Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 17

So this is the chapter where I get annoyed with Mr. Rochester.  I mean, I know what he's up to, but dude... cruel.  It's really mean to purposely try to make someone jealous, no matter what your motives are.

Meanwhile, Jane's still very suspicious of Grace Poole.  I was surprised to read that she's not yet 40.  I always think of her as being much older than me, but... I was like 16 when I first read this, so I guess that just lodged in my brain.  Now I'm 36.  Soon, I'll be older than Grace Poole :-o

Oh, don't know if your edition mentions this, but Mr. Rochester's horse Mesrour is named after an executioner in The Arabian Nights.  Intriguing choice, both by Mr. Rochester as a character and Charlotte Bronte as an author.

Once again, Jane hides with a book in a window-seat.  She hid that way from a tormentor, John Reed, when we first met her.  Now she's hiding from another tormentor, Mr. Rochester, though she doesn't realize yet that he's purposely distressing her.  I think this is a definite Clue from Bronte to first-time readers that Mr. Rochester is messing with Jane.  (Um, spoiler alert:  Mr. Rochester is messing with Jane.)

Jane thought she had succeeded in getting over Mr. Rochester with her little exercise in self-subjugation.  Yeah, that didn't work, huh?  Goes along with the theme throughout the book of just how much or how little our minds can control our hearts, and vice versa.  Jane says, "Every good, true, vigorous feeling I have, gathers impulsively round him" (p. 208).  Her love for him is a feeling and an impulse, in other words, not a choice.  Conscious choice is not involved here.  Mr. Rochester "is not of their kind, I believe he is of mine; I am sure he is -- I feel akin to him" (p. 208), and thus she is drawn to him even though reason and logic would say that there's no way a rich gentleman could ever love or want to marry his ward's poor governess.

However, I personally want to slap Mr. Rochester in this chapter when he eggs his guests into saying horrible things about their own former governesses.  Provoking man!  Grrrr.  I love him as a fictional character, but I would probably not want anything to do with him in real life.  I hate being teased.

Except, of course, for that final page between him and Jane.  He's been noticing her after all -- in fact, he's observed her closely.  He's still toying with her a bit, pretending he doesn't know what's going on with her, but he slips at the end and almost calls her by a term of endearment, and somehow that one line feels less calculated, more like him betraying his true sentiments.  So... yeah, I still have to love him.

Favorite Lines:

"He is not of your order; keep to your caste; and be too self respecting to lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and strength, where such a gift is not wanted and would be despised" (p. 193).

He made me love him without looking at me (p. 207).

Possible Discussion Questions:

The servants are conspiring to keep Jane from finding out what goes on up on the third floor.  When did this start, do you think?  When Mr. Rochester told Mrs. Fairfax to hire a governess, did he say, "Make sure she never finds out what Grace Poole is up to," or did Mrs. Fairfax deem it best that an outsider not be admitted into the house's mysteries?  Or was it just sort of an accidental omission until Mr. Rochester met Jane and started to fall in love with her?  I have no idea, I'm just curious and wondering what other people think.  Please discuss!


  1. I've never noticed that similarity between the two instances of Jane "hiding" in the window seats. Thanks for pointing that out. :)

    Hmm, I don't know. I've always wondered that, myself. I would think Mrs. Fairfax had some idea of what was going on. Perhaps Mr. Rochester DID say something to her, before Jane was ever hired, just so that the new governess wouldn't find out and then tell it far and wide. And then, of course, he falls in love with her and is especially grateful she doesn't know.

    1. Natalie, I only noticed it the first time this read-through myself.

      Mrs. Fairfax obviously knows there's a madwoman in the attic. I feel like at first, she probably didn't tell Jane just because no one knew Jane -- what if she was indiscreet, like you say? But this sounds like orders handed down from on high that she isn't to know, which feels different to me.

  2. I think that he didn't want anyone outside to find out about his disgraceful past, and that included Jane. Later when he met her, he would have other reasons. Mrs. Fairfax never knew it was his wife; she warned Jane because she thought Mr. Rochester meant to seduce her (as I would say he did), but as a single man of high degree to a lady of low degree, not as adultery.

    1. Livia, yes, Mr. Rochester definitely wanted to hide his marriage to a madwoman. The poor guy feels so ashamed of having been tricked into it, when really, it's his father who should feel shame, I think. But anyway, I'm not sure Mr. Rochester ever wanted to seduce Jane -- he seems to have formed very early a decision to marry her. That's how he's "paving hell with energy" by "laying down good intentions" (chapter 14). He also says there that he knows what his aim and motives are, and he believes them to be right -- he doesn't talk as if he's planning to make her his mistress, or use and discard her, does he? He's planning right from there to woo and marry her, even though he knows it will be a bigamous marriage. She won't know, and he thinks that her pure belief in their marriages rightness will make it so.

      I suppose it's really splitting hairs -- is a bigamous marriage adultery? Yes.

      Happily, the book has a better ending than that.

  3. I really enjoyed reading Bronte's description of these high bred ladies as well as their actions and conversations. I love a few nasty characters in a story. However, I agree that Mr. Rochester really did torment Jane, all to test her love I suppose? I mean his courtship of Blanche was so convincing I began wondering how he was going to wrap everything up the way he wanted.

    As far as the big secret regarding his wife, I feel it was just understood by the staff that the less people who knew the better. I don't think Mr. Rochester wanted to risk anyone finding out even before he met Jane. Of course, once he developed his plans to marry Jane, it was even more important that his wife's existence not be discovered.

    1. Lucy, the descriptions and characterizations were very fun to read, I agree.

      I think Rochester later says (been a while since I read it) that he's trying to make Jane want him as much as he wants her -- that by giving her a rival in love, it would make her realize she loves him, or something like that.

      That does make sense that the staff would be keeping a madwoman in the attic a secret from the populace around Thornfield. No sense scaring everyone off and starting rumors.

  4. Ugh yes, this chapter does undermine my liking for Mr. Rochester. Let's just say he doesn't know what he has to do with his feelings for Jane, because no one has ever taught him how to be honorable in such a situation.

    It is strange that Jane seems to be the only one not knowing about Mr. Rochester's wife. I mean, even the hired hands from the village know it. I really don't know why Mrs. Fairfax did not/could not tell her. Maybe she wanted to get to know Jane a bit better first, know if she was the kind of person who could handle such a situation?

    1. Birdie, that's a good point! Mr. Rochester obviously was not brought up particularly well, and although he knows how to act in polite society, he doesn't know how to behave honorably in an unusual situation like this.

      I think that nobody except maybe Grace Poole knows that Bertha is his wife. People know there's a madwoman locked up there, but not who precisely she is. And who wants to scare off the young new governess with thoughts of a lunatic who gets loose and sets fire to people's beds? Then you'd have to go to the trouble of hiring a new one.

  5. Is it just me or is the interplay between Jane and Mr. Rochester in these chapters somewhat reminiscent of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth's?

    Anyways, I agree that Mr. Rochester isn't very endearing *until* the last page where he starts to call her something and then stops. I think that's the strongest indication of his feelings for her so far.

    1. Meredith, yes -- they both have that combative flirting thing going on.


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