Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 15

One of the things I dislike about Mr. Rochester in this section of the book is his tendency to think of himself as a victim.  "Oh, poor me, I was wronged by my mistress," (never mind that having a mistress is a sin) "and my father tricked me into a terrible mistake when I was young," (never mind that he's been using that as an excuse to behave badly ever since) "and now I'm just going to pity myself to the end of my days, or I was, until I had this great idea of how to be happy," (which is also bad) "and when that goes all wrong too, it will be the fault of the people who messed up my plans, not mine for making bad plans to begin with."  

The man has a lot to learn.  But I've said that already, haven't I?

So anyway, here we learn the long, detailed story of how Mr. Rochester's grande passion for Celine Varens died when he found her in the arms of another man.  And then he casually mentions he fought a duel with the other guy and wounded him in the arm, la la la.  That part goes by much too quickly for my taste, whereas we have to spend absolute pages on him hanging out on the balcony smoking and eating chocolate (mmm, chocolate) and eavesdropping.  So I always have to spend a bit of time imagining out the duel, complete with hazy dawn mists and lots of stoic resolve on Mr. Rochester's face.

Anyway.  I had totally forgotten that by the time Mr. Rochester broke with Celine, Adele was six months old!  Huh.  Though he denies his paternity of her, I do still like him for pitying her and taking her in, though it seems he did it out of stern English conviction that France is slimy and England is pure.  Hmm. 

But enough of all that!  Because the second half of the chapter is so much more interesting.  Creepy, demonic laughing in the night, a candle left unattended in the hallway, and then Mr. Rochester in Deadly Peril!  And Jane having the great presence of mind to douse the fire herself!  Movie versions always seem to have Mr. Rochester wake up and finish putting out the fire, but nope, Jane does it all in the book.  And then I have to grin and chuckle over how Mr. Rochester just doesn't want her to leave.  He almost confesses he loves her there, that he has loved her since he first beheld her, but instead he says she "strike[s] delight to my very inmost heart" (p. 180), which I think is one of the sweetest, most romantic things he could have said anyway.

Lastly, I love it when Jane muses that she "grieved for his grief, whatever it was, and would have given much to assuage it" (p. 176).  That's a lot of what draws me to Byronic Heroes -- their sadness makes me sad, and I want to cheer them up.

Okay, not really lastly.  Jane has that dream at the end that is full of Portents of Things to Come.  She floats on a sea "where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy" (p. 181), and she can't quite get where she wants to go.  How Very Prophetic.


Favorite Lines:

My thin-crescent-destiny seemed to enlarge; the blanks of existence were filled up; my bodily health improved; I gathered flesh and strength (p. 175).

Gratitude, and many associations, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the object I best liked to see.  His presence in a room was more cheering than the brightest fire (p. 175).

"My cherished preserver, good-night!" (p. 180).


Possible Discussion Questions:

Mr. Rochester says that his ideas, no matter how twisted or wrong, cannot harm Jane's pure and healthy mind, that in fact, "while I cannot blight you, you may refresh me" (p. 172).  Do you think he's right?

It seems fairly obvious that Jane is falling in love with Mr. Rochester, and he with her.  Do you think Mrs. Fairfax has noticed yet?

6 comments:

  1. Hahaha, yes. Mr. Rochester is waaay too blind to his own faults and then expects people to pity him.

    I never realized he dueled with the other guy until I re-read this. I vote they put that into the next movie. It would be an interesting scene. :)

    Hmm, that first question is interesting. While Jane is very strong and unwavering in her moral convictions, there is the saying that "bad company corrupts good morals". And doesn't Jane later say in the book that if she had not left Rochester (after the marriage fiasco) she felt she might have eventually given in to his entreaties? I would say then that, no, Mr. Rochester is wrong. Too much exposure to sin could certainly affect someone with a purer mind. I would not go so far to say they would be corrupted, but whatever they saw or heard or experience could certainly stay in their mind forever. That's one reason my mom has always encouraged staying away from movies or books that have cruddy stuff in them. Once you see or read something, you can't un-see or un-read it.

    Your second question is also interesting, but I'm afraid I don't have an answer for it. I have a feeling Mrs. Fairfax has not noticed yet...but I may be wrong!

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    1. Natalie, I think you're right -- Jane realizes that badness rubs off on goodness more often than the reverse. I'm careful about what I watch and read for the same reason you are -- once it's in your brain, it's pretty impossible to scrub out.

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  2. If you read the book like this, chapter by chapter, you realize much more how quickly the relationship actually develops between Jane and Mr. Rochester. Indeed, in this moment, the way they think and speak about each other, they are already deeply in love, even though they (Jane?) might not realize it yet.

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    1. Birdie, yes, it's quite sudden. Almost love at first sight, but not quite.

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  3. I always think people are too hard on Rochester. He tried to act well as a youth, and circumstances came up where he felt that he was force to act contrary to how he would have liked. Yes, he made some poor choices, but I think that makes him very human. How many people would like to have some of their bad choices back to make over again? I almost think that when we condemn him, we condemn ourselves. Perhaps when held up against Jane's purity, he looks worse, but if I really compare them, I find Rochester more human and Jane more unrealistic. What is rather tragic is that it's almost like Rochester has given up trying to find good, and now is simply searching for pleasure. Not a road to happiness, but again, understandable, I think.

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    1. Cleopatra, I do think some people are too hard on him. Like you said, his mistakes make him feel very real and human. And I pity him a great deal.

      I think that he's supposed to be a picture of the dangers of gullibility and doing what others tell you to do instead of thinking for yourself. And yet... he basically tries to do the same thing to Jane that his father did to him -- trick her into marrying someone with a dark secret kept carefully hidden until it's (almost, for Jane) too late.

      But I fully agree that what is most tragic about Rochester is that he has given up on goodness and happiness. Or he had, until Jane arrived.

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What do you think?

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