Monday, November 3, 2014

The 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along: Week 7 -- Chapters 24 - 28

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

Jane Eyre
Trade Paperback, 752 pages
The Modern Library New York
November 14, 2000
Classics, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Week 7 Discussion Questions:
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?

England is a land steeped in myth and legend. The stories of King Arthur, fairy lore....these things are part of the English character. The wild English landscapes, with their dark forests and sweeping moors, lend themselves well to such magical tales.

Jane and Rochester have both received fine educations, so they are not only familiar with  English mythology, which is of Celtic origin, but with classical Greek and Roman mythology, as well as Biblical stories. 

Rochester frequently refers to Jane as 'an elf ', 'a fairy', and 'an angel'. He also mentions the 'witchery' with which she has 'conquered' him, while Jane compares his lover's ardor to that of Hercules, Samson, and King Ahasuerus.

All of this talk is simply that of two lovers  in the first stages of their relationship. Nowadays, of course, dating couples would not talk this way. In the middle of the 19th-century, however, such talk would have been deemed appropriate for well-educated people who loved to read, as both Jane and Rochester did.

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?  

Jane doesn't want him to attempt to put her in the category of a woman who will enchant him with her physical charms alone. She wants him to take her seriously. (Although ironically, a few paragraphs earlier, he had told her that he does not wish to be with such a woman.) Also, she doesn't want him to adorn  her with jewels, for then she would resemble the vain, silly, and frivolous Celine and Blanche.

In her anger, however, Jane has missed the point of Rochester's reference to the slave girl; he was saying that he prefers Jane to such a woman. 

The whole exchange turns into playful bantering, which means they are relating to each other more like equals now. This is clear from Rochester's statement to Jane that "your station is in my heart". 

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?

I think this might be symbolic of the way Jane is trying to sort out her thoughts. She's very nervous about her impending marriage to Mr. Rochester; she can't quite believe it's really going to happen. So the sorting of the apples is a way for her to sift everything through in her mind, and also try to calm herself by engaging in such a simple, menial activity. 

This apple-sorting also reminds me of the little ritual some young teen girls might still engage in, of saying, "He loves me, he loves me not", as they pluck petals from a daisy.
4.) In Chapter 25, Jane relates to Rochester several of her dreams. What do you make of them?

These are another case of foreshadowing. Jane's unconscious mind perceives what her conscious mind does not -- that there is indeed a barrier between her and Rochester. 

Both dreams have the same theme -- she and Rochester are being separated. The gusty wind, the dark night, these are symbols of the shock and sense of betrayal she will feel, once she finds out the truth of the mystery of Thornfield Hall. 

As for the little child, it could be Jane herself -- her inner child, which still feels abandoned and lost in the world. If this is indeed what the child represents, then Bronte was way ahead of her time. This concept is common in today's psychological terminology, but not in Bronte's era. 

Another interpretation of the symbol of the child is that she is Bertha Mason, who, since she's insane, is really like a child. Thus, Bertha hangs around Jane's neck, impeding her progress in the storm-tossed dream. 

The inner-child interpretation also involves Jane's progress being impeded; Jane is still unconsciously carrying around her inner wounds, which will soon be revived when she experiences Rochester's betrayal. 

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

In one sense, I feel pity and sympathy for him. He was tricked into marrying Bertha, and, with his inexperience, fell into the trap. Of course he would feel attracted to Jane, after his hellish experiences with Bertha, whom he even refers to at one point as unfaithful. Jane was a welcome balm to his spirit. So, in a way, I can't say I blame him for wanting to marry Jane no matter what, desperate as he was to escape the clutches of a woman who could not be a proper wife to him.

On the other hand, I don't like the way he deceived Jane. This shows a certain Machiavellian tendency in him; he's trying to make the end justify the means. This is what I referred to in an earlier  post, when Rochester told Jane that he would declare an action to be right, and Jane told him that no mere human being had the authority to do such a thing.

Rochester is also trying to justify the whole thing to himself. Down deep, he knows that what he's doing is wrong, but convinces himself that, since he loves Jane deeply, and will treat her with all the kindness she deserves, he will be able to compensate, or even atone, for his actions in deceiving her, as for the great moral wrong of adultery.

