Monday, October 27, 2014

The 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along, Week 6: Chapters 20 - 23

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

Jane Eyre
Trade Paperback, 624 page
Vintage Classics
(Movie Tie-In Edition)
February 8,2011
Classics, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Week 6 Discussion Questions:
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?

In a nutshell: she's in love with Rochester, and, as the saying goes, "love is blind". She's partially in denial about his behavior. The incident with Mason should have really alarmed her, especially when she saw the way Rochester hustled the man away. That should have been a big red flag to her that Rochester was hiding something HUGE, because he obviously didn't want his guests to find out that Mason had been injured.

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

This action speaks very badly of Rochester's character, because, in addition to being deceptive, he's endangering another person's life.          

The doctor is not very happy about Mason leaving so quickly, with such a serious injury. The man had lost quite a lot of blood, and was very weak. Rochester is obviously trying to conceal the incident from his guests. His actions regarding Mason display his willingness to be ruthless when trying to get something he wants very badly. For some reason, he cannot afford to have his guests know what's really going on.  

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

I think they're both very unpleasant people, each in her own way. They're also opposite ends of the spectrum; Eliza is overzealous in her religious faith. She's as rigid and hypocritically self-righteous as Brocklehurst. In fact, she could have been his daughter, the way she behaves! 

As for Georgiana, she's as vapid and superficial as Blanche and Celine. All she can  think  about is getting herself a wealthy husband. Eliza is right to criticize her, but still, she's no better, with her rigid behavior.

The way these two have turned out does not surprise me, as they reflect their mother's character, which is a combination of theirs. Mrs. Reed is hypocritically religious, rigid, and only concerned with her standing in society.

Bronte's portrayal of these two sisters also presents a marked contrast to Jane herself. Whereas Jane is kind and aware of the needs of others, her cousins think only of themselves. They judge each other very harshly, and indeed, don't act like sisters at all.

Another reason Bronte depicts the personalities of these sisters so unfavorably has to do with the situation of women  at that time. There weren't many options available for women who had no wealth. They had to become servants, marry well, or enter a convent. Jane and her cousins are the personifications of all three options.
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?

Christianity's moral code emphasizes forgiveness, especially of one's enemies, so of course this was the right thing for Jane to do. However, withholding such information was a despicable action for Mrs. Reed to engage in, considering all the mistreatment Jane had already suffered at her hands. Furthermore, Mrs. Reed even told Jane she had done this to "revenge" herself on Jane! Revenge herself for what?! Jane had done absolutely nothing to her! SHE was the one who acted unfairly toward an innocent child!

I do think that Bronte did not handle this part of the novel realistically. Jane should have felt very wounded when Mrs. Reed revealed this action to her, and should therefore have been more resentful, considering her past interactions with this woman. Instead, she acted exactly as Helen Burns would have, had she (Helen) still been alive. In fact, Jane handled her entire visit to her relatives in a very stoic manner, completely in contrast to  her own passionate nature. 

In spite of all of the above, I do admire Jane's forgiving behavior. It highlights her very positive traits of kindness, compassion, and firm adherence to true Christian values.  

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

First of all, Jane firmly believes in the equality of the sexes, as well as of social classes. This is very evident when she affirms that she has as much soul and heart as Rochester, adding that, if God had gifted her with some beauty and wealth, it would be just as hard for Rochester to leave her, as it was for her to have to  leave him. She sums everything up in the following passionate declaration: "I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; -- it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal, -- as we are!"

No modern feminist could have said it better! Jane clearly sees  that, in the spiritual world, men and women are truly equal. There are no class or gender barriers. These are artificial constructs of human society, which is imperfect. 

In addition to her feminist as well as socialist sentiments, Jane sees to the core of reality. The essence of a human being is to be found in the spirit. All other labels and categories foisted on people -- by their fellow human beings, sadly enough -- are merely artificial accretions that simply do not matter, in the final analysis. Even the Bible states somewhere that Man judges by exterior appearances, but God sees the heart. How ironic, then, that people who profess to be believing Christians -- such as Mr. Brocklehurst and Mrs. Reed -- should uphold these ridiculously unimportant things!

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

This is very obviously a case of the use of foreshadowing. The fact that Jane and Rochester sat together underneath the tree, and then that tree was split in two, is very significant. Yes, this is a very bad omen. The tree has become a symbol for the union of Jane and Rochester. The fact that it's now split in two can only mean one thing: they will be separated. 


Discussion Questions for 
Next Week: Chapters 24 -28
(Questions Provided by
Babbling Books)

1.) At several points both Rochester and Jane refer to each other in terms of mythical creatures and magic. Why do you think they do this?

2.) In Chapter 24, when Rochester jokingly compares Jane to a Turkish slave girl, Jane becomes indignant and replies sharply to him. Does this say anything about Jane's personality, and the relationship between the two?  

