Monthly Archives: January 2010

Our Jane Eyre Gathering

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The gathering this month was a fun one.  We discussed everything about Jane Eyre – the position of women in society, Jane’s need for independence, passion in relationships.  It was all so very interesting to hear the various comments from our group.  But as everyone spoke, my eyes wandered to the variety of books on the table.  The different editions were as different as the women that sat around the table.

Beginning with my edition, illustrated by Dame Darcy.  Darcy selectively illustrates scenes from the novel.  The illustrations are very Tim Burton-esque black ink drawings.  It is a great book, if not just heavy from the extra pages and the color illustrations.  Two women at the table have gone digital.  They held their Kindle’s in front of them, proud that they had only paid 99 cents for their novel.  Just for future knowledge classic novels are more than a reasonable price.

Adrianne has a beautiful hardcover black with red flowers.  Although, she confesses, reading half the novel digitally for convenience.  Her version has informative annotations, explaining the words and traditions of the time.  Elke seems to have a college edition, since it is largely composed of chapters about historical facts of the time, including a whole section on Jamaica.  Blanca has the traditional library version with the plastic wrapped hardcover.   Ana’s version is small and simple, no extra chapters and no annotations.  It is very convenient to carry.

So many versions of this one novel are in one place.  It does make a comment on where we are as a literary society. There are so many that are concerned about the state of our literary-ness in this world.  I believe that this collection of women and their many ways to carry a book is a good sign.  It means we all still read.  It means we all still want to read every thing from the latest Jodi Picoult novel to the various versions old classics.  To me it means that there are still so many people who like to read as much as, if not more, than I do.

Let’s talk about Jane

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These are  from the Penguin Publisher site so the page numbers only correspond if you have that version.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Why does Brontë juxtapose Jane’s musings about women’s social restraints with the mysterious laugh that Jane attributes to Grace Poole (p. 125-26)?
  2. Rochester tells Jane, “if you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours; Nature did it” (p. 153-54). Are we intended to agree or disagree with this statement?
  3. After Mason’s visit to Thornfield, Jane asks herself, “What crime was this, that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by the owner?” (p. 237). What crime does Bertha represent? Why does Rochester keep her at Thornfield?
  4. Does Rochester ever actually intend to marry Blanche Ingram? If so, when does he change his mind? If not, why does he go to such lengths to make Jane believe he does?
  5. Rochester’s disastrous marriage to Bertha was based on passion, while St. John refuses to marry Rosamund because of his passion for her. What is Brontë saying about the role passion should play in marriage?
  6. What does St. John feel for Jane? Why does Jane end her story with his prayer?
  7. Jane asserts her equality to Rochester (p. 284), and St. John (p. 452). What does Jane mean by equality, and why is it so important to her?
  8. When Jane first appears at Moor House, Hannah assumes she is a prostitute, but St. John and his sisters do not. What distinguishes the characters who misjudge Jane from those who recognize her true nature?
  9. When Jane hears Rochester’s voice calling while he is miles away, she says the phenomenon “is the work of nature” (p. 467). What does she mean by this? What are we intended to conclude about the meaning of this experience?
  10. Brontë populates the novel with many female characters roughly the same age as JaneGeorgiana and Eliza Reed, Helen Burns, Blanche Ingram, Mary and Diana Rivers, and Rosamund Oliver. How do comparisons with these characters shape the reader’s understanding of Jane’s character?
  11. What is the balance of power between Jane and Rochester when they marry? Does this balance change from the beginning of the marriage to the time ten years later that Jane describes at the end of the novel (p. 500-501)?

For Further Reflection

  1. In a romantic relationship, does one partner inevitably dominate the other?
  2. Should an individual who holds a position of authority be granted the respect of others, regardless of his or her character?