I'm sorry this read-along has kind of gotten bogged down lately. Totally my fault -- my summer has been way too busy, with more company, more travelling, and more projects than I had anticipated. We are probably not going to finish this book by the end of August. However, I'd like to have it polished off by mid-September, so here's hoping I can carve out more time for reading and posting in August than I did in July.
Back to the story! Jane seems to equate activity with happiness, doesn't she? She says at the beginning of the chapter that "All sad feelings seemed now driven from the house, all gloomy associations forgotten; there was life everywhere, movement all day long" (p. 215). But it has to be the right kind of activity -- later she finds fault with Blanche Ingram for always being busy trying to win Mr. Rochester. Jane thinks that "she might, by merely sitting quietly at his side, saying little and looking less, get nigher his heart" (p. 221). So I guess it has to be useful activity, not pointless or activity for the sake of activity.
Although Mr. Rochester is doing everything he can to arouse Jane's interest and jealousy, he's not being entirely cruel this time -- he lets her sit and watch the charades instead of insisting she take part, which he obviously knows would embarrass and mortify her. That was kind.
But let's talk about the charades. (I know I don't mark spoilers usually, but there are spoilers in this paragraph and the two following, just so you know.) Mr. Rochester and his troupe act out two scenes involving marriage, first a wedding and then the Old Testament story of the servant come to find a wife for Jacob and meeting Rebekah at the well. And stuck together, the two words they act out spell "Bridewell." Now, Bridewell was a prison, so on first glance this is obviously (to readers who know the story) Rochester alluding to the prison he has been living in since he got married. Or possibly implying that marriage to Blanche Ingram would be a prison. Or even maybe warning Jane, their audience, that marriage can be a prison.
But I did a little research on the internet and learned that Bridewell was originally a palace. King Henry VIII built it and made it his chief London residence. A few decades later, King Edward VI gave it to the city to be a combination orphanage and place to incarcerate prostitutes. The city turned it into a combination prison, hospital, and workhouse, which is what it was when Jane Eyre was written.
What an interesting metaphor for Rochester's first marriage, or for Thornfield itself! For his marriage began well, but soon he learned his wife was given to debauchery and losing her mind, and his marriage became a prison. Likewise, Thornfield was once obviously a fine house, like a palace, but now it has become a combination orphanage for Adele; an asylum for a madwoman (who Rochester implies had been promiscuous; a prison of sorts to Rochester, who punishes himself for past wrongs by taking care of those in his care even though he doesn't care for them; and workhouse of sorts for Jane, who earns her living there doing a job that all the fine people around her disdain.
Man alive, Bronte doesn't miss anything, does she?
Okay, spoilage over.
So I was going to go into how Jane's decided she can't unlove Mr. Rochester even though he no longer pays attention to her, how she's not jealous of Miss Ingram because Blanche is so beneath her, and how she thinks that "his wife might, I verily believe, be the very happiest woman the sun shines on" (p. 221). And the fact that she's stopped seeing Mr. Rochester's faults and likes everything about him. But this post is long. And Mr. Mason just arrived, the gypsy is here telling fortunes, and I just want to get to the next chapter already. So if you want to discuss those things in the comments, I'm more than willing to do so, but for now, enough of this post.
I have told you, reader, that I had learned to love Mr. Rochester. I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me (p. 219).
"I am not in the least afraid." Nor was I; but I was a good deal interested and excited (p. 231).
Possible Discussion Questions:
What is up with Blanche and her obsession with highwaymen, bandits, and pirates?
Do you think Jane might be a little too curious about things for her own good?