Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 27

Um, yeah, so I went on vacation for a two-week whirlwind tour of friends and family in the midwest, and hosted a blog party at the same time, and poor Jane Eyre got neglected.  I will do better now!  Even though, now that I'm home and not going anywhere for a looooooong time and can focus on the book, we're heading into one of my less-favorite sections.  But that's okay.  We can finish this book.  We can!!!

So, off Jane goes, "cracking my heart-strings in rending them from Mr. Rocheter's" (p. 349).  Er, I mean, her heart-strings.  And mine too, fictionally.  I haaaaate leaving Mr. Rochester behind :-b  It means I have to put up with snuffy St. John now, and I'm frowning at the thought.  (I'm very hard on St. John.  Because he deserves it.  But who knows, maybe I'll like him better on this reading?)(You know what "fat chance" means, St. John?)

I find it so interesting that Jane admits she "wanted to be weak" (p. 347) so she could avoid leaving the man she loves.  Not only leaving him, but hurting him by leaving him, perhaps driving him to desperation.  He tells her he once contemplated suicide, and she obviously suspects he may try that again if she leaves.  But she knows it would be wrong to stay.  She knows it will be hard to leave.  She doesn't want to do the hard thing.  But she does it anyway.  Jane Eyre, ladies and gentlemen, is made of steel.  She knows no one will help her do the right thing, so she does it herself because it needs to be done.

And that, folks, is why Jane Eyre is my favorite novel.  Because of this small, indomitable woman who does very hard things even though she doesn't want to.  She is superbly stubborn in all the best ways, and since I'm very stubborn myself, I admire that she puts her stubbornness to the best possible use.  She insists on doing what is right, she refuses to be cajoled into doing wrong, and wow... I admire her so very much.

But, in her stubbornness, she is not mean or cruel or hard-hearted.  She forgives Mr. Rochester.  She still loves him.  She doesn't take the easy way out by hating him or being angry with him -- and how much easier it would be to leave if she could call him a skulduggerous seducer and say good riddance to bad rubbish.  But no, she loves him and forgives him, and then leaves him anyway.  With much pain and sorrow, since although she is steely, she isn't stony.  It's not easy for her, and that's what makes her so believable, even in her indomitability.

(I'm making up words today.  Blame my head cold.)

But anyway, isn't it nice to learn that Mrs. Fairfax and the other servants didn't really know that Bertha was Mrs. Rochester?  They haven't all been conspiring to corrupt Jane.  Whew.

And Jane stands up for Bertha -- she says that Rochester's hatred of her is cruel because "she cannot help being mad" (p. 351).  I think Jane sympathizes with Bertha, don't you?  Bertha has been locked up for years and years, and Jane knows what it's like to be trapped and imprisoned.  

Speaking of which, we get not one but two moments in this chapter that remind me of that moment in chapter 23 when she insisted, "I am no bird, and no net ensnares me" (p. 297).  First, Mr. Rochester says, "Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it, the savage, beautiful creature!" (p. 370).  He's referring to her body, that no threats of violence to her body would make Jane's spirit submit to him, but it's an interesting choice of words.  And then second, when Jane steals away in the early morning, "[b]irds began to sing in brake and copse; birds were faithful to their mates; birds were emblems of love.  What was I?" (p. 374).  She realizes that, in leaving Mr. Rochester and her life at Thornfield, she is changing herself, not just her location.  Although she protested otherwise, she basically was a bird in a cage there.  But now, as she said herself earlier in the chapter, "All is changed about me, sir; I must change too" (p. 350).

Favorite Lines:

Reader! -- I forgave him at the moment, and on the spot (p. 348).

"Now for the hitch in Jane's character... Now for vexation, and exasperation, and endless trouble!" (p. 352).

"You are my sympathy -- my better self -- my good angel; I am bound to you with a strong attachment (p. 367).

I shook, I feared -- but I resolved (p. 368).

"I care for myself.  The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained, I am, the more I will respect myself" (p. 369).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you think Mr. Rochester would come to despise Jane if she became his mistress, like he despises Celine Varens and the others?

Why couldn't Mr. Rochester divorce Bertha because she was mad?  Does anyone know?

Mr. Rochester says, "I tried dissipation -- never debauchery; that I hated, and hate" (p. 362).  What's the difference between the two?

9 comments:

  1. On the divorce question, I believe that madness was not grounds for divorce in that age. In Downton Abbey times at least, one character was not able to get a divorce in England because his wife was mad so he moved to Germany instead. Since this was years after Jane Eyre, I presume it would have been the same back then.

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    1. Elf, I see! I wonder if it was also an impediment to divorce, though? Surely he could have divorced her for infidelity, since he (veiledly) says she was unfaithful before she went entirely mad? Hmm.

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  2. Your words made sense to me! I'm betting it's because I have a head cold too...

    Anyway, I like St. John. Okay, okay, maybe I didn't understand his character when I read it, but I didn't mind him.

    Every time I read what you think you make me like Jane Eyre more, and more, and more...
    Thank you for making me understand!

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    1. MovieCritic, aha! Maybe head colds enable people to understand each others' foggy ramblings?

      I keep trying to like St. John. Or at least not dislike him. Maybe this time, I'll succeed.

      You're welcome! I'm learning new things this read-through too.

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  3. First off, your header. IT'S GORGEOUS.

    Wow. I loved everything you said about this chapter. Everything you pointed out about Jane being a strong character was so interesting, because it helped me see even more just HOW strong she was. She really is very admirable and inspiring.

    Ugh, St. John. I don't HATE him, but...yeah. I don't like him. :P

    I have wondered why Mr. Rochester couldn't have divorced Bertha. I mean, biblically he could divorce her for her unfaithfulness to him as his wife, right? But maybe her being mad made it difficult to do so....?

    I honestly don't know if I could draw a line between dissipation and debauchery, but it's intriguing that Mr. Rochester does. What is your take on it?

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    1. Natalie, thanks! I like its starkness. Rather different from what I usually make.

      Yeah, I don't hate St. John. I pity him. But I don't like him, either. I kind of feel bad about that, though.

      I am kind of guessing that maybe you couldn't divorce a mad person for doing wrong because they could plead insanity and weren't responsible for their actions? I don't know.

      I've been pondering those words, and I think I would define the difference this way: Dissipation is lazy living, idling away your time and not thinking about whether you're doing good or bad things. Debauchery is seeking out sinful pleasures and reveling in them.

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    2. Heehee. I guess sometimes I pity him, but he's so infuriating!

      Hmm, that's a good point.

      Ahh, that makes sense. I like that distinction. :) (Although both are still bad, haha)

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  4. Wow! So yet again I find myself shamefully behind on the read-along. Oh, well.

    I think this may be one of my favorite chapters so far, because 1). it's very interesting and satisfying to see all the pieces come together and learn a little more about poor Mr. Rochester's past and 2). I hugely admire Jane. Yesss.

    It's so refreshing to see a heroine make the right choice when in so much romance now she doesn't. And that she leaves him completely on her own initiative, without any urging from anyone else, too.

    Hmm, I wonder if Mr. Rochester would have come to dislike her? Either way, I'm quite sure she could never enjoy any romantic relationship with him that contradicted her conscience and principles. Good for her. :)

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    1. Don't beat yourself up, Meredith -- I haven't posted about a chapter in over a week. Hoping to get the next one up later today, we'll see.

      I agree, it's very satisfying to learn Rochester's story finally. No more hinty mysteries.

      This is why Jane Eyre is a paragon of romantic stories -- the heroine doesn't give in. Ever. To anyone. She stands firm on her principles, both here and later with St. John.

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What do you think?

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)