Monday, November 17, 2014

The 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along: Week 9, Chapters 34 - 38

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

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte
(Norton Critical Edition) 
Trade Paperback, 385 pages
W.W. Norton & Company
December 13, 2000
Classics, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Week 9 Discussion Questions:
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?

I honestly find it incredible that Rivers would propose such a match to Jane. It tells me that he has twisted the  message of the Bible, for the Song of Solomon, in the Old Testament, is very sensuous, and speaks highly of conjugal love. Besides, there's a verse somewhere about a man and his wife becoming "one flesh". (I don't recall the exact verse.) How could Jane, or indeed any sane woman, possibly become "one flesh" with a man as stern and cold as Rivers?

I think Rivers is interpreting the Bible in a very negative, life-denying way. This is evident from the sermon Jane heard him preach on one occasion. She did not feel comforted or full of enthusiasm by his words.

Rivers's marriage proposal is cold and detached. He does not love Jane. Besides, even though she's a strong personality, he would eventually have worn  her down with his constant striving to do more and more to evangelize the people in India. In short, he's only thinking of his own plans and goals, and has absolutely no consideration for her. In fact, he's not even acting like a Christian. Instead, he's trying to bend her to his will.   

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

Oh, this is a great question! They are different in certain ways, but in two very important ways they are completely alike: they both have very dominating, strong personalities. Also, both of them try --  very hard -- to get Jane to do what they each want her to do. The fact that Rochester's proposal is immoral, while Rivers's is within the tenets of Christianity, is totally irrelevant here. They both try to bend Jane to their will, without taking into account her own wishes in each situation. They are both selfish in their unreasonable requests. Jane could no more enter into a loveless marriage, than she could accept the degradation of becoming a man's mistress.

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?

To a degree, yes, it is surprising. On the other hand, Jane did believe that Rivers was sincere in his goal, and, as a Christian, she did think it was a worthwhile one. What she didn't agree with was Rivers's stern attitude of self-denial.  She certainly didn't want to live his brand of Christianity. 

In spite of all this, she almost accepted his proposal because she had a very pessimistic attitude regarding the possibility of ever being reunited with Rochester. She had resigned herself to living without him. Therefore, she probably reasoned that she might as well join Rivers in  a cause she saw as noble and good, even though it was one that would have had terrible physical and emotional effects on her. 

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

When I first read this part of the novel, years ago, I got goosebumps, and, of course, loved this incident! This is very much a part of the Romantic aesthetic, as well as being romantic with a lower-case "r". I believe that there are indeed psychic connections between people, especially people who passionately love each other. This is a mysterious part of life. I do think it's entirely possible for something like this to happen.

Bronte's use of this incident is melodramatic, but yet, deliciously so! Also, it has the desired effect, breaking the spell that Rivers had woven over Jane. That voice spoke directly to Jane's heart and soul. Only Rochester's voice could have affected her so deeply.

I was thrilled all over again, the second time around! 

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?

This is very interesting speculation! It all depends on Rochester's attitude after the fire. He was seriously injured, after all. Perhaps he would not have insisted again that Jane become his mistress, but I'm sure he would have asked her to be his nurse. She would probably have refused even that, though. 

Since she is now an heiress, I believe Jane would simply have gone off on her own, refusing to fall into Rivers's arms as an alternative. Since she is not the type of person to "sit back and take it easy" just because she's now rich, I think  she would have opened her own school for orphans, and even become one of its teachers. She would most likely have taken in Adele as one of her first pupils. 

I don't think she would have cut off Rochester completely. She would have visited him from time to time, but would always have made sure that she was never left alone with him. For this purpose, I think she would have taken one of her cousins with her. Of course, she would never have accepted his extended hospitality. Instead of staying for any length of time at Ferndean, she would have left for the nearest hotel as soon as night began to fall.

I also think she would have offered to pay for some of Bertha's expenses, going as far as to get  the poor woman the best medical care, but never sending her off to a mental hospital. Such hospitals had a terrible reputation at the time. Rochester would have refused, naturally, but only at first. Jane would have told him that Bertha was not being properly cared for, which was indeed true; Grace Poole was not an effective "nurse" or caretaker. In his transformed condition, Rochester would finally have agreed.

