Welcome to the third week of
the 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along,
brought to you by
and Babbling Books!!
Introduction: "they spoke of books:"
In the chapters for the reading this week we find Jane at Lowood School with new sights and new persons. The best of Jane's new acquaintances are fellow student Helen Burns and their teacher Miss Temple. After a particularly hard day (as were most days) Miss Temple invites the girls to share a small, simple repast that she had saved for them and that Jane described as "nectar and ambrosia"; but the best part of the evening was the conversation:
"They conversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and times past; of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or guessed at; they spoke of books: how many they had read! What stores of knowledge they possessed!"
Week 3 Discussion Questions:
Chapters 6 - 10
(Questions provided by
1.) What are your impressions of the way Helen Burns endures punishment and abuse?
Helen has what I would characterize as a "stoic" attitude, but one that is very much based in a firm belief in God and the Bible. Helen tells Jane, "It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and, besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil." She appears to be meek as in those "blessed" ones that are said to inherit the earth; but in spite of her acceptance of punishment, or perhaps beside it, she is not unintelligent and thinks about both her own spirit and the impact her actions have on those around her. She even betrays admiration for Jane in the way that she smiles and looks upon her.
2.) What are your impressions of the way that Jane sees punishment and abuse in comparison to Helen?
Jane, in comparison with Helen, is almost her antithesis. She has a rebellious nature and is not ashamed of that, relying on her own standards of what is right rather than those of others (particularly Miss Scatcherd). Jane tells Helen, "I must dislike those who, whatever I do to please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish me unjustly. It is as natural that I should love those who show me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved." Thus Jane is more concerned with what she considers "just" and her own natural feelings of when punishment is "deserved" and when it is not. Unlike Helen whose reaction to abuse is to "love your enemies" Jane is focused on what is right. Her view seems Kantian in the sense that she sees actions as being defined by rules that apply the same to everyone, and will not accept injustice based on the teachings of the Bible.
3.) Would Mr. Brocklehurst have been a more realistic and interesting character had he been less overtly fanatical, cruel and hypocritical, and just deeply flawed, instead?
We see Brocklehurst through the eyes of Jane. While her lens may exaggerate the flaws of his character, they highlight the attitude of Jane, reinforcing the defining characteristics of her own defiant and daunting persona. Understood this way Brocklehurst, while a grotesque caricature, is infinitely more interesting than his slightly kinder and gentler doppelganger who does not appear in Jane's very personal narrative.
4.) Helen Burns exudes confidence and is sure of her personal beliefs. Do you find it realistic that a young person exhibits such traits?
Helen Burns' confidence and sureness in her personal beliefs seems to stem from a faith that she has developed well before Jane, and thus we the reader, meets her. That her faith can sustain such confidence I have little doubt. In her longest statement of faith Helen concludes with the words, "God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward. Why, then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness -- to glory?"
These words speak of a confidence within; a confidence that is based on a faith stronger than most of us may share. This is uncommon perhaps, but surely realistic from a romantic point of view.
5.) Miss Temple seems to influence Jane's personality and outlook on life during her stay at Lowood. Would Jane have developed differently without her influence?
I believe this is a question for which it is too early for us to know. As readers of Jane's narrative we have yet to see how Jane develops. It does appear that Jane continues to be observant and admires Miss Temple tremendously. Jane comments that "to her instruction I owed the best part of my acquirements; her friendship and society had been my continual solace; she had stood me in the stead of mother, governess, and latterly, companion."
Miss Temple's leaving Lowood removed the "tranquility" that she had brought to Jane, but also freed Jane to experience the "real world" outside of Lowood. This was the world that "awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils."
I am unsure whether Jane would have had this courage without the influence of Miss Temple, but I am sure that she has it for now and I hope she will continue to exhibit it in her new endeavor as she leaves Lowood.