Monday, July 25, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 18

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.

Favorite Lines:

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?


  1. Oh WOW. I'd always wanted to research "Bridewell", but for some inexplicable reason I always pictured it as someone's surname. (Honestly, I really had this mental image that it was some sort of highwayman, which must have been subconcious on my part because of Blanche Ingram's fascination, etc.)

    So metaphorically that all surpasses anything I ever expected. And it's fascinating... I love it!!

    1. And I thought it was the name of a gothic murder mystery, so we were both wrong! I only researched it this time cuz my edition did have a note that said it was the name of a prison, and I was like, "OH, it's a metaphor! Must know more!"

  2. Also a quick passing thought that just came to me on your question about Blanche's fascination with corsairs, etc. I'd often wondered why Rochester (besides just disliking her) despised Blanche so much. And I think maybe she was fashionably pretending, wanting to be the heroine of some melodramatic, hot blooded narrative of her own (which would fit with her controlling/bossy temperament). But then *spoilers* all that melts away and in the end it all really comes down to dollars and cents. Because of course Rochester's life really does encompass all those dramatic elements; and it's obvious by inference too that she had no idea what she was really asking for and could never have handled the Real Goods later like Jane did. But it's not simply that she's cold and shallow. It's that she's posing, which would tie her solidly in with the whole theme of truth speaking and truth in JA as a whole. What do you think?

    1. Yes, and yes, and yes. She's all artifice and pretense and posing. And Jane is the opposite. And Mr. Rochester has to learn to stop lying and pretending too, because it's only by becoming truthful like Jane that he will be worthy of Jane. HE has to become HER equal, not the other way around.

  3. "Do you think Jane might be a little too curious about things for her own good?"

    Not at all! In fact, I believe her curiosity is the primary, internal impetus that drives her to be so acutely observant of other people and her surroundings. That only adds to her growing wisdom over time, despite the fact that she is so sheltered. It is her strength, and I must say that this set of keen observational skills that Brontë endowed Jane with is my favorite characteristic of this novel!

    1. Kenia, that's a good point! By searching for answers and investigating things, she does learn and understand much.

  4. I totally get what you're saying about summer. I've had a busy one, and then half the time when I sit down and get already to write a comment here my internet won't work. It's the one thing about country life I'm NOT enjoying.
    Anyway, I think Blanche as such a bland life (even her name is blasé) that she daydreams about danger just to have some excitement. But it has all worked to make her a shallow person. She wants Rochester for his money, but he could have given her drama too.
    I loved how Rochester did show his care for Jane in not making her take part in the charades.
    I thought Bridewell was an asylum which seemed fitting. I loved all of the history you found out. There's a lot to be inferred from just one charade word!
    Yes, hurry on to the next chapter. I love the gypsy scene.

    1. Jennifer, oh my goodness. HOW did I never notice that Blanche's very name is bland and!!!!!!

      Hope to have the next scene up later today.

    2. Oh wow, I also did not realize that Blanche's name means blasé! Thanks for enlightening us Jennifer. :-)

  5. All your research about Bridewell is so interesting!


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