There's no telling how long Bertha would have survived -- perhaps years, with the proper care. Jane would have remained firm in her conviction to have no sexual relationship with Rochester until after Bertha's death. Both of them would have suffered greatly with this situation, no doubt about it. There's a slight possibility that, with the passage of time, Jane would have finally given in. Knowing her personality, though, something absolutely terrible would have to happen for her to finally accept Rochester's proposition. That something might very well be his suddenly becoming seriously ill, and in  danger of death. I can see her giving in if she were faced with the prospect of never seeing him again looming before her.   

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

His serious injuries have totally transformed him. He has now seen and accepted that he has lived a very immoral life, for, while married to Bertha, he had three mistresses. Furthermore, he now understands that he wanted to override Jane's very firm moral principles, in spite of her opposition. He is, therefore, a much more humble man, one willing to accept that he has transgressed against God and society. 

He still loves Jane madly, and wishes nothing more than to be with her  as her husband. It's very touching, the way he now accepts her help  without complaint, whereas, when he  fell off his horse, at his first meeting with Jane, he was actually upset that he needed the help of  "a mere slip of a girl".

Rochester is also a much gentler man. Upon being reunited with her, he develops a very mellow appreciation for the beauties of nature, and becomes much more optimistic. Under her tender care, he becomes very content indeed.

I do miss the old, fiery Rochester, although I don't like the way he deceived Jane, as well as his other transgressions. The comparison between him and an eagle is a very apt one. Who would not feel sad to see a mighty eagle, once king of the skies, humbled to the level of a tiny sparrow?  
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?

When I first read this novel years ago, I was, naturally, ecstatic that Jane and Rochester had reunited, and then lived "happily ever after". However, I was shocked at the injuries Rochester received in the fire at Thornfield Hall. I tried to overlook that at the time. During this second reading, however, I have had to deal with it, and it really bothers me. 

I have come to the conclusion that Bronte went too far in subjecting Rochester to such traumatizing injuries. I could have accepted that he was unable to walk for a year, or something to that effect. But his injuries are horrible. It doesn't matter that he later recovers sight in one eye. 

I don't think it was at all necessary for Bronte to have her character suffer like this. That he had to be injured in some way, in order for him to undergo a transformation, is understandable, but what she did to him..... I think it was very cruel of her. 

Misogynistic men can very well point at this aspect of the novel, and accuse Bronte of trying to emasculate her once proud, Byronic hero. She should have anticipated such a reaction, and not left herself open to this type of criticism, in my honest opinion. 

Even Jane herself tells Rochester that she "likes him better now", when he has to depend on her, than previously, when he was proud and trying to impose his will on her. It seems as if Bronte is saying that a woman in her time could only have a relationship with a man if he was incapacitated in some way, and therefore, needed her. 

I like everything in moderation. Politically, I am a centrist. Therefore, I neither like men to be dominant over women, or women  to be dominant over men. So, although I still love Rochester as a character, this is a "tamed" version of him. In other words, before Jane left Thornfield Hall, the power balance was in Rochester's favor. After she returns to him, it's in her favor. That should not be; there should be a perfect balance of power between the two of them. 

I am indeed happy that they finally wound up together, and were able to marry. Being a romantic at heart, of course this turn of events totally delights me! I just think  that this ending is a bittersweet one, and I am firmly convinced that it was totally unnecessary.  



Since this is the last week of
this read-along, there
will be no more discussion questions.
All participants will post
their reviews this Thursday, 11/21.
A Night's Dream of Books
Babbling Books
both thank the blogs that
have participated in this event!!


The last post of the read-along
will be on Monday, Nov. 24th,
instead of Friday, Nov. 21st.


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 10: Nov. 24th
(changed from Nov. 21st) 

Book Reviews Posted


  1. Hey Maria - I might need to seriously come back and leave multiple comments as your commentary is so interesting and perceptive I have so much to say about it. Furthermore there are such important points here that I do not want my responses to them to get muddled and mixed up.

    For now I want to talk about the diminished Rochester. I was so tempted to say the same thing. If you look at my comments I stopped short of concluding that he was diminished in such a way. If it is so, then Jane's character will would have, in the end, been even stronger then Rochester's. If this is so it has a profound impact on the characters, meaning and the themes of the book in all sorts of ways. Not only would Jane hold the balance of power, but as I have been arguing, I think it would say something about the balance of power in the Universe itself since there seems to be something symbolic between the two that represents something about the world itself.

    I am now leaning towards your interpretation, which I had previously considered but did not go as far as I should have. On the other hand maybe there is a little ambiguity here that is sometimes characteristic of great works.

    1. Hey, Brian,

      Thanks for the compliment! Much appreciated!!

      I think that, when you refer to "the balance of power in the Universe", you're actually talking about the yin and yang energies, right? It would be very interesting indeed if this is what Bronte was implying! I wonder if it was. Well, if so, then it would seem that, at the end of this novel, it's the yin energy that's in control.

      As I said above, I think the ending is a bittersweet one. Yes, Jane and Rochester are finally able to marry, but Rochester's injuries are horrible. Was this the necessary cost of his transformation? I am not at all satisfied with this turn of events!

      You refer to ambiguity in this novel. I think you're right, because the whole novel, as well as the ending, lends itself to different interpretations. And you're also right when you say that this is a characteristic of great works.

      I'm glad you've decided to post several comments about my post. Great idea! Thanks for this one!! : )

    2. Hi Maria -,Yin & Yang I think is a part of it. Though I do not know of Bronte would have put it that way. Do you say that Yin is dominant because of Rochester's pain and weakness? I will likely be developeing some of this in my wrap up post.

    3. Hi, Brian,

      Definitely Yin & Yang energies might be involved here. This concept was the first thing that came to mind when you mentioned "the balance of power in the Universe". I don't know whether Bronte was familiar with Eastern mystical ideas, but it could be possible..

  2. Hi Maria - I hope that you do not mind that I am dividing up some of my comments. I explained why I am doing so above. If you do not mind I will probably be back later or tomorrow with additional comments on your points.

    Though we foresaw the details a little differently, it is interesting that we both came down on side of a hypothetical situation where Bertha was still alive, where Jane remained in Rochester's life, but in a non Romantic and platonic way. As I keep harping on, it seems that her will is too strong for anything else. The details of how it would work out, which would be difficult, seem trivial compared to the larger concept here.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      No, I certainly don't mind; I think it's a great idea!

      Yes, we both agree that, were Bertha still alive, Jane would continue to be in Rochester's life, but in a platonic relationship with him. And yes, it would be difficult indeed for both of them. There might be several possible scenarios for how this would play out; I went with the first one that came to mind.

      Thanks for another great comment!! : )

  3. Thanks again for your insights into this novel. I find myself agreeing with your well-written answer about St John Rivers negative approach to Christianity. As for Jane's near accession to St John's proposal your comment about Jane's pessimism is a key point. And about hypothetically having to deal with Bertha I love the way you fleshed out the details of a possible solution to this impediment to Jane's marriage to Rochester. The novel continues to provide wonder for our imaginations.

    1. Hi, James!

      You're very welcome, and thanks for the compliments!

      I was very put off by Rivers even when I read the novel for the first time. Christians like him turn people off Christianity, just like Brocklehurst does!

      You know, upon reflection, I realized that Jane had given up hope of ever being reunited with Rochester, as well as being free to marry him. So she began to consider joining Rivers in a worthy cause, even if she felt it really wasn't for her. Thank God she heard Rochester's voice just as she was about to give in!

      Knowing Jane's personality well by now, I figured she would not be content to just become a part of "the idle rich". Besides, she has a very strong social conscience. So what better course of action for her to take, given her own sad childhood, than to try to give other orphans a brighter future? And she loves to teach, too!

      As for Bertha, Jane told Rochester, on one occasion, that he was being too hard on the woman. So I thought it reasonable that she (Jane) would want to have a hand in getting Bertha the very best medical care available at the time.

      I agree with you that this novel is an inexhaustible source of ideas! The more one delves into it, the more one finds!

      Thanks for the great comment!! : )


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