Monday, October 20, 2014

The 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along, Week 5: Chapters 15 - 19

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

Jane Eyre
Trade Paperback, 592 pages
Barnes & Noble Classics
January 30,2005
Classics, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Week 5 Discussion Questions:
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?

In a way it is, and in another, it isn't. There's a certain type of woman who is well able to seduce even the strongest, most intelligent male personalities. Such women are shallow and vacuous, yet they somehow possess the skills necessary to trap a man in their web. Since Rochester was rather inexperienced at the time (as well as being a very passionate man), he fell into the trap. What some women have done (sadly, even intelligent women have had to resort to this throughout the centuries) is to use the double standard against men, through the power of sex.

I think it was Bronte's intention to point this out, through the character of Celine Varens, and she succeeded admirably!

Due to this experience, as well as others in his life, Rochester has become a very embittered man, making his personality even stronger, more dominating. Now, however, he can tell fool's gold from the real thing. It's very obvious that he can see right through Blanche Ingram, who, although not a 'professional courtesan', has much in common with Celine.

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

On one level, these are indeed plot devices, for they set the mood of the chapters dedicated to the events that take place at Thornfield Hall. They bring an oppressive, sinister atmosphere to the mansion.

On another level, these are clues as to the true nature of the mystery ensconced at the mansion.

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?

I think Jane's method for "getting Rochester out of her system" is influenced by her previous life experiences. She has been conditioned to believe that she is not really deserving of the good things in life. She feels she has to fight for anything she really wants. In the case of Rochester, however, there's something else influencing her: the class prejudice of the time. She knows that wealthy members of the titled class don't go around marrying their governesses.

With these two factors  influencing her thoughts, Jane resorts to the method of rebuking herself, which is influenced by yet another life experience -- the harsh discipline at Lowood, which is ascetic and self-denying.

Of course most people in   love wouldn't act this way nowadays, unless they had had childhoods as traumatic as Jane's, and even then, their approach wouldn't be the same. The whole courtship scene is vastly different at the present time. People drift in and out of relationships all the time in the 21st century, and, although certain prejudices still exist, people nowadays are free to fall in love with and marry anyone they please.
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?

It's very obvious that Jane is definitely not judging Rochester accurately. She should know by now that, having been duped once by Celine Varens, he would be alert to the manipulations and gold-digging of women similar to her. Blanche is pretty much a Celine clone; except for her upbringing, she might very well have  ended up being exactly like Celine.

The reason Jane is not assessing Rochester's character correctly, or fairly, is that, again, she has been conditioned to believe, because of the class prejudice she's familiar with, that he would never come to love, or consider marrying, someone of her station. It's much easier for her to  believe that he would actually marry Blanche for materialistic reasons, than that he might actually consider her (Jane) to be a suitable wife. Of course, she also doesn't think she deserves such happiness. In spite of her passionate, rebellious nature, Jane does have self-esteem issues.   

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?

In this second reading, I have become aware of an aspect of Rochester's character that really bothers me. He's a very devious, conniving fellow. He's constantly testing Jane in one way or another, to see if she's really what she seems to be -- a person of integrity, who is truly herself, and not some false persona. 

The fact that he does nothing to stop Blanche from indirectly making these cruel remarks to Jane is part of his plan to see who Jane really is. He wants to see Jane's reaction, to see if she would attempt to defend herself. Had Jane done so, she would of course have embarrassed him in front of his guests. So he saw that she was so loyal to him that she was willing to endure discomfort for his  sake.

Rochester certainly should have stepped in and said something to Blanche. Another reason he didn't do so was that he wanted Jane to think that he was courting Blanche. And why did he want her to think this? Because he wanted to see if she would become jealous.

I can understand that Rochester doesn't want to have a relationship with a woman  who is not genuine and sincere, but still, his behavior seems rather selfish, because he carries on with it for much longer than necessary. At this point, he should have known who Jane really is -- an intelligent, passionate, fiercely independent woman who holds firmly to the dictates of her own conscience.

In all fairness, he's not totally insensitive to Jane's feelings; he follows her when she leaves the drawing room, to ask her if there's anything wrong. He notices she's on the verge of tears, even though she denies feeling depressed. However, he restrains himself from actually comforting her, and declaring his love for her right then and there. I suppose his pride wouldn't allow him to express his true feelings for her at that point.

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? 

This question ties in with the previous one. Rochester's actions where Jane is concerned are all geared to finding out whether she is indeed who she appears to be. He keeps trying different ways of testing her, to see if he can catch her behaving in artificial ways, as Celine did, and as Blanche  does.

