Thursday, November 10, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 37

O delicious chapter!  If I could only read one chapter of Jane Eyre for the rest of my life, I would read you.

I have approximately three zillion things underlined in this chapter, with stars and hearts and smiles alllll over the place.  There's no way I can share all my thoughts, but I'll do my best to hit the important ones.

I love so much that when Jane first enters the room, before Rochester knows her, she says, "Down, Pilot!" (p. 501).  Because way back in chapter 12, Rochester said that exact phrase when Jane was helping him after he'd been thrown by Mesrour.  Oh, that gives me goosebumps -- that she's remembering that first meeting and reminding him oh-so-subtly of it.  (Yeah, I'm sure that people said, "Down, Pilot!" a lot to the dog, but those are the only two times the phrase crops up in the book, so it must be significant.) 

And I love how Rochester just can't believe it's really her, not for a long time.  She has come back to him when, to his mind, there is absolutely no reason she ever should or would.  She fled him when he was well and whole, and surely she will flee him again now that he is impaired.  Most people would.  But not Jane Eyre.  Jane Eyre is not most people.  I laugh aloud when its her practical and real announcement of exactly how much money she has that makes him finally accept it is she, because it reminds me of that flirty little argument they had over him paying her wages so she could go see her aunt long ago.

And then we hit a very significant line:  "I am my own mistress" (p. 503).  We, the readers, know that Jane has always, always been mistress of her own self, though subservient to others outwardly.  Now her outward circumstances match her inner self, and everyone can see her for the independent woman she has always been.  And it's as this spiritually, physically, socially, and economically independent woman that she comes back to Mr. Rochester, choosing him fully and freely.  She's not rescued by a man, she's not made whole by a man, she's not raised from obscurity by a man -- truly a modern heroine. 

Okay, so now it's time to discuss Mr. Rochester.  HAS he changed?  He learns in this chapter that Jane loves him for who he is, not what he is, because she doesn't care that he's maimed and blinded.  In fact, she says she's "in danger of loving you too well for all this, and making too much of you" (p. 505).  And, eventually, he realizes that he knows Jane suits him, but he needs to know if he suits her (p. 516).  Becoming self-aware, certainly!  But it's not that which convinces me he's changed, grown, and become a better person.  It's this passage:
"Of late, Jane -- only of late -- I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom.  I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker.  I began sometimes to pray, very brief prayers they were, but very sincere" (p. 517).
That gets left out of the movie versions.  And it's only a couple of sentences, so easy to overlook when reading the book.  But that repentance, that budding faith is what makes this ending possible.  Because it is after he repented and sought God and began to pray that the miracle happened.  He prayed "in anguish and humility" (p. 517) that he could not bear much more of his despair, and asked God for help.  And that's when he called out, "Jane!  Jane!  Jane!"  And you'll recall that at that exact moment, Jane herself was calling out for God's to show her whether she should marry St. John or not.  Neither of them were relying on themselves anymore.  Both of them were helpless, calling on God for deliverance.  And God answered them simultaneously by letting one hear the cries of the other. 

And how does this chapter end?  With Rochester saying, "I humbly entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto!" (p. 519).  Is he repentant?  Is he changed?  I say absolutely.

Favorite Lines:

"What sweet madness has seized me?" (p. 502).

"...with him I was at perfect ease, because I knew I suited him... in his presence, I thoroughly lived, and he lived in mine" (p. 506).

"All my heart is yours, sir; it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever" (p. 514).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Are you convinced that Mr. Rochester's change of heart is sincere?  That he is no longer the same selfish, self-serving man he was through the rest of the book?

This Weekend, We Will Finish This Read-Along and Have a Giveaway!!!!

6 comments:

  1. Oh my! What beautiful thoughts! What am I saying!? They aren't just thoughts they are the "real thing!" You have captued the beauty of the book in this post! You are so, so, so, right! And all the quotes you found are so beautiful! I can't believe I missed half of them when I first read it! Thank you so much for this post, it really made this one of my favorite books. How you made me understand it so much more!!!
    I am convivced that he is changed, and that it is sincere!

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    1. MovieCritic, thank you! I am honored. I'm glad I helped you change your mind about Rochester :-)

      That's one of the things I like best about read-alongs: they really make me take my time and dig into a story, whether I'm leading the read-along or participating in someone else's. Such a joy.

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  2. When Jane is finding out about what happened to Thornfield Hall, I'm always so impatient. STOP TALKING TO THE INNKEEPER AND GO TO MR. ROCHESTER, JANE!!!

    Yeees. Those passages are some of my favorites. Mr. Rochester DOES repent. And you said basically what I said in my other comment about those aspects of the story being left out of the movies. Without Mr. Rochester's repentance and both his and Jane's reliance on God, the story loses a lot of its power.

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    1. Natalie, hee! Yeah, once she knows Bertha is dead, I want her to just run find him already.

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  3. I love your insights on this chapter, they really open my eyes to some things I hadn't noticed myself. And again, Mr. Rochester's speech about his faith here in this chapter was something I hadn't remembered from previous reads, maybe, because it is indeed left out from adaptations. But it's very fitting in the scope of the story and the spiritual thread that Charlotte Brönte subtly weaved throughout it.

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    1. Thanks, Birdie! I just rewatched the 2011 version, and wow, it was very lacking in almost any reference to God, or faith in anyone or anything other than your own self. If a person only saw it and no other adaptation, never read the book, they would definitely say Rochester had not changed or matured at all by the end.

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