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

She definitely did the right thing. Instead of giving in to the turbulent emotions she was feeling, she stuck by her principles. She was true to herself. Had she not done so, she would have lived with guilt and regret for the rest of her life. 

It's never wise to go against the dictates of one's own conscience. Jane knew very well, since she was brought up in the Christian faith, that adultery, for whatever reason, is wrong. It  can't be justified. She simply could not tolerate the thought of becoming Mr. Rochester's mistress, thus violating her own moral standards. So she did the only honorable, and courageous thing, she could possibly do.

This is the true test of a person's integrity -- that they stand firm precisely when it's most difficult to do so. And this is precisely the main reason that Jane Eyre is such a great novel.


Discussion Questions for 
Next Week: Chapters 29 - 33
(Questions Provided by
A Night's Dream of Books)

1.) St. John Rivers makes the following very blunt statement about Jane, in Chapter 29: "Ill or well, she would always be plain. The grace and harmony of beauty are quite wanting in those features." What does this tell you about him, especially in light of subsequent chapters?

2.) Do you think the fact that St. John and his sisters turn out to be Jane's cousins, and that Jane is now an heiress, is much too coincidental?  

3.) Why do you think Bronte gives Jane three more cousins, and precisely two females and one male, as with her Gateshead cousins?

4.) Why do you think Jane tries to convince St. John to marry Rosamond, and give up his dream of becoming a missionary?

5.)How would you contrast the landscape surrounding Moor House with that surrounding Thornfield Hall, and what is the purpose of this?

6.) Bronte dedicates many pages to describing St. John's personality. Why do you think she does this? 

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 comments as always.

    Your point about Jane missing some of Rochester;s intent with the slave girl comment is valid. It is something that I missed.

    I completely share your feelings about Rochester's deception. I feel that I understand it and I feel terribly sorry for him. At the same time I hate that he did it.I really like your use of the word "Machiavellian".

    I had trouble trying to figure out the meaning of the child in Jane's dream. I think that you may be on to something speculating that it represents Bertha.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      Thanks for the compliment! As you can see, I LOVE to analyze this novel! I have found depths of meaning in it that I wasn't expecting to discover.

      I think that Jane reacted too strongly to Rochester's joke about the Turkish slave girl, and do feel that, in her surge of anger, she didn't realize it was indeed a joke, and that he was telling her that he preferred HER to any Turkish slave girls, no matter what their sensual delights. But don't feel bad about missing this. I had to read the entire passage twice to catch this myself. And I would probably have reacted just like Jane did, had I been in her situation. Lol.

      I'm glad you feel as I do about Rochester's deception. Yes, this does elicit mixed feelings.... The word "Machiavellian" certainly fits his behavior, even though he thought he could make up for it with his good intentions. Thanks for this compliment, as well!

      You know, I think I read something somewhere about the child symbolizing Jane herself as a child. However, I don't know how I got the idea about the child being Bertha Mason. It just hit me all of a sudden.

      Thanks for such a wonderful comment!! : )

  2. Thank you for informative comments that enhance my understanding of the novel. I especially appreciate the reference to mythology in England. Their education no doubt played a role in their comments.
    I took a bit more serious view of Rochester's banter, playful though it may be. However, I share Brian's view about your interpretation of the child in the dream.

    1. Hi, James!

      Oh, you're very welcome! But you know, as I told Brian above, I have discovered depths of meaning to this nove,l in this second reading, that I wasn't really aware of before!

      English mythology is indeed fascinating! I do wish I had more knowledge of it. I'm familiar with the Arthurian legends, of course, and that they're based on "The Mabinogion". I also know a little about Celtic myth. I believe these things had a lot of influence on English 19th-century literature, including "Jane Eyre". Besides, Charlotte Bronte and her siblings created a fantasy world through stories they wrote in their childhood. I have just come across a link regarding her mixing of fantasy and realism in "Jane Eyre", which I will also leave in my comment on your blog:

      I will be very interested to read about your interpretation of Rochester's banter, when I visit your blog post.

      I'm glad that you and Brian agree with my interpretation of the child in Jane's dream. As I told Brian, this hit me all of a sudden. I guess I was somehow tapping into the archetypal collective unconscious. Hmmmm....

      Thanks for the wonderful comment!! :)


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