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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jane Eyre XXIII -- chapter 23: LIGHTNING AND FIRE

  1. Bronte misquotes Thomas Campbell's poem, "The Turkish Lady."  Check line 5: HERE.
  2. The first page or two of chapter 23 can be described easily as Romantic--and not "romantic," as in the 'til-now stymied romance between Jane and Mr.R, but Romantic, as in the written gushing effulgence of emotion and unquenched idealism.
  3. So, first Romanticism and now Mr.R is pointing out this amazing moth, alien denizen of the night!, and I'm reminded of the albatross from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner."  (If you're going to bother with this question, don't read Coleridge's second master piece passively; this is a BIG and IMPORTANT work.)  I haven't read ahead and don't know if this moth turns out indeed to be a portent one way or another, but the at-least-partially-aligned imagery and tone are both here.  Notice also the mention of the sea foam and imminent voyage to Ireland.  
  4. When Jane complains about her necessary--and necessary by statement from Rochester--departure from Thornfield, what is she really complaining of?
  5. Is Jane a woman like Lot's wife?  Will she look back?  And what if she does not depart?  What might this indicate of Thornfield, if this is indeed an apt comparison?
  6. What's with the sudden usage of "Janet"?
  7. "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you—especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you—you'd forget me."  Is Bronte referring to the taken rib from Adam to make Eve?  Is she referring, strangely, to the umbilical cord?  What is going on in this absolutely fascinating quotation?
  8. More poetry!  Considering the period of the book's composition together with the heavy Romanticism of the book and this particular chapter respectively, check out Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" HERE, a truly masterful and hugely influential poem (at least as much so as "Mariner" above).
  9. I do love to see the fire of Jane's childhood reemerge here in conversation with Mr.R, but culminating in a kiss!?  What is the man trying to do to our poor girl?
  10. Name the many reasons Jane has to doubt Mr.R's sincerity of proposal.
  11. What of the change of weather and general tone shift at the point of Jane's acceptance?  Remember the weather at the beginning of the book when we spoke of Gothicism, especially as it conflicts with Romanticism.  There is a strikingly similar moment in The Sound of Music (today, apparently, is the day of comparative literature).
  12. What of the lightning-struck tree, so like a tower?  If this is indeed reference to Tarot, what of the shift from Tower to Tree?

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  1. 1. This may be the political theorist part of me always looking for hidden messages, but this has to be intentional, right? By using it and fervid instead of sultry and her, Bronte takes some of the sexuality out of the situation. So the misquotation makes the reader ask why "her sultry fires" have not been wasted, but only the day's "fervid fires." It may be a hint that something "romantic" (everyday usage) is coming up.
    3. Warning noted. Maybe sometime we can take a look at it here and then I can come back and discuss the question.
    5. Yes, except maybe it's an even worse fate than Lot's wife (acceptable use of hyperbole to demonstrate a point) because she'll always be haunted by this instead of just being obliterated at once.
    6. Good question. I think it's an elevation of her in the social hierarchy. It's kind of like how, when I introduce myself, I say, "James Smith," on papers, I write, "James E. Smith," but when I go to something SUPER formal, like receiving my diploma this spring, I will go by, "James Eugene Smith." The more formal usage indicates that he is trying to show her respect instead of just as a hired governess/occasional companion.
    7. I hadn't even considered Adam and Eve, but I think that you've nailed it. Also, where are they? A garden.
    8. Again, I think this is too long to tackle in a short question. I do wish my poetry class had covered more of the Romantic stuff instead of basically just modernist/postmodernist.
    10. "If it's too good to be true, it probably is." Gosh I hate those words, but it's also probably true most of the time.
    11. Here comes Act II of the book. We know that something is going to go wrong. If not by the weather and the lightning-torn horse-chestnut at the end of the chapter, then by the mere fact that there are 200 pages left.
    12. I had never actually heard of this, but it's pretty cool now that I look it up. Do you think it's a connection to that? I saw the one edition that you added to your blog has a shepherd under a tree. Could this be our tree in Eden, thus the destruction of Paradise for our heroes, or have I taken this analogy utterly too far?

  2. 1 -- You know, I don't really have an answer for this one, because "sultry" had no sexual denotation (definitely) or, as far as I know, connotations. It referred to heat and weather.
    3 -- Maybe instead of a book next, we'll tackle Romantic poetry, except I'm aching to get out of this period. Coleridge is my favorite of the romantics. Mariner is truly excellent. Somehow, the majority of my lit classes focused around British lit of the early 18th-early 20th centuries.
    4 -- haha
    5 -- I agree. I always thought the punishment not so much an one for Lot's wife, but a blessing for Lot. (I've always had a fairly uncomplimentary outlook on that woman.)
    6 -- Adding to what you said, I believe that by use of the societal elevation, it becomes even an endearment.
    7 -- And I missed the garden! Brilliant! Where's the "apple," when comes the curse, and who will provide the temptation?
    11 -- Allegedly, the book was divided into four or five acts. Regardless, I agree and see this as the big turning point.
    12 -- If you are reading too much into it, then WE are reading too much into it. I'd love to get input from some others on this one.

  3. 1. 4th definition on "Random House": characterized by or arousing passion: sultry eyes.
    From "Collins English Dictionary": 3. displaying or suggesting passion; sensual: sultry eyes
    Etymology: 1590s, "oppressively hot, close and moist" (of weather), from obs. verb sulter "to swelter" (1580s), alteration of swelter. Fig. sense of "hot with lust" is attested from 1704; of women, "lascivious, sensual, arousing desire" it is recorded from 1940.
    11. Hmm... I didn't know that. This switch may be to Act III or so then. You could go formative years, Thornfield pre-confession of love, and now comes Act III.

  4. 1. I meant "at the time" (http://machaut.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/WEBSTER.sh?WORD=sultry and http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/sultry), but I didn't do my due diligence on the etymology. I'm actually very surprised it goes back that far, but it makes sense. Thank you.

  5. Ahhh, read the, "had," as a, "has." Sorry.

  6. No worries. Webster's never was as good as Oxford. I placed my trust in the wrong hands....


  7. I just want to believe that this is intentional and not a mistake. But I really can't say one way or another for sure.

  8. As I look more into it, I can't be sure.


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