Last week, I asked readers to check out chapter one of All Hallows at Eyre Hall and tell me which they thought were the most dramatic lines. I offered two paperback copies in exchange for their insights.
This is what they came up with:
According to Dorothy Parker, who blogs at yadadarcyyada Vague Meanderings of the Broke and Obscure, the first chapter certainly was titillating and tense. The sentence that stood out was the thinly veiled insult of:
“….I merely point out that by her death she opened many doors…for both of you.”
I always wondered what Rochester was doing on the roof with his ‘mad’ wife, Mrs. Rochester, otherwise known as Bertha Mason. Would he really risk his own life to save Bertha and put her back inside a windowless attic, where she would continue to ‘ruin’ his life?
In Jane Eyre, the host at the George Inn, who claims to have seen it himself, informed Jane Eyre that someone had told him what had happened the night Thornfield Hall was burnt down:
“He (Mr. Rochester) went up to the attics when all was burning above and below, and got the servants out of their beds and helped them down himself, and went back to get his mad wife out of her cell. And then they called out to him that she was on the roof, where she was standing, waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting out till they could hear her a mile off: I saw her and heard her with my own eyes. She was a big woman, and had long black hair: we could see it streaming against the flames as she stood. I witnessed, and several more witnessed, Mr. Rochester ascend through the sky-light on to the roof; we heard him call ‘Bertha!’ We saw him approach her; and then, ma’am, she yelled and gave a spring, and the next minute she lay smashed on the pavement.”
The host is an unreliable narrator. He worked at the inn, miles away, and was there even before the engines arrived, as he himself says. How is that possible? He may have seen the fire, but he must have heard about the events after they occurred.
I wonder why Charlotte Bronte didn’t tie Bertha’s death up more clearly? Why does a unrelaible narrator, tell us Rochester was on the battlements with Bertha? If so, what was Rochester doing up there with her? If he was so worried about her being locked in her cell, why did he save all the servants first? Why was he the first person to notice the fire? Why did the author leave those spaces in the narrative? Your guess is as good as mine!
The next sentence was chosen by Annette Rochelle Aben:
“It’s not difficult to become a lunatic, if one is confined and tortured for ten years.”
I love that line, too. I always thought Bertha Mason, Rochester’s first wife was too easily dismissed as a lunatic. One of the reasons I wrote this novel was to build awareness and somehow revindicate Bertha and expose Rochester. Some readers are upset with the way Rochester is portrayed. I still think he loved Jane, madly, even obsessively, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that he cruelly locked up his first wife in the attic! Love cannot magically redeem all his misdeