Monday, November 10, 2014

The 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along: Week 8, Chapters 29 - 33

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

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte
(Classic Lines Series) 
Trade Paperback, 576 pages
Splinter Reprint Edition
March 6, 2012
Classics, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Week 8 Discussion Questions:
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?

In my opinion, especially in light of subsequent chapters, this reveals that Rivers has a hidden, passionate nature, which he is always trying to conceal by a harsh, cold exterior. Through this statement, he's inadvertently revealing that he can appreciate feminine beauty just as much as any other man. Although his statement is indeed very insensitive, he's not aware of that. It seems that he's evaluating Jane in a detached manner, as if he were making an observation on a painting, or a statue. He's not one to mince words, either. Since he's so rigidly disciplined himself, he expects everyone around him to be the same way. He doesn't like displays of strong emotion. 

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?

This novel has been criticized in the past because of these things, and I would have to agree, to a certain point. However, this particular development in the plot has all the characteristics of the Romantic aesthetic, which tends to the melodramatic. In defense of Bronte, I will say that she also has an idealistic view of reality (this is another Romantic characteristic), and she believes strongly in social justice. Besides, it's evident that she has created a subtle mixture of fantasy and realism in Jane Eyre.

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

I firmly believe that Bronte did this not only because of her great interest in social justice, but also for the purpose of balancing the personalities of each set of cousins. This is a literary device she has decided to use.

Eliza, Georgiana, and John Reed are the evil cousins, while Diana, Mary, and St. John are the good cousins. Each is contrasted with his/counterpart. Diana and Mary are interested in furthering their knowledge, and are kind-hearted. They are immediately ready to assist Jane, when the latter appears upon their doorstep. Eliza and Georgiana are entirely self-centered, and even attack each other. One is self-righteously religious, while the other is bitter and superficial. John Reed is cruel, gambles his family's money away, and ends his own life. St. John (interesting, the abbreviation "St." in front of his name) is a man dedicated to his activities as a clergyman; although he's very rigid in his rejection of earthly pleasures, he's a huge contrast to John Reed.

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

I think it's because Jane herself has suffered the loss of a love. Since she has such a passionate nature, she can't believe that St. John would simply throw love away, when his feelings for Rosamond are so obvious. Although Bronte does not state it directly, I think she implies that Jane also thinks that St. John hides a passionate nature underneath his harshness and coldness. The man thinks he must give up earthly love in pursuit of what he believes God has called him to do -- be a missionary. 

Eventually, Jane becomes convinced that she was wrong, that St. John and Rosamond would actually not be good for each other. He would definitely stifle Rosamond's bubbly personality, and she would suffer because of that.

There's another reason Jane tries to persuade St. John to change his plans; Diana and Mary would prefer him to stay in England, so they can be close to him. 

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

From Jane's descriptions, the grounds at Thornfield are beautiful, although there's a certain feeling of loneliness and isolation about them. From the roof of the house (what Mrs. Fairfax calls 'the leads'; this is a flat roof covered by sheets of lead, and is British terminology), fields full of lush vegetation can be seen. There's also a beautiful orchard close to the house.

Moor House is called just that because of the moors surrounding it. Although there is some vegetation, it's rather sparse.  

I think this contrast symbolizes the difference between Mr. Rochester's passionate personality, and Mr. Rivers's more restrained one. Rochester is a blooming, if solitary, orchard, while Rivers is a barren moor.

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

I believe she's doing this in order to compare him with Mr. Rochester, later on. She wants Jane -- and the reader --  to be able to contrast the two. Also, she's setting the scene for an interesting development that will come up in a later chapter.

Discussion Questions for 
Next Week: Chapters 34 - 38
(Questions Provided by
Babbling Books)

1.) The marriage that St. John Rivers proposes to Jane would be unconventional from an emotional point of view. What do you think about this hypothetical match?

2.) In what ways are St. John Rivers and Rochester alike?  

3.) Is it surprising that someone with the strength of character that Jane possesses would be so influenced by St. John Rivers as to almost accede to his marriage proposal?

4.) What do you think of the seemingly psychic connection that manifests itself between Jane and Rochester at a critical moment in the plot?

5.) What do you think would have happened if, upon her return to Rochester, Jane had found Rochester's first wife, Bertha, to be still alive?

6.) By the end of the novel, how has Rochester changed? 

Since this is the last set of questions for the Jane Eyre Read-Along, we have included an extra, "wrap-up" question at the end. Feel free to answer it or not.

7.) How satisfied are you with the ending of this novel?

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
Babbling Books

Week 9: Nov. 21st

Book Reviews Posted

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  1. Super insightful commentary as always Maria.

    I had not thought about a St. John Rivers possible secret inner passions but it might very well be there. Other such people have a very contradictory inner self. Perhaps he is over compensating.

    I really like your identification of the Romantic aesthetic. As I read more and more nineteenth century English literature, I am beginning to see and appreciate this.

    Jane realizing that St. John would stifle Rosamond is insightful on Jane’s part. He would indeed do that. I think he would suppress her to the point of misery.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      Thanks for the compliment!

      The possibility of Rivers hiding some very strong passions underneath that cold, hard exterior had not occurred to me before. But it's very evident in his cold assessment of Jane's overall personality and looks. It's also very evident in his reaction to Rosamond, whenever she is near. Jane, being a very perceptive person, finally realized that Rivers would stifle poor Rosamond, were they ever to get married. So Rosamond was very lucky that she didn't end up with him, after all!

      Thanks for the compliment regarding the Romantic aesthetic, as well. Yes, many 19th-century English novels are very much influenced by it.

      Thanks for the great comment!! : )

  2. I appreciate your insight about St John Rivers' internal passionate side. That is something that I thought he overcame with his rejection of Miss Oliver. Your comparison of the landscape around Thornfield Hall and Moor House with the owners' characters is astute.

    1. Hi, James!

      Oh, no, I'm sure that side of his nature will always be with him, and, in his fanaticism, he will always reject it, erroneously considering it a temptation away from his work as a missionary. Had he given in to this side of himself, he could have married Rosamond and done a lot of good right there in England, championing the cause of abused children, for instance.

      I should have mentioned something else about St. John, which has just hit me -- his missionary zeal might be due to his own pride, which is a mask for his lack of self-esteem. This is how he manifests his ambition -- by doing something that is sure to be noticed by God. It's almost as if he doesn't think he's quite good enough until he makes the ultimate sacrifice for God, giving up home and family to go to India to bring Christianity to the natives. And Bronte alludes to the fact that he will die an early death because of this. Instead, he could have married Rosamond, preached in his church, and become active in the cause of abused children. God would NOT have loved him any less because of that!

      In regards to the landscapes around Thornfield Hall and Moor House, I thought they perfectly mirrored the personalities of their owners.

      Thanks for the terrific comment, and for your compliments!! : )


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