3.) At one point, after gazing at the damaged horse-chestnut tree, Jane gathers apples in the garden and remarks, "I employed myself in dividing the ripe from the unripe." Do you think that there is any significance to this?

4.) In Chapter 25, Jane relates to Rochester several of her dreams. What do you make of them?

5.) Rochester is revealed to have perpetrated a major deception on Jane regarding his first marriage. What does this say about him?

6.) What do you think of Jane's decision to flee from Rochester? 

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 responses as always Maria.

    You make some really good points about Jane's speech. It really says so much about society and people. It is indeed difficult for people to see the world how Jane sees it, yet in my opinion, she gets it on the money. This, I think, is another component of what I believe to be, a fairly comprehensive worldview that Bronte is building in this book.

    In terms of Jane;s forgiveness of Mrs. Reed, I sense that Jane is at the point where, even if she does not articulate it, she feels that it is time to move on.

    It is a really good observation that you make regarding the fact Eliza and Georgiana represent different aspects of their mothers personality.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      Thanks for your kind words: I greatly appreciate them!!

      I think that Jane's speech really sums up the book's basic themes. Yes, this is Bronte's worldview indeed, and it's a lofty one! Well, this is one of the reasons I love this book so much.

      I think you're very right about Jane feeling that she has to move on. I am a bit surprised, though, that she is able to do so as smoothly as she does. I would have expected her to feel more pain. Indeed, it seems to me that this would have been a very painful experience for her, especially with all the rejection she got at Mrs. Reed's bedside. Had I been in Jane's place, I know I would have suffered a lot from this. Mrs. Reed was so horribly cruel.....yes, I know she was dying, but for her to hold on to her hatred of Jane, even as she was leaving this world.....I guess Bronte wanted to tie this up neatly, so she could move on with the narrative.

      It has unfortunately been my own life experience that some people will always dislike you, no matter how nice you are to them. It's a mystery to me.....It would be entirely logical for someone to dislike you if you were nasty to them, and to like you if you were nice. But human beings are not entirely logical. (Mr. Spock knows this all too well, lol.) However, holding on to hatred and resentment until the last breath of life, ESPECIALLY when totally unwarranted......this is just incredible to me!! What did Jane ever do to that horrible woman? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. She didn't deserve the treatment she got from Mrs. Reed.

      I think it would have been more realistic for Jane to have taken more time to forgive this woman. Perhaps it was easier for her to do so, though, because she was already in love with Mr. Rochester, and that took precedence over any feelings of hurt and resentment from her past.

      I'm glad you liked my observation about Eliza and Georgiana. Yes, they are indeed the product of their mother's nasty, bigoted character!! It's amazing, the extent of the influence that woman had on her children. None of them turned out to be compassionate, kind people at all....

      Thanks for the AWESOME comment!! And so we continue to enjoy this GREAT masterpiece!! : )

  2. Your answers to this week's questions contain interesting points. I, too, appreciated your recognition that Eliza and Georgiana share certain traits from their mother.
    While you emphasized the Christian basis of Jane's forgiveness of Mrs. Reed more than I would, I strongly agree with your assessment that Jane's action is not realistic. This is not the first time we have encountered unrealistic behavior that may be a suggestion of a romantic or even fantastic bent to the novel.

    Rochester's actions in these chapters seem to add to the mystery of the novel - with the foreshadowing you observed being an important sign of more changes to come.

    1. Hi, James!

      Yes, definitely Eliza and Georgiana "inherited" different aspects of their mother's character. I am so glad I don't have any connection to such unpleasant people!

      I think that this novel is firmly based on Christian principles and doctrines -- the REAL ones, that is, not the ones espoused by the hypocritically self-righteous characters we have encountered within its pages. Indeed, these principles and doctrines have greatly influenced Jane's own personality. Still, I also think that Jane's behavior in regards to Mrs. Reed is not realistic, and I'm glad you agree! Jane was certainly no Helen Burns, so it does not seem characteristic of her to have forgiven Mrs. Reed so easily. Furthermore, Mrs. Reed hurt her VERY badly, and even continued to do so as she lay dying, in spite of Jane's solicitousness toward her. I just don't think Jane, or most people, for that matter, would have forgiven this hateful woman so quickly. Jane's action is indeed admirable, but just not very realistic,

      Yes, Rochester's actions certainly add to the mystery of this great novel! I have to say that I like him less, in this second reading, than I did in the first. I guess I romanticized him back It's so interesting how we read classics differently as we grow and progress!

      Charlotte Bronte, like all great writers, makes excellent use of techniques such as foreshadowing to further her plot. The one involving the horse-chestnut tree is especially effective.

      Thanks for the compliment, and the GREAT comment!! Thanks for participating, as well!! : )


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