Friday, August 26, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 23

What I want to know is, how does Charlotte Bronte keep lines like "Oh, Jane, you torture me!" (p. 298) and "Make my happiness -- I will make yours" (p. 299) from sounding like sentimental, hackneyed claptrap?  Why do I thrill over this chapter (it miiiiiiiiight be my favorite) and find it not merely believable, but wholly delicious?  It amazes me, I tell you.  It's her first published novel, but it is almost startlingly good.  In my humble opinion, anyway.

So anyway, my margins for this chapter literally have the word "swooooon" written in them.  And also thirteen hearts marking favorite lines and phrases.  Ahem.  I'm not usually so full of girlish swooniness, but in this case, I just can't help myself.

Bronte switches to the present tense again, like she did in the last chapter.  It's almost a little stream-of-consciousness there too, letting us feel Jane's apprehension about encountering Mr. Rochester.

Really, I could just gush and gush about this chapter.  Jane not letting Mr. Rochester's pronouncement that she must leave Thornfield knock her down, being her usual sturdy self.  Rochester almost calling her a term of endearment, then mocking Blanche for being "an extensive armful" (p. 293).  Jane's voice being "not quite under command" (p. 294).  And then... well, I marked "here it comes :-)" in the margin.

Jane is usually very in control of her emotions, but here, "[t]he vehemence of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me, was claiming mastery" (p. 295).  And since we know she's not given to emotional outbursts, we thus know just how strong her feelings for Mr. Rochester are.  And, before long, how very powerful her inner will is, that she can overcome those masterful emotions.

And here comes the foreshadowing again, huh?  Jane says, "I see the necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of death" (p. 296).  Oh, Jane.

And doesn't Jane's whole speech about not being a machine without feelings remind you of Shylock's speech in The Merchant of Venice where he tells everyone that just because he's a Jew doesn't mean he's not human?  Jane tells Rochester that just because she is "poor, obscure, plain, and little," that doesn't mean she is "soulless and heartless" (p. 296).  And so, he proposes deliciously, and yeah... I probably should stop before this overdue post gets even longer.

But before I go, let's just point out that Rochester very carefully words one question he puts to Jane.  He asks her, "Am I a liar in your eyes?" (emphasis mine)(p. 298).  He doesn't say he's not a liar, he just asks her if she sees him as a liar.  

Sometimes I love Mr. Rochester so deliriously much, but sometimes I suspect he's a master manipulator who has not only messed with Jane Eyre's mind and emotions, but mine too.

And then there's a big storm, and the next morning, they awaken to discover that "the great horse-chestnut at the bottom of the orchard had been struck by lightning in the night, and half of it split away" (p. 300).  I wrote a paper back in college on how that tree symbolizes Mr. Rochester.  We'll come back to it in later chapters.

Favorite Lines:

"Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane?" (p. 295)

"I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you, especially when you are near me, as now; it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.  And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; an then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly" (p. 295).

"I have known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish to feel I absolutely must be torn from you forever.  I see the necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of death" (p. 296).

"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will" (p. 297).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Mr. Rochester says Jane has "an eye for natural beauties, and a good deal of the organ of adhesiveness" (p. 292).  Have you ever heard/read of such a thing as an organ of adhesiveness?  I admit I'm imagining a bottle of glue somewhere inside Jane's stomach.


  1. Wow, It is impressive how much you pick up the second time reading a book. Yes, the whole organ of adhesiveness is confusing. I when he said that I thought that she had velcro in her stomach, you made me smile when you said glue. :-) In my view he probably is trying to say how they should be together, that she should be stuck to him outwardly as he is (pardon my term) stuck on her. It is a intresting perspective.
    Thanks for the great post!!!

    1. MovieCritic, yes, every time I reread this book, I pick up new things. I looked it up, actually, and this whole "organ of attachment" thing is another bit of phrenology -- he thinks there's a shape to her head that means she's very easily attached to places and people. I wonder if I have that same bump, lol.

    2. Oh wow! Good thing you told me, I'm the kind of person who forgets to look things up. That is a ... wow, how could Charolette Bronté come up with this great story and all the details??!!

    3. Hee. Yeah, it puzzled me so much I just was like, "Surely Google knows the answer to this."

      Phrenology -- that study of head shapes -- came up earlier in the book too, I think, so I'm guessing Bronte had an interest in it, or knew someone who did.

  2. So beautiful!! <3 The proposal is definitely a favorite part of the book for me as well, if not my most favorite part!

    Haha, wow. I always knew Mr. Rochester made mistakes, but I'm starting to see just how much of a manipulator he was. That emphasis on the way he asks Jane if she thinks him a liar...sigh. -shakes head- Mr. Rochester, what WILL we do with you?

    1. Natalie, yeah, it's just such a wonderful chapter, huh? I'm almost reluctant to move forward. I like being in this happy bit!

      And yeah, Rochester's a stinker. Got a lot to repent for, that fellow.

  3. What a lovely chapter! Somehow I hadn't realized we were 'there' already, so I was pleasantly surprised. I also realized just how much of the sentences from this chapter I know by heart!

    What you said about not making the conversation sound sentimental, I think it has something to do with how well we know the characters by now and how well their growing relationship was build up. I think these wordings aren't sentimental claptrap in themselves, but only in a certain (less well written) setting.

    I do love Rochester and I also swoon about this chapter, but I als o find it annoying how long he keeps up the Blanche subterfuge and how much he is confusing and hurting Jane with it. Bad Edward!

    1. Birdie, I know! I always think the whole falling-in-love part takes longer than it does. Now I look at how much we have left and sigh because I know I have some of my least favorite chapters to slog through before long.

      I think you're right -- the characters are so vivid, we don't read their lines as being unrealistic.

      And yes, Rochester, just get a divorce already or something. Quit with all the lying and sneaking!


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