Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jane Eyre: Stages of Inquiry

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
These are some of the end-of-book inquiries from the Well-Educated Mind.

Grammar-Stage Inquiry
What is the book’s most important event?  The most important event is when Jane is to marry Mr. Rochester, and Mr. Mason declares that Mr. Rochester is already married, and she resides at Thornfield.  Jane’s life changes instantly.  She is forced to recognize her self-respect and lonliness and utilize her strength, independence, self-reliance, and courage.

Logic-Stage Inquiry
Is this novel a fable or chronicle?  Jane Eyre is set in real life, but Brontë introduces some fanatical elements like demonic laughing, ghostly images, hearing Mr. Rochester’s call from who knows how many miles away…yea, right!

What does the central character want, and what is standing in her way?  Jane wants family, liberty,  and to be loved.  On family: being an orphan and rejected by her aunt does not help; thus, she grows up knowing no other family or relative until she discovers that she has cousins, which is the joy of her life, even more than twenty thousand pounds. 

On liberty: she is a governess behind the walls of Thornfield, but she would love to travel beyond that and experience the world on her own; that would come sooner than later.

On love: being loved by Mr. Rochester, the way that he loves her, which is more than anyone will ever love Plain Jane, is a feat in itself because another wife is an obstacle, until she jumps to her death.  Divorce is not an option, and Mr. Rochester will not put his wife in an institution.  Jane must leave Thornfield, but it is the only thing to do given her Christian obedience; and she follows a life of independence and self-reliance until she hears Mr. Rochester call her.

The dreaded metaphors:  Here is one – fire.  Fire almost destroys Mr. Rochester, and after Jane saves him from nearly perishing in the fire set by his deranged wife, Rochester recalls seeing Jane’s eyes for the first time: “…their expression and smile did not…strike delight to my very inmost heart so for nothing.”  And Jane describes “strange fire in his look.”  Mr. Rochester’s passion for Jane?

In addition, long after she has gone, she tells how she has dreams of her love of Mr. Rochester “…the hope of passing a lifetime at his side, would be renewed, with all its first force and fire.”  Jane’s passion for Mr. Rochester?

Certainly, the destruction of Thornfield by fire gives a sense of end to their passion or a change to what will be their renewed relationship.

And the tree that is struck by lightening after they meet in the garden where Rochester proposes: a sign of things to come.  Yet, when they are reunited, the tree was not completely destroyed, only damaged, and was held together by its roots.  Their love was not entirely ended, only hindered for a time, and saved or recommitted by its deep-rooted, genuine love.

Rhetoric-Stage Reading
Is there an argument in this book?  And do you agree?  Well, if the author is trying to make an argument about marriage, it can be somewhat confusing.  Bertha Mason Rochester has gone mad and is living, if you call it that, locked up at Thornfield.  Is that an indication of married life, or just married life with Mr. Rochester? 

Jane would have married Mr. Rochester the first time because she knew that he loved her deeply.  She thought she would never have an opportunity to meet someone who would have loved her as he had.  The odds were against her. 

When that fell through, and she met up with the Rivers, and St. John wanted her to marry him just to be a partner, she was incensed.  How could he be satisfied in marriage when there is no love or just “enough” love?

Arranged marriages made by others outside the union, for money, for class, for status, for power, for positions, for working partnerships, are disastrous; we have the proof!

Marriage is for love. Deep, passionate, on-fire love between two people who see each other as equals and can function as one.  Period. 

Yea, I agree.


Tonia said...

Did you enjoy the book? It's one of my favorites so far. I think that, had she married Rochester the first time (if there had been no impediments) she would always be "lesser" since, class-wise during that time she was still a penniless orphan and a governess.

When she returns to him the second time, she has the power, so-to-speak, and their roles are reversed. At that time, they are equals.

I love the imagery of the tree - I never made that connection when I read the book.

Ruth said...

I have to agree that the inheritance did make a difference, as well as his physical misfortune, causing an equality in status and giving her the "upper hand"; although I think Brontë wants us to think of the equality to be in their souls: remember Rochester claiming to appeal to her spirit right before he proposed?

Anyway, YES, I really enjoyed the book. It will be one of my favorites now, too.

Christine said...

Wowza. I step away from the computer for end-of-the-school-year-craziness and you start and finish a book?! That. was. quick! I sped through JE too. Congrats on completing another novel.

Ruth said...

I feel like this one took forever, but I think it was because I was so anxious to know what was going to happen, that I could not read fast enough.

Christine said...

I understand. It while reading JE that I abandoned journaling for a while so that I could read faster. That came back to bite me in the end when after finishing the book, I had to go back and catch up on half of a novel's-worth of journalling. Blech!

Ruth said...

Oh, no. JE is so complex. That must have been like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't considered the fire metaphor when reading this some time ago. Of course I noticed the major fire events, but hadn't noticed the smaller 'hints' of it. Thank you for pointing that out. -Sarah