Saturday, September 3, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 25

Does anybody else just NOT want to read the next chapter?  Just stay living here in this slightly uneasy, but still happy section?

No, I'm not quitting the read-along.  I'm just not looking forward to chapter 26.

Anyway, getting pretty Gothic here, folks.  Jane has her creepy dreams.  The weather is stormy and violent.  And she thinks her wedding dress looks like a wraith or a ghost.  Creeeeeepy.

And then we read about her nighttime visit from someone truly horrific.  Okay, I know we have a couple people reading this for the first time -- I don't know if they're still reading along, but just so you know, this post is going to have LOTS of SPOILAGE.  So don't read any more of it until after you've read the following chapter, okay?

Can't say I didn't warn you.

Okay, so I have read a lot about Bertha Mason Rochester over the years, about what her ripping of Jane's veil means and so on.  You can find lots of theories and scholarly opinions online, if you're so inclined.  Here's what I think:  I think she was warning Jane.  Not just warning her that Rochester is already married, and she's about to commit bigamy, however unwittingly.  No, I think she's warning Jane that marrying Mr. Rochester is a terrible idea because of who Rochester is.  And you know I say that with a great deal of love for Rochester.  But he isn't just damaged and broody at this point in the book -- he is rotten.  He's lying to Jane, he's manipulating her -- he's selfish and greedy and spoiled.  And he's not going to improve just by marrying Jane.  In fact, if he and Jane had gotten married, how long before Jane started feeling stifled by his attentions?  Or how long before he tired of her?  

I think Bertha is trying, in her own addled way, to protect Jane.  She could have ripped up the wedding dress.  She could have attacked Jane.  But no, she only rips up the veil that Rochester bought for Jane.  The veil that Jane says was a clear sign of Rochester's vanity and pride.  Who knows but that Bertha may have had a similar veil once.  At any rate, she recognizes it as a symbol of her husband and of marriage, and rips it apart.  As if she's trying to rip Jane and Mr. Rochester apart.

It's significant too, I think, that the last time Bertha escaped her keepers, she attacked another symbol of marriage:  Rochester's bed.  She didn't stab him, she set fire to his bed.  And then awakened Jane with her laughter and left a candle in the hallway as a clue.  That was right when Rochester was starting to fancy Jane, and Bertha seems to have somehow sensed or learned of this.  She didn't strike out at Jane in jealousy, just like she doesn't harm her now.  I think she wants Jane to flee the snare Rochester is setting for her.  I know he loves her and thinks he's going to make her happy, but let's face it:  she spends the month before their wedding "handling" him and keeping him cross and irritable in order to feel at peace herself.  Is that a healthy relationship?  Not on either side.

It's not until Jane can escape her cage entirely, grow into a full-fledged adult who doesn't rely on anyone else for affirmation or affection or anything else, that she can safely enter marriage.  And it isn't until Rochester has learned to put others before himself, to value himself for only who he is inside and not what he has or can acquire, and to accept help from others that he is ready for a real marriage.

Okay, that's enough for today.  I don't have any favorite lines in this chapter, and I don't have any questions for you, other than... what do you think about my ideas on Bertha's motivations and so on?

12 comments:

  1. Wow! I thought it was just out of jealousy, but then I didn't understand the whole bed thng. That makes so much sense!!! I'm glad I'm part of this read-along because you explain things so well!!!

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    1. MovieCritic -- yeah, it's taken me many readings of this novel, studying it in college, and reading lots of articles about it to come to realize there's a lot more going on with Bertha than just her being a freaky plot device. Glad I can pass some of that along!

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  2. Wow, I love all the thought you put into this chapter. I've never thought of Bertha having real intentions with her actions. But you've given me food for thought.

    Eek, it's scary to think of what Jane and Rochester's relationship would have been like if the wedding did go off as planned. I never thought of their time being engaged as unhealthy, but I see now how it was. Couples engaged should be totally trusting each other and learning to work together, not having a battle of wills!

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    1. Thanks, Natalie. I've been contemplating Bertha's role a lot lately, so I'm excited to discuss her.

      And yeah, in some ways I'm glad they didn't get married at this point. Their marriage would have been such a struggle.

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  3. Being a former fan of horror movies (I can no longer watch them now that I am a full-fledged grown up), I loved all the creepiness in this chapter. As far as Mr. Rochester goes, I do think his dishonesty is horrible. But I think he is so in love with Jane and all that she represents that he is in a state of delusion. I just couldn't be too hard on him.

    By the way, I am planning to write a blog post on Jane Eyre. Is that something people do and share during a read-along?

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    1. Lucy, I have regretted 90% of the horror movies I watched as a foolish early adult.

      Anyway, I think you're right, that Rochester is in thrall to his emotions here. He wants Jane, he is determined to have her, and he's not going to think about anything else.

      Yes, please share a link to your post on JE! Some people write their own posts as we go (I know Cleopatra at Classical Carousel has been doing recap posts all along), and others do one at the end. Leave a link in the comments when you're finished so we can read what you have to say! I might also do a link-up thing at the end of the read-along for people to share via.

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  4. Before, I never considered Jane Eyre thát gothic and always thought they were laying it on thick in the adaptations. But somehow, this reading and especially this chapter, it really struck me how much Charlotte Brönte is a gothic novelist!

    I'm getting really rather angry with Rochester, more so in this reading than in previous once. I think you describe it very great how both Jane and him have to go to a process first before their relationship can be a healthy one.

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    1. Birdie, yeah, I don't find Jane Eyre all that Gothic either, aside from the overall feel. But I thought that was maybe because I haven't read many Gothic novels. I keep meaning to read the ones mentioned in Northanger Abbey, but just haven't gotten around to them.

      In the next chapter, I feel much less angry with Rochester, but yes, he's a stinker for much of his section of the book. And yet, I love him. I have very bad taste in fictional men sometimes.

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    2. Have you read Wuthering Heights? That one is much more gothic than JE. I only read it for the first time last year and reading JE again now, I do see some similarities in style etc.

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    3. Birdie, yes, I read WH many years ago. I was quite disappointed by it, as I was already a JE fan. I should probably re-read it some day, but... I have so many books I actually *want* to read that I haven't bothered yet. Maybe one day.

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  5. I'm sorry I've been away for so long, but summer is over so hopefully with a "normal" routine I can get back to these posts.
    You really gave me some things to think about with Bertha. I never really gave much thought to the fact that she didn't actually harm Jane - ever. I wonder though if she was secretly hoping that Rochester would die in the fire.
    Not only did Rochester have to become less selfish, Jane needed to give up some of her selflessness and live for herself a little. I know someone who was totally selfless marrying a selfish man (we begged her not to) and her life is a wreck now. It is so sad to see.
    I think Rochester and Jane would have been the same. In time it would not be a happy marriage.

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    1. Jennifer, don't feel bad! As soon as summer was over, I promptly went on vacation for 2 weeks, and now I'm disgustingly behind not just on the read-along, but on replying to comments on the read-along!

      You're so right that a selfless person marrying a selfish person is a terrible idea. Well put.

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