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Monday, December 20, 2010

Jane Eyre VI -- chapter 6: EVERY KID WANTS TO BE JANE EYRE

Scottish Castle
Take a look at children's novels, or stories--within novels, or novels themselves--which include the realization of childish fantasies: nearly without exception there is escape involved.  Escape from home, from relations, from reality....  Whether the children involved come from strong families like Alice, or broken like Harry, children want to get away.  The escapist fantasy of leaving the mundanity, pressures (and, yes, contrary to silly adultish assumptions, there's big-time pressure for kids), confusion, cruelty, or whatever is ubiquitous.  I had a great childhood, and generally I entirely disregarded my parents, preferring instead the various worlds I created or read about.  But Jane Eyre is not, so far, any kind of fantasy, inasmuch as the connotation of the word tends to positive.  Even the  terrors of Wonderland are exciting and wonderful--or wondrous, at least--and I often went there and enjoyed myself.  The morbid and dreary reality of Jane Eyre seems to prevent it from achieving some similar sort of attraction, yet still it fits the bill.  What possible comfort is there for a kid in reading about Jane's terrible life and fantasizing it for him-/herself?

Reading Questions

  1. Teachers have pets and monsters, both are favorites; interesting that one can be both, depending on the teacher.
  2. What is the benefit of a place like Lowood, at least in the creation of one's person, self, and identity?
  3. Ah, little Helen Burns; a truly complex character at last!  I simply can't imagine she's as simple as the unilateral pedant she pretends, and the measures this farcical pretense requires, and what it must therefore cover up, indicates by necessity of its complexity.  Who is she--or, perhaps more accurately, what is she?  
  4. "Probably you would do nothing of the sort; but if you did, Mr. Brocklehurst would expel you from the school; that would be a great grief to your relations. 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."  Define "evil," both in context of the Bible (Romans 12:14-21) and Helen Burns's usage.
  5. Deliberately obtuse question: Who is the better teacher (considering a teacher's primary objective and perhaps disregarding method of execution), Miss Scatcherd or Miss Temple?  Bronte's choices for their names seems to indicate her own feelings, or intent at least to influence the reader's prejudice.
  6. “Yes, in a passive way: I make no effort; I follow as inclination guides me. There is no merit in such goodness.”
  7. Jane's response to this statement is interesting to me--that of striking back strong and hard to preclude further retaliation--and reminds me pointedly of Ender Wiggin from Ender's Game.
  8. Bronte Politics.  Which side do you believe Bronte herself is partial to, Jane's or Helen's?
  9. Any other thoughts about Jane and Helen's conversation?


  1. 2. I think the benefit is that these people are orphans and don't have proper guidance on how to become adults in terms of maturation, education, and even basic etiquette, and Lowood helps teach them these things.
    3. I think it's too early to tell. I think she's something beyond Jane, at least this point in the story. If there are things that you do not like that you cannot change, there are two ways of dealing with them. The first is Jane's reaction, which is to rebel, which probably just makes the situation worse since there's no hope of actually fixing it. The second is to bear it while internally holding onto one's own convictions. I think that this is what Helen is doing. We'll see, though.
    4. I think they're the same thing, although I'd be interested to see where you're going with this one. The idea is that enduring is ultimately a better thing than returning malice when someone wrongs you.
    5. I've had great teachers of both styles. I think either can work, but for different things. If the ability to think creatively is important, then it is Temple. But if the idea is to learn discipline, another important part of one's upbringing, it's Scratcherd.
    6-7. Yeah, I completely disagree with Jane here, although let me say, it's probably my natural reaction, and I follow it much more of the time than I would care to admit. But that's kind of a big point of Christ's teachings. If we all just lived by instinct and self-interest, the world wouldn't be a very good place--and, in fact, often isn't!
    8. Jane's. I read during the introduction that Bronte wrote to an author (can't remember the name, so much for him) who told her that women should not publish stories, and yet she's one of the most famous authors of all-time, so I think she is anything but traditional or passive. That being said, I think she realizes there's a certain sophistication or elevation of rebelliousness that needs to take place. I don't think she thinks that Jane is currently mature enough, but I can't imagine her saying that Helen has the solution.
    9. Really interesting footnote in the B&N version about, "Hope for All," which is apparently a sort of universalist creed, which would be horribly ironic given the almost Jonathan Edwards-style fire-and-brimstone of the school. It also suggests that Helen may not be who she claims to be. It would be hard to imagine anything much more subversive than disagreeing with the deeply held religious convictions of the school's leader.

  2. 3. Jane is an alien in a foreign land
    4. I think there are two issues here. First, there's a difference between evil intended and evil perceived. Jane is as little extra sensitive, at least compared to Helen, but that shouldn't matter, because I think the intent of the verses is directed toward the reaction: whatever you think is going on, be nice about it. One the other hand, are there not times when righteous indignation or anger are warranted? Isn't Jane maybe sometimes justified in responded so defensively? Of course, that might be beyond the scope of Paul's intent, as good and evil could potentially just refer to how we deal with a problem, not the roots of the problem itself--even if you're angry and even justifiably so, you are able to respond with caution and kindness. Thoughts?
    5. I wish that Bronte hadn't been quite so heavy-handed in her creation of these two teachers; they're so completely polar opposites. It's a little too easy that way. I wish she'd been a little more subtle.
    6. I am by nature much more a Helen than a Jane (or an Ender), but there are times when I wish I could manage otherwise. I'm a bit of a coward that way!
    9. That's the sense that I get so strongly from Helen. There's something bubbling under the surface, and I'm eager to see what it is. I think there's a good chance she is fighting desperately to conform to the edicts of the school in order to facilitate her survival, and that her true nature is actually much more like Jane's, just possibly more mature.

  3. 4. It's an interesting debate because I'm not sure the Bible is clear. Yes, there's the issue of dying on a cross, loving your enemies, etc., so that's kind of the (to use a poor choice of cliche here) "grin and bear it" school. But you also have Jesus turning over the tables in the temple, and, of course, the prophets, who are ALL righteously angry. Let me suggest a possible difference. Perhaps when an evil is directed toward you, the right thing to do is to suffer it. But when the evil is directed toward God or someone else, the right thing to do is to confront the person committing the evil. I don't know. It's something I've given a lot of thought to over the years, so I'd like to hear what you think.
    5. I mean, yeah, it's true, and I definitely have the same feeling in this story, but I don't understand why, because "Doubt" is one of my all-time favorites, and the teachers in there are polar opposites, too. Maybe you feel the same way about both, but I don't know. It seems to be bothering me more in this one, and I really have no idea why. Perhaps it's because I understand the nuns' motivation better than I do that of the teachers in this story.

  4. (in reverse)

    5. I think there's a lot unexplained so far in Jane Eyre that will become so as we move in deeper. A lot of stuff is happening and without the exposition so typical of someone like Steinbeck, who works dominantly in 3rd person omniscient. The limitations of true 1st person can work for and against a story. I'm guessing, because of its popularity and endurance, that things will become evident. We are confused right now because Jane is confused right now.

    4. I've had many discussions about this same topic over the years and, of course, particularly in church, and I think you're spot regarding the direction of anger: if the anger is directed at your, grin and bear it; if the anger is directed at God and you're in a position to do something about it, which, I think, is subjective, then defend and, if necessary, angrily. At the same time, and there have been times when I've agreed and disagreed with this (again, subjectivity of circumstances), in "Life of Pi," Pi talks about the pointlessness of defending God. Can't he do so himself? By the context there is defending God rather than taking care of your own spirituality.

    defend god....

  5. 4. Defending God is not about how God feels. I think God is just fine without our comfort. It's about defending God to other people. It's like every Sunday part of the Lutheran service is everyone says, "Glory to you, O Lord." It's not that God really needs to feel glorified. It's a positive affirmation that we show to ourselves and others that God is someone who is worthy of being glorified and followed. Worship and praise are both thanks and also showing other people what we all have to be thankful for, so that they too may celebrate God's love. I think that defending works in the same way. God obviously doesn't need to be defended, but defending God A)proves to ourselves that God exists/is just/whatever the case may be, and B)proves it to other people who may be more skeptical.
    5. I think there's a very good possibility that you're right, and I hope that's the case.

  6. I agree with you. My questions were rhetorical. I think my main point is that there is a balance in where you draw the line of how vehemently you defend. I've got issues with confrontation and contention. If the one I'm confronting is so bent on fighting--and fighting for fighting's sake--that no defense I offer will suffice, I will speak my piece, post my defense, and likely walk away. If the antagonist, like I said, pursues the conflict and I persist as well, it is no longer a defense of God but of my pride, in which case it's moved back to the turning of the cheek and returning good.

    I don't know if that made sense. I'm having a hard time articulating my position here.

  7. I think you're completely right.


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