Monday, October 13, 2014

The 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along, Week 4: Chapters 11 - 14

Welcome to the fourth week of 
the 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along,
brought to you by
A Night's Dream of Books

Jane Eyre
Trade Paperback, 624 pages
Penguin Classics
August 15,2006
Classics, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Week 4  Discussion Questions:
Chapters 11 -14
(Questions provided by
A Night's Dream of Books)


1.) Jane meets her pupil, Adele Varens, in Chapter 11, and we learn more about her in subsequent chapters. How is this little girl contrasted with Jane herself, when she was a child?

It's pretty obvious that Bronte has a marked preference for her heroine, Jane. Indeed, it even seems that she doesn't really like the French. She portrays little Adele as a superficial child without marked academic ability, who speaks only broken English. She's completely absorbed in dressing at the height of fashion, even at her very young age (she's 7 or 8 years old, according to Jane). The one positive trait mentioned about Adele is that she's very affectionate. 

Jane, in contrast, was always interested in books from a young age, and she was an excellent student. She was never interested in the latest fashions. She's also artistically talented, and excellent at learning foreign languages.

If Adele and Jane were contemporaries, and students at the same high school nowadays, Adele would be "the popular girl", probably a cheerleader, and attracting lots of boys. Jane would be the bookish nerd, always by herself, with perhaps one or two good friends, but not popular at all.

2.) How does Bronte set the general atmosphere surrounding Jane's awkward meeting with Mr. Rochester, in the country lane, which takes place in Chapter 12?

Bronte gives the whole scene an air of mystery, of something almost otherworldly. She starts off by stating: "The ground was hard, the air was still, my road was lonely..." She continues with the following: ",,,the charm of the hour lay in its approaching dimness, in the low-gliding and pale-beaming sun."

The author constantly reinforces the stillness and bitter cold of the scene. Jane has paused on her way to Hay to deliver a letter; she has sat down on a stile, and is in no hurry to move on. About the lane she comments, "...but whose best winter delight lay in its utter solitude and leafless repose." Night begins to fall: "I lingered 'till the sun went down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear behind them."

As Jane rises to leave the stile, turning toward Hay, she hears a noise, and realizes that a horse is approaching. Then she states the following: "In those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies bright and dark tenanted my mind..." "As this horse approached. and as I watched for it to appear through the dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a North-of-England spirit, called a 'Gytrash'. which, in the form of horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways...."

3.) Jane states that she would not have offered her help to the fallen rider, had he been conventionally handsome. What does this tell the reader about Jane?

This statement of Jane's makes it very obvious that she does not care about outward appearances, but about the person within. Also, it's just as obvious that she's a keen observer of human nature, even with her inexperience. She's well aware of the effect her offer of help would have had on a very handsome man. Such a man, accustomed to the adulation of women, and puffed up by it, would have interpreted her offer of help as an attempt at flirting. Jane dislikes it when people assume she thinks a certain way due to her outward actions. Therefore, in order to avoid being thought a silly flirt by a handsome man, she would simply not have offered to help him at all.

Things are very different with a man like Mr. Rochester. His ego would not be puffed up because of his looks, so he would not interpret her offer of help as an attempt at flirting. Besides, Jane was from the first attracted to his personality, in spite of its brusqueness.

4.) What further information about Jane's personality, and her philosophy of life, do her paintings convey?

She's an introvert, first of all. People who can focus on a solitary task, such as reading or painting, tend to be introverts. Her paintings indicate that she also has a melancholy temperament, for  the images she has painted show that she has a rather morbid imagination. She would probably call herself a realist, but I would say instead that she's a pessimist. 

Here again I find her to be a marked contrast to Adele, who has a sanguine temperament. Adele, in contrast to Jane, is not given to brooding or introspection. She lives on the surface, after all. Not Jane, who is very much an inward-oriented person.

5.) What do you think is the real purpose of Mr. Rochester's interview of Jane? Or do you think it's the typical interview an employer would conduct, when hiring a new domestic employee?

I think that he has already felt an attraction to Jane, and is trying to find out more about her personality. His interview is certainly not the typical one for a domestic employee. The types of questions he asks her, the observations he makes, are not those of a prospective employer, but of a man who feels an attraction to a woman, and wants to know her more deeply.

6.) Do you see any hints of foreshadowing in Chapter 14? Please explain.

I definitely do! New readers might not catch them, as I didn't, when I first read the novel, but, of course, I'm well aware of them during this second reading.

These hints are to be found in Rochester's statements to Jane in this chapter. 

For instance, he says the following: 

"Besides, since happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life: and I will get it, cost what it may."

Other hints are the following:

"I scarcely think the notion that flittered across my brain was an error. I believe it was an inspiration rather than a temptation: it was very genial, very soothing -- I know that. Here it comes again! It is no devil, I assure you: or if it be, it has put on the robes of an angel of light. I think I must admit so fair a guest when it asks entrance to my heart."

Jane warns him that this is not a true angel, but he persists, insisting that his actions will be right because he has declared them so.

"I don't doubt myself: I know what my aim is, what my motives are, and at this moment I pass a law, unalterable as that of the Medes and Persians, that both are right."

Jane then reminds him that he is "human and fallible", adding the following:

"The human and fallible should not arrogate a power with which the divine and perfect alone can be safely entrusted."

Rochester asks, "What power?"

To which Jane replies:

"That of saying of any strange, unsanctioned line of action, -- 'let it be right'." 

In hindsight, having read this novel before, I would say that it seems clear that Rochester is considering taking a course of action that will bring him society's disapproval, as it will be a of an immoral nature. He is here declaring that he will take this action no matter what, because he has decided that his motives are right. In other words, "the end justifies the means". 


Discussion Questions for 
Next Week: Chapters 15 - 19
(Questions Provided by
Babbling Books)

1.) Rochester seems to be a very strong personality. Is it surprising that he would become enamored with someone like Celine Varens?

2.) We find that Thornfield Hall is a place with strange servants, where demonic laughter is heard and mysterious fires are set. Are these just clever and atmospheric plot devices, or is Bronte saying something more

3.) At one point, Jane rebukes herself as a result of her attraction to Rochester, and resolves to suppress that attraction. Is this a realistic reaction of a person falling in love? Do people act this way in the real world and the present day?

4.) Jane believes that Rochester is planning on marrying for the benefit of connections. Is she assessing his character fairly? Based upon what we know about Rochester at this point, would a man like him enter into marriage for such reasons?

5.) At one point, Blanche Ingram insults and acts cruelly to a passive Jane. Rochester allows this to go on and he takes no action to stop it. What can be concluded from his behavior?

6.) Rochester disguises himself as a fortuneteller deceiving Jane and several other characters. Is this the act of a trustworthy person? In reality, can someone who acted this way ever be worthy of trust? 

Post & Reading Schedule

Announcement/Signup Post
Sept. 9th
A Night's Dream of Books
Babbling Books

Week 1: Sept. 22nd

Reading: Chapters 1 - 5
Thoughts on Reading Jane Eyre 
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 2: Sept. 29th

Reading: Chapters 6 -10
Discussion Questions: Chapters 1 - 5
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 3: Oct. 6th

Reading: Chapters 11 - 14
Discussion Questions: Chapters 6 - 10
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 4: Oct. 13th

Reading: Chapters 15 - 19
Discussion Questions: Chapters 11 - 14
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 5: Oct. 20th

Reading: Chapters 20 - 23
Discussion Questions: Chapters 15 - 19
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 6: Oct. 27th

Reading: Chapters 24 - 28
Discussion Questions: Chapters 20 - 23
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 7: Nov. 3rd

Reading: Chapters 29 - 33
Discussion Questions: Chapters 24 - 28
Discussion Question for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 8: Nov. 10th

Reading: Chapters 34 - 38
Discussion Questions: Chapters 29 - 33
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 9: Nov. 17th

Discussion Questions, Chapters 34 - 38

Week 9: Nov. 21st

Book Reviews Posted

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  1. Once again you have provided fascinating insight into the book through your answers to these questions. The last question is particularly interesting because it focuses on what action we may suspect will happen as Rochester and Jane go forward. I also enjoyed the contrast between Adele and Jane which makes Jane an even more interesting character for me.

    1. Hi, James!

      Thanks for the compliment!!

      You know, it becomes very obvious, on a second reading, that these statements made by Rochester are all leading up to something. He's planning something, and later events will bear this out. Of course, this section of the book would be just as puzzling to a first-time reader as it was to Jane herself.

      Again, I didn't pay much attention to this contrast between Adele and Jane on my first reading, but now it's pretty obvious. I also suspect that Bronte didn't have much liking for the French. In fact, one of the editions I own warns parents that the views expressed in the novel do not reflect current views regarding prejudice. I must admit that I don't like Rochester obvious indifference to Adele, or the disparaging remarks he sometimes makes about her. Thankfully, Jane, in spite of her negative comments about Adele, does seem to have a higher regard for her.

      Thanks for the great comment!! : )

  2. Great insights as usual Maria.

    I love your observation that about what the roles that Jane and Adele would have in our present day educational system.

    I think that your observation concerning the fact that Jane might not have helped Rochester had he been conventional handsome is on the money. She is attempting to project an outward appearance of someone who is different. Perhaps she actually would have helped him anyway, but she wants it known that it has nothing to do with his looks.

    It is interesting that we both explained what a "Gytrash" is. Folklore is very important in this book.

    1. Hi, Brian!

      Thanks for the compliment!

      I guess I got this insight from reading so many YA novels. Lol. But it struck suddenly. I do believe these are the roles Adele and Jane would have had, had they been of the same age, in modern-day high school. Glad you liked my comparison!

      I'm glad you agree regarding Jane's reason for saying that she would not have helped Rochester, had he been conventionally handsome. And yes, she wanted to be seen as different, particularly from other women. She was a serious person. She is markedly different from Blanche Ingram, for instance. (I heartily detest Blanche!)

      Yes, folklore is indeed very important in this book! I really enjoyed the otherworldly atmosphere Bronte set up for the meeting of Jane and Rochester.

      Thanks for the terrific comment!! : )

  3. I like your insightful thoughts about the foreshadowing question. You know, I didn't really see the foreshadowing until I read the question. I had to re-listen to this chapter to make sure and sure was there.

    Great questions for this week, Maria!

    1. Hi, Vonnie,

      Yes, the foreshadowing elements in Chapter 14 are not that noticeable during a first reading. Only when one knows what happens later on, does one become aware of them. Of course, each re-reading of a classic usually reveals new things.

      Thanks for complimenting my questions, as well as for participating!


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