Monday, October 20, 2014

Jane Eyre Read-along: Week 5

Welcome to the fifth week of 
the 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along,
brought to you by

Introduction:  "My cherished preserver, good-night!"

Jane is awakened by a strange laugh in the night and finds that there is a fire in Mr. Rochester's bedroom.  She wakes him and quickly puts out the fire, drenching him in the process.  After some time of assessment the following interchange occurs:   

"You have saved my life:  I have a pleasure owing you so immense a debt.  I cannot say more.  Nothing else that has being would have been tolerable to me in the character of creditor for such an obligation:  but you:  it is different -- I feel your benefit no burden, Jane.
'Good-night again, sir.  There is no debt, benefit, burden, obligation, in the case.'
'I knew,' he continued, 'you would do me good in some way, at some time;  . . . My cherished preserver, good-night!"

This Week's Discussion Questions  
for  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?

I do not find it surprising that Mr. Rochester finds the appeal of Ms. Varens irresistible.  He is not the first to be in that situation.  It is a case of his passions overcoming his reason; in his case a "grande passion" as he tells Jane about the experience.  What he lacked in elegance, so he believed Ms. Varens thought, he made up for with his masculinity.  Unfortunately the affair was not meant to end well as he found her in the arms of another;  again, not the first man to experience the pain of being spurned by a fickle woman.

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? 

As a literary device this is part of the Gothic element in Jane Eyre.  While not an explicitly Gothic novel Jane Eyre has elements that were popular beginning in the late eighteenth century and into the nineteenth (among my favorites are novels by Mary Shelley and Ann Rafcliffe).  I believe these events contribute to the mystery surrounding Thornfield Hall and its owner.  They certainly continue to provide this reader with impetus to plunge forward sharing nervous wonder with Jane.

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 see this aspect of Jane as evidence of her uncertainty as to her relative position at Thornfield and in Mr. Rochester's life.  She seems unsure whether she should be satisfied with her position as Governess to Adele, thus not expecting anything more than any employee would from Mr. Rochester, or she should reasonably consider herself a potential "favorite" of Mr. Rochester and hope for a much more personal relationship.  The process she uses thinking this through seems very real as one Jane Eyre might consider, but perhaps a little cooler than may be typical for others.  In any case I loved her description of the process:

"When once more alone, I reviewed the information I had got;  looking into my heart, examined its thoughts and feelings, and endeavored to bring back with a strict hand such as had been straying through imagination's boundless and trackless waste, into the safe fold of common sense."

She has been hurt too often in her young life, by family and those from whom she should have received warmth and caring.  I am not surprised that she carefully tries to choose the "safe" approach with regard to Mr. Rochester.

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?

This seems like a reasonable choice for a man who has been betrayed by at least one woman when he let his passions override his reason (see Question 1).  I think that alone makes Jane's assessment reasonable based on the little else she really knows about him.  The assessment may also be based on her opinion about his social class in that a choice of marriage partner is more likely to be based on connections (or money) for someone of his station in society.  She may possibly be making a mistake in her assessment because of the mystery that seems to abound at Thornfield Hall, but maybe that is asking too much of her.

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?

This may be just another instance of the importance of social class overriding the more benevolent feelings that one might expect from Mr. Rochester.  He has nothing to gain with his peers from doing otherwise.  On the other hand Jane may be right about Rochester and he does not really care for her at all; not that I really believe that for a moment.

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 episode, for me, seems to further the mystery of the story.  It is clear that he feels a need to discover information about some of those at the party that he could not obtain in a more direct matter.  This may be a simple game;  but I rather think of it as a test of Jane in particular.  He may not feel that he has the sort of relationship with Jane (or Blanche) to do otherwise.  As for the matter of trust I would respond with a perhaps.  It would depend on the persons total character and I believe we have much more to learn about Mr. Rochester before making a judgement one way or the other.  I will look forward to learning more about his relationship with Mr. Mason in this regard.


Brian Joseph said...

Insightful analysis James.

As you mentioned it is really neat to read answers from various points of view.

I think that you mapped out very well as to why Jane would try to pull back from her feelings for Rochester.

So far yourself, Maria and me have all observed Rochester's tendency to "Test".

James said...


Thanks for your comment and the questions also.
I am fascinated by Jane's imagination and her thinking process. That and the growing mystery of Mr. Rochester's past make the story more suspenseful each week.

Maria Behar said...

I really like your answer to question #3. It's very true that Jane doesn't quite feel 'safe' with Rochester, since she is uncertain as to what her exact status is concerning him. Great point!

Your answer to question #4 is also very insightful. Interestingly, both of us focused on the Varens affair as influencing Rochester's present actions regarding women, but we approached this from different angles. I believe that, because of his unpleasant experience with Celine, Rochester has learned to tell the difference between a woman who is just manipulating him, and one who is being sincere with him, so he knows which to avoid. You believe that it's entirely logical for him to now choose to marry for materialistic reasons, precisely BECAUSE of his unhappy experience with Celine.

"Fascinating," comments Mr. Spock. (eyebrow raised) Lol.

It is indeed fascinating to see how different readers interpret things! And, both interpretations are entirely understandable, given the events being analyzed, past and present.

As for the last question, we both agree that Rochester is testing Jane, although you added that he also decided on the fortune-teller disguise in order to get information that he couldn't have gotten otherwise. Very true!

In short, we're all having a very productive, very insightful read-aong!

Thanks so much for participating!! : )

James said...


Thanks for your comments. I enjoy our sharing differing points of view along with similarities. The differences, in particular, enrich our understanding of the book. One can love Jane Eyre for a variety of reasons.