to associate with better things and people and pretend he wasn't defiling them.

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    1. Livia, wow -- truly? Do you think he's not repentant or reformed even by the end of the book? I do think he's already planning to try to win Jane's love at this point, but I don't think he's exactly planning to defile her in any way.

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    2. Oh, this re-read I am really looking at hints such as his angel thought that he literally grasps to him (the conversation that kinda freaks Jane out) and the whole gypsy scene. I think the whole story has been romanticized that we forget how very young and naive she is and how very old he is. And from what I remember, he doesn't sound repentant in the end. Just broken because he is broken and not everything went his way. I find the story/movies intriguing or rather the fascination everyone as with the story interesting, but I am still of the opinion of 7-8 years ago, that Rochester is a creep no matter how you spin a romantic glamour over the story.

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    3. Well, Livia, perhaps we will just have to agree that Bronte was a masterful writer to create a story and characters that people can have such disparate views of! I don't find the story "romantic" so much as "heart-breaking," and I don't find Rochester a creep so much as confused and distressed. And just because we disagree doesn't mean either of our interpretations are invalid, just very different.

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    4. (And being just a few years shy of 40 myself, I don't think Rochester is so very old, but again, that's just my opinion.)

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    5. Oh, yes. The books that are most complex are the most interesting to discuss and interpret, hence all the varied movie adaptations! I like the 2006 version best although I don't know that it is the most accurate. I think that is what is interesting about the story. And as to old, I meant the age difference. I never could reconcile that in Sense and Sensibility and Emma. Maybe that's why I have never been a die-hard Mr. Knightley fan (and wow what interpretations his character is open to).

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    6. Ahhh. Whereas I happen to really dig May-December romances, so that's a plus for me, not a minus.

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  5. I would certainly not be able to carry on a conversation with Mr. Rochester because I would find him too intimidating.
    Mr. Rochester has not done anything wrong - yet. I think he is already looking for a way to make Jane his which in his current situation is wrong.
    The cure for his remorse would be repentance because that involves a complete change of attitude which would then affect his actions and their outcome. We have a long way to go though before he comes to that.

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    1. Jennifer, yes, I don't enjoy verbal sparring on a whole. I don't speak well on my feet, as it were -- I need to stop and think out exactly what I will say or it comes out wrong. Which is something I admire about Jane, that she has the ability to return some of Rochester's shots.

      He does have a long way to go. Happily, we have a goodly chunk of book left.

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