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Monday, January 17, 2011

Jane Eyre XXII -- chapter 22: EMOTIONAL MASONRY

  1. "You are not without sense, Cousin Eliza; but what you have, I suppose in another year will be walled up alive in a French convent. However, it is not my business, and, so it suits you, I don't much care."  Immurement is an ugly thing.  I imagine this reference to masonry isn't exactly how Jane or Bronte intended it, but I think it's indeed rather fitting.
  2. Interesting that the death of Mrs. Reed and the dispersion of the Reed family happen roughly the same time as the death of Jane's relationship--or hopes for one--with Mr. Rochester.
So.  Chapter 22: a surprisingly--or uncharacteristically--short chapter!  It leaves me thinking about the idea of immurement.  (If you haven't clicked the link, do so and read up, unless you already know all about it.)  Forget for a minute the capital-punishment element, and even the literal walling-up element (especially since wikipedia has listed all the stuff--the literary and folkloric references to this particular and very romantic act and mode of death--I would be talking about otherwise); is there a connection within the confines of our book here between a potentially figurative immurement and our modern notion of putting up and tearing down walls--emotional walls?

"Count Ugolino and His Sons in Prison," by William Blake


  1. I think the connection is that Jane would feel immured if she stayed at the Rochester mansion as a governess or in some capacity while Rochester married Ingram. That helpless kind of feeling of being stuck somewhere without a way out, even though you can sense what is going on around you.

    On another note, it's amazing all the ways we've found to torture and kill other humans. I didn't even know that this was a form of punishment before you linked to it. I had read about in "The Black Cat" and heard about it happening on construction projects, but didn't know anything about it as a form of torture.

  2. Have you read "The Casque of Amantillado"? Immurement there. Also, you may want to reread the lines in Inferno where Ugolino is immured. Reputed as the finest lines of poetry ever written (by whom, I don't remember, but I agree). I remember reading about a superstition regarding the ritual immurement of someone in the foundations of a bridge in order to keep it sound. Interesting stuff.

  3. http://www.poemuseum.org/works-cask.php

  4. Yes, I have read "The Casque." It's brilliant. Now I want to reread it again tonight.

    Just reread the Ugolino scene, thanks to the useful Find device on the Nook. It is really good writing. I have a bit of a question on how to interpret one line that the notes said has been interpreted two ways. "And three days called them after they were dead; Then hunger did what sorrow could not do." The person who writes the notes suggests that it means that hunger killed Ugolino. I thought in the context of the story, and the fact that he's presently chewing on a skull, that it refers to cannibalism. What do you think?

  5. Without doubt, in his madness, he eats his children. A couple things to keep in mind while reading these lines (and I don't know what translation or whose notes you have): throughout the comedia, Dante plays with the juxtoposition between Greek/Roman mythology and Christianity. Also throughout the comedia, Dante regards children as the pure, earthly comparisons to divinity--they are our closest beings to Christ. Consider the lines spoken by the children in their death throes, compared to words spoken also by Christ. Also, Ugolino, historically, was a remarkably powerful and ambitious man, not one considered to rely on or understand the metaphoric and allegoric subtlety of Christ's words. He takes the ideological 'isms of the Eucharist literally, as in Christ meant his literal flesh, not his Word. Instead of managing to accept Christ and his Word, he throws it away in inadequate self-reliance.

    I found a couple of old histories that talk about the actual events of Ugolino, the tower, and the children. Pretty scary, remarkable stuff. Interesting too, most Italians would have been familiar with the actual history, which Dante apparently deliberately eschews (though generally in detail, not in generality) for dramatic effect.

  6. Meant to also include: there are echoes also of Job in the children--appropriate; and (interesting that this, I believe, is also represented by a William Blake painting) the eating of the children recalls Saturn eating his children.

  7. Yeah, I was reading about some of this in my edition. Apparently, the "child" actually would have been about my age by the time of the event, but Dante's version makes the scene more heart-breaking. It also pointed out the Christ-like similarity, which I somehow missed. I love your addition on the Eucharist. We Lutherans actually take it pretty literally, too, or at least doctrinally we do. I think if you asked the average Lutheran, you'd get an answer like, "No, of course we don't believe it's actually Christ's body." Religion aside, thanks for the additional information. Really great stuff, and now I understand the situation a lot better. So much work goes into understanding a book like "The Inferno", but the payoff is so worth it.

  8. Not Blake, but equally coincidental: it was Goya (tiger post).


  9. Eww... that is shocking. I think that Zeus also ate his children, although in the Greek tradition.


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