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Monday, September 30, 2013

Septemb-Eyre: Jane Eyre Readalong Recap #4

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Hosted by Kerry at Entomology of a Bookworm

Chapters XXX-End

Commentary:

St. John Rivers - the anti-Rochester.  Re-reading this part of the book again, I focused on all the things that made St. John the complete opposite of Rochester.  And there's a lot.  St. John is blonde and fair to Rochester's black hair and dark features, tall and statuesque to middle height and square-ish, a minister and philanthropic and you know Mr. Rochester isn't that concerned with religion and early on Jane points out that Rochester's brow is deficient where it should indicate benevolence.  St. John likes to read at mealtimes and study, while Mr. Rochester can't stop talking to Jane, St. John is completely honest with Jane and Rochester is considerably less so.  Both however are intelligent, and both study Jane's character well and find something in her to attract them but Mr. Rochester sees Jane as his equal and really better than him, and St. John sees Jane as the diligent workhorse he's always wanted.

That's where I really have a problem with St. John.  Sure he's striving for good things, and wants to use his skills and intellect to make a difference and fulfill a duty to God, but with his dismissal of the individual needs of a person and then of a woman, it's hard to feel very sympathetic with him.  He continually puts reason above feeling and in doing so cannot understand the complete beauty of humanity.  Of course for Jane, meeting him at this point in her life when passion has not resulted in happiness, it is great for Jane to see the other side.  In this section Jane matures even more - she knows that she needs to be loved for herself and not what she can do.  And she gets the family and financial independence to live free and contented on her own.  So she can return to Mr. Rochester as his true equal - she doesn't have to worry about depending too much on Rochester's wealth and connections because she has some of her own.

But I think the transformation Mr. Rochester undergoes is the greater.  He's so broken when Jane comes back - humbled and accepting of his fate - and what breaks my heart is that while Jane was strong enough to soldier on without him, Mr. Rochester was not.  It's too romantic that Rochester needs Jane that much.  And he's not just humbled by the experience, but also accepts God and his past.  Passion balanced with reason.  Just like Jane.  Now they can have their happily ever after.  I've long thought Jane Eyre a study in that balance of passion and reason - Jane was too passionate at Gateshead but tempered at Lowood by Helen's reason, then Jane is pushed towards an excess of passion at Thornfield and an excess of reason at Moor House, to finally find the middle ground with Mr. Rochester at Ferndean.

This book is just so extraordinary to me.  It has so much depth and has resonated with me so strongly ever since I was a teen.  I wonder what I would have thought of it if I had read it when I was older, but I'm so glad I had the chance to grow with this story because I've found so many different things to appreciate about it at different times in my life.  And I am so glad I participated in this readalong with fans and newbies!

Memorable Quotes:

“Meantime, let me ask myself one question—Which is better?—To have surrendered to temptation; listened to passion; made no painful effort—no struggle;—but to have sunk down in the silken snare; fallen asleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southern clime, amongst the luxuries of a pleasure villa: to have been now living in France, Mr. Rochester’s mistress; delirious with his love half my time—for he would—oh, yes, he would have loved me well for a while. He did love me—no one will ever love me so again. I shall never more know the sweet homage given to beauty, youth, and grace—for never to any one else shall I seem to possess these charms. He was fond and proud of me—it is what no man besides will ever be.—But where am I wandering, and what am I saying, and above all, feeling? Whether is it better, I ask, to be a slave in a fool’s paradise at Marseilles—fevered with delusive bliss one hour—suffocating with the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next—or to be a village-schoolmistress, free and honest, in a breezy mountain nook in the healthy heart of England?" - Jane, Chapter XXXI

"I used to rush into strange dreams at night: dreams many-coloured, agitated, full of the ideal, the stirring, the stormy—dreams where, amidst unusual scenes, charged with adventure, with agitating risk and romantic chance, I still again and again met Mr. Rochester, always at some exciting crisis; and then the sense of being in his arms, hearing his voice, meeting his eye, touching his hand and cheek, loving him, being loved by him—the hope of passing a lifetime at his side, would be renewed, with all its first force and fire. Then I awoke. Then I recalled where I was, and how situated. Then I rose up on my curtainless bed, trembling and quivering; and then the still, dark night witnessed the convulsion of despair, and heard the burst of passion. By nine o’clock the next morning I was punctually opening the school; tranquil, settled, prepared for the steady duties of the day." - Jane, Chapter XXXII

"If I do go with him—if I do make the sacrifice he urges, I will make it absolutely: I will throw all on the altar—heart, vitals, the entire victim. He will never love me; but he shall approve me; I will show him energies he has not yet seen, resources he has never suspected. ” - Jane, Chapter XXXIV

"Reader, I married him." -Jane, Chapter XXXVIII


Extra Credit:

I had an idea that for this last recap I would make it all about learning Hindustani and put some phrases and their translations but I really wanted it to be what Jane would have been learning at the time, and I couldn't tell if that was Hindi or Urdu or what, and then maybe it's not that interesting anyway, so I will instead talk about the Moor!

Jane wandered about there, and also the Rivers live in an area surrounded by it, and when I visited England a few months ago I was able to take a walk to the Brontë Falls (where the Brontë' siblings would frequent).  There was speculation among the group of us that Charlotte might have based the spot where St. John asks Jane to marry him on the area around those Falls --

“Let us rest here,” said St. John, as we reached the first stragglers of a battalion of rocks, guarding a sort of pass, beyond which the beck rushed down a waterfall; and where, still a little farther, the mountain shook off turf and flower, had only heath for raiment and crag for gem—where it exaggerated the wild to the savage, and exchanged the fresh for the frowning—where it guarded the forlorn hope of solitude, and a last refuge for silence." (Ch XXXIV)

The area was really beautiful and peaceful - there was only one other person there walking about - a man, and since our group was three girls, we pretended he was Branwell - and we had a nice little picnic on the heath.  No proposals in sight.  And apparently if you got to a higher point you could see Top Withens which is said to be where Emily Brontë based the house Wuthering Heights.  (I couldn't see it though!)

 I don't know how close the walk and the area is to what Charlotte experienced in her time - there was plenty of domesticated land to make me doubt it was very close - but there is still a sense of that wild beauty about the place that really was incredible.  Even though the wind was bracing and chill and there were A LOT of sheep wandering about (and they weren't particular about where they relieved themselves) this was a walk I would make many times because the countryside is so beautiful and it felt pristine to me.  And of course it was easy to imagine Jane wandering that land.  Not to mention hearing Mr. Rochester's voice calling to you??? (One can dream!)



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10 comments:

  1. "Passion balanced with reason" -- Oh! I like that! Very beautiful commentary about Jane and Mr. Rochester :)

    I'm jealous of you for having first read this novel as a teen. I wish I had given it a chance years ago! But I did get a lot out of reading this novel now, in my mid-20s, so that is comforting.

    I love your "extra credit" bit, especially about pretending to hear Mr. Rochester call out your name... "One can dream" haha! - Maggie @ An American in France

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it's fantastic that you have read the book now, so you know why it's awesome! Now it's time to watch all the film versions?? :) And I think you'll still get more out of it on re-reading as you get older!

      LOL, thank you for validating my silliness! :D

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    2. Well, as you know, I already watched (and re-watched...I'll admit) a bunch of different adaptations! I was on a Jane Eyre high this entire month :)

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    3. It's the best feeling! :D And luckily there are still more adaptations for you to watch! :D

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  2. Ohh so pretty! I would love to see that...Though now I am imagining St. John there..and now I imagining myself running away! LOL

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    1. LOL! True, I hadn't thought we would see St. John or I might have been more uneasy! ... but I could have just pushed him into the stream! :D

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  3. Wonderful recap, especially the comparison between St John and Rochester. I was so busy being irritated with St John that I didn't fully appreciate how totally opposite he is to Rochester.

    And the extra credit, wow! The area looks beautiful. The lovely green matches my envy ;-)

    I'm so grateful to have been on this readalong journey with you, someone who so obviously LOVES Jane Eyre. Thank you for sharing this love with us :-)

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    1. LOL, totally understandable - it's difficult to not harumph at all the ridiculous things St. John says!

      Thank you so much - I've really appreciated reading your posts for the readalong!

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  4. This was my first read, but I can see how it would have been nice to read this as a teen and grow with the story, like you said. Still, I'm glad to have read it now! Thanks for joining the readalong and for all your extra-credit offerings - I loved them!

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    1. I am glad that you have read it now too! It'll be great to revisit it again I'm sure. Maybe you can host another readalong! :D

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