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Friday, December 24, 2010

Jane Eyre VIII -- chapter 8: EXONERATION

Reading Questions
  1. "If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends."
  2. Helen intrigues me: additional to and shortly after the above quotation, she says, "you think too much of the love of human beings;" what does this say about Helen's past?  Is this pertinent only to orphans?  What if we expand the definition of "orphan" to include something like that of an "emotional orphan?"
  3. This might be a premature question, but I'm going to ask it anyway, because it has already crossed my mind, prompted by the graceful care and reassurance from Miss Temple: What if Jane Eyre had been written by a man?  (Knowing me as I do, I expect I will ask this question again, ere we reach the end.)
  4. Just as premature--or early, at least--as the previous question was, so risky is the next: Is Jane whiny, is she just a girl, or are they (it's not my intent to invite reprobation (in any of its various usages)) the same?
  5. Is the tangible reality of the haunting in the red room escalating in the natural exaggeration of Jane's memory?
  6. A little more than halfway through my first year in Michigan, a student of mine came to me with a funny report.  He'd been in the office waiting to speak to someone there about something--for why else is a student ever sitting in the school office? --and he happened to overhear the principal talking with the guidance counselor.  They were talking about me, of all people, and in the course of the conversation, the principal used a label for me which I'd never heard or thought before in my reference, thinking myself relatively subdued, obedient, and conscientious, none of which, I felt, aligned themselves with her label.  She called me a "loose canon."  Regardless of how she meant it, I've come to think of it as a complement.  I am proud to be a loose canon--or of having been one (I'm not sure I might still qualify, if ever I really did).  Miss Temple, I believe (and this is in no way intended to pat me on the back, as may appear so by any comparison between self and this wonderful woman, or denigrate my former principal, whom I happen to greatly respect and admire), might be labeled similarly by Mr. Brocklehurst.  I expect he recognizes her for what she is.  The question, then, is why does he keep her around?


  1. 1. Amen!
    2. Well, I think the obvious implication is that she probably has had a past with not a lot of love, but there could be another implication. This statement, along with the previous one, could also apply to someone who is universally popular, but has done something evil with which s/he cannot live. Doesn't sound like Helen, but I think it's an interesting flip-side.
    3. I don't know that it's even possible. A lot of the book so far consists of frustrations that young girls at the time had to endure, and I just get the feeling that most men would have been completely oblivious to these.
    4. She's whiny, but, again, I think girls at the time had a lot to whine about. Nevertheless, it would be great to see some maturation from her as the story continues. I am sure we will.
    5. Could you explain this one a bit more? Thanks.
    6. Hmm... I take the exact opposite approach. I get the feeling, especially with how rare his appearances are, that he does not really understand Miss Temple at all. Whenever he is there, she toes the line, and with his long absences, he can't possibly know a lot of what's going on at the school.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. 2. I found an interesting contradiction, however, to what I also, like you, assumed (that she was greatly without love). In the conversation she has with Miss Temple that evening, there is a mention of a past with Helen's father, where he taught her. Though this could easily still fit within a past absent of love (and maybe this assumption or impression is due to my past with a father who taught me), it seems much more likely that there is indeed a positive relationship somewhere in her past.
    3. I think that it would be possible, but only in the most extreme of that word's usage, and so unlikely as to be entirely unrealistic.
    5. I still get the feeling that this book is lingering right on the edge of phantasmagoria. As Jane becomes more accepted, she steps out of the close darkness of her imagination. My memory tends to distort things and exaggerate them. Is her memory similarly exaggerating the memory of her spooky night in the red room, and what are the possible long-term outcomes of such imagining?
    6. He's an idiot! And likely Miss Temple is a lot more secure than I often was. An administrator would come in and point out the smallest problem or criticism and I would get my defensive hackles up, thinking they could see through it all and spot all my deficiencies, of which there were many (though likely not as many as I saw in myself). However, he spots problems, and not so insignificant ones, at least compared against his rigid expectations. Yet he doesn't investigate. So, well, I do agree with you then.... Good for Miss Temple. I like her!

    Merry Christmas to you too! I've gotta finish prepping for Santa Claus. ;)

  3. 2. You're right. Maybe she is just an oracle of wisdom without experience?
    5. It's hard to tell. I think one of the important things here is that she was a child when she saw it, so it probably seemed much more horrible than it was. (By the way, this light HAS to represent something, doesn't it? What is it? Do we have enough information yet to form any guess?) But going back to the topic, when I was like 6, I thought I saw a monster, and I still have a very vivid image of it, but, for the life of me, I can't figure out what it really was. If I saw it today, I'd probably figure it out right away, but that doesn't erase the image and the emotions associated with it at the time.
    6. Do you ever get the feeling Mr. Brocklehurst doesn't see the forest for the trees? He is all worried about these minor violations of etiquette, and here a teacher is inviting two students to her quarters for tea and telling them to disregard everything he just said. He's a paper tiger.

  4. 5. I think it's too early to tell, but it's putting me on edge. I'm expecting something nasty, and the longer the way the nastier the pending doom.
    6. "Paper Tiger," I think is a perfect title for him--at least so far.

  5. 4. in some ways, i think they are the same. perhaps girls are whiny by nature, or perhaps it's because we're more aware and willing to show our emotions. whatever the case may be, i think in jane's situation it's more due to the time period where girls and women were expected to be and act in very particular ways.

    3. i suppose "jane eyre" could have been written by a man but i doubt it would have been such a fast success or had the depth of gnawing emotional instability and wonderment represented by the penmanship of a woman. when it was published, it was under charlotte's pen name of currer bell. i wonder if that had any influence to the novel's fast success. in short, i think the novel would lack much of it's worth and greatness had it been a man telling the story of a struggling girl/woman/lady.

    5. jane was in a horrible situation at a very impressionable point in her life. no doubt the red room has affected her entirely; i think it would affect most children at such a tender age. and i do hope it is foreshadowing something nastier, a pending doom. could be very exciting to read that story unfold. guess we'll just have to wait and see.

  6. 5. As we've gotten further in the text and moved through a much brighter period (bright enough in fact that she manages to gloss over it all, which seems to reveal a belief that what interests readers is pain and ugliness), we've moved away from the influence of the red room, but that experience is the kind of thing that criminals and psychopaths use as an excuse later in their lives, or at least require therapists.

    3. I agree totally. It could not be the same book were it written by a man, and I think its success--especially long term--has even relied at least partially on the gender of its author.


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