Of course, Jane doesn't realize what his motives are in putting her to the test, since she's not even aware that he is, in fact, constantly testing her. She is very puzzled by his behavior, though.

The fortune-telling episode is a rather strange one; yet, it's also very interesting. Rochester has found out what Blanche's true feelings are concerning a possible match between the two of them, and he lets Jane know about this. In his gypsy persona, he hints that she is not reaching out for what she wants: Mr. Rochester's love. This is evident in the following quote: "Chance has meted you a measure of happiness: that I know..... It depends on yourself to stretch out your hand, and take it up: but whether you will do so, is the problem I study."

I'm wondering whether, in addition to testing Jane, he is also telling her, in a subtle way, that she should value herself more highly. So it seems that he's using the gypsy disguise to let her know what he thinks of her, in a rather roundabout manner.

If I were in Jane's place, I certainly would not have liked this deception, and I don't think I would ever have trusted Rochester again. She takes this behavior much too calmly, I think. She should really be on her guard against him.


Discussion Questions for 
Next Week: Chapters 20 -23
(Questions Provided by
A Night's Dream of Books)

1.) The events of Chapter 20 are very strange, yet Jane does everything Rochester asks her to do, and continues to trust him, for the most part. She does ask him some questions, but makes no demands for an explanation of what's really going on at Thornfield, nor does she seek another position, in spite of her fears and inner doubts. How can her behavior be explained?

2.) Rochester pressures the doctor to rush Mason out of the house and away, even though the latter is seriously injured. What do you think of this action, and why he took it?  

3.) What do you think of Eliza and Georgiana as adults?

4.) Do you think Jane was right to forgive Mrs. Reed, in light of the important information the latter withheld from Jane for three years?

5.) What does Jane's impassioned speech to Mr. Rochester, while they're in the orchard, tell the reader about her?

6.) A terrible storm suddenly springs up, as Chapter 23 draws to a close. During the night, lightning strikes the horse-chestnut tree, at the base of which Jane and Rochester had sat earlier. The tree is split in two. Do you think this is a bad omen? If so, what do you think it means? 

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. Great analysis of the questions Maria.

    We both perceived Rochester's tendency to test as well as his tendency to be less then honest. Rochester is a remarkable character. Yet he certainly has flaws such as the tendency to deceive.

    He really does like to test. I do find an interesting trait, yet I do find it to be arrogant.

    You raise a really good point when it comes to Jane's tendency to believe herself unworthy of good things. I suppose that we would call that a self esteem issue today.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      Thanks for the compliment!!

      Yes, definitely Rochester is a very flawed character. And I totally agree with you that his tendency to test Jane is arrogant. After all, who set him up as judge and jury? As if he had no faults himself! But, of course, since he has been burned by women before, he thinks he has to make Jane "jump through some hoops", in a manner of speaking.

      It's truly amazing how much more one finds in a classic novel upon re-reading it! I never noticed before that Jane does have self-esteem issues. I always thought of her as very sure of herself, but she's actually quite shy and retiring. Rochester even pointed out, during his unusual interview of her, that she seemed afraid to say something that might be a "faux pas". Interesting that I hadn't remembered that; instead, I only remembered the other aspects of Jane's nature.

      In short, I'm greatly enjoying this analysis! Thanks for the great comment!! : )

  2. Once again your responses provide fine insights into the novel. I find myself agreeing strongly with your reference to the mystery of Thornfield Hall.
    And the importance of Jane's early experiences cannot be emphasized too much when assessing her actions with regard to Mr. Rochester. It seems we have more to learn about Rochester; perhaps with all his testing it is the reader that is being tested as well.

    1. Hi, James!

      Thanks for the compliment!!

      Yes, now I see that the fire-setting and demonic laughter were clues to what was the REAL mystery of Thornfield Hall. The first time I read this novel, the suspense was almost unbearable! I had no idea of what was coming, of course.

      Subsequent readings of a novel, especially a classic one, always bring new insights that were not obvious in a first reading. For instance, now I see clearly that Jane's previous life experiences have definitely conditioned her reactions and behavior toward Rochester. The same goes for him. It's just fascinating how people's different worldviews, which have been colored by their experiences, collide and clash. Jane assumed things about Mr. Rochester that were not true, while he did the same with her, although I do think that his assessment of Jane's personality is much more accurate than hers of his. I think that's mostly because Rochester is supremely sure of himself, whereas Jane is not. She does have self-esteem issues. Besides, the class prejudice of the time predisposed her to assume things about Rochester based on his station in life.

      Thanks so much for participating!! : )


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