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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jane Eyre XXXVII -- chapter 36: BERTHA THE BANSHEE

  1. "To prolong doubt was to prolong hope."
  2. Jane leaves a place of peace and bright (relative both, and mostly physically) for this, which brings her such great hope and happiness: "At last the woods rose; the rookery clustered dark; a loud cawing broke the morning stillness. Strange delight inspired me; on I hastened" all of which hold fairly dark connotation.  Despite the destruction of the Hall, how is this imagery justly drawn for her history here?
  3. Why is fire here so appropriate a means of destruction?
  4. Appropriate, Jane's "illustration," where she describes the one approached as having a veil over her eyes.  I wonder why she switched the gender.

"Keening Banshee," by Robert Bliss


  1. 2. That's really interesting. I hadn't caught that. I think that she had a pleasantly haunted relationship, so it makes sense.
    3. Hellfire perhaps, the Refiner's fire as a purification, maybe. Do you have any thoughts?

  2. I can't help but imagine what the author must have been doing/thinking through the process of writing--which really means that I project my own weaknesses as an author onto those whom I read. I imagine a situation where, well, since I arbitrarily chose to burn down Rochester's bed earlier in the book, which led even to a sort of mini-motif of fire, why not continue and burn down the mansion? Or, similarly, since I've got the pagan/Christian balance going on throughout, why not burn the place down like I might a martyr--or, better (and justifying the means by the ends, rather than creating the ends through carefully prescribed means (this is a me thing again), since this is such a dark place for its characters, especially its own, and since it represents the worst of an already difficult life for my protagonist, why not brimstone it like Sodom and Gomorrah, .

    If I try really hard to remove myself (I never thought myself so vain!), I get pretty much the same thing. I don't think the burning of Thornfield (despite its wont just be evidence of its name) is simply an act of God (and were it so, wrought by a demon!?) in order to destroy a place of evil--this because Thornfield Hall is not exclusively bad. A lot of great stuff has happened here for Jane as well as Rochester. In fact, by the events it housed up to the conflagration, it could be rationalized that it even gained a level of redemption, which would render the fire a martyr's end. This also plays okay with the name, as there are good things amidst the thorns of a brier patch (consider, though anachronistic, Uncle Remus) that house blackberries and raspberries and various game. One further possibility, though it doesn't have precedent here, is that the flames may be a baptism by fire, similar to the Refiner's fire you mention. The biggest point of interest along these lines, for me, is that if this were a fairytale, the "castle" would be restored (I think of "Sleeping Beauty" with the thorns and fire engendered by the witch). Certainly the happily-ever-after takes place, but it required a new location.

    I think dualities make sense (martyrdom/hellfire) because she plays so much with dualities throughout.


  3. I slightly disagree. I really think that Thornfield is an evil/cursed place. That doesn't mean that there aren't good things that happen there (DOUBLE NEGATIVE ALERT). But the characters always remark upon how dark and gloomy it is; they call it a prison. It is practically abandoned except for the house cleaning staff and a psychopath for years at a time. Thorn has generally negative connotations Biblically, and there's a lot of Bible in here. For example, crown of thorns, thorn in Paul's flesh, and the ground of Eden after the Fall will be "thorns and thistles" for Adam and Eve. I'm sure that there are more. But I don't think that the name of the place is meaningless.

  4. (What about a triple: "That doesn't mean that there aren't good things that didn't happen there"?)

    I agree that it definitely leans toward the negative, but consider also how Jane feels when she first arrives back on the grounds, before she sees the house.... I agree that Biblically thorns are exclusively bad, but this book does not lean exclusively on the Bible for its symbols and illusions. As I mentioned, and I do think this maintains Thornfield's dominance in the realm of the negative, the manor house gets no redemption; it gets only its destruction, as well as everything in it. It's the constance of dualities, however, that won't let me throw away the place as wholly evil.

  5. But is her love for the house or the people there?

  6. It certainly leans toward the latter, of course, and there's no mention of regret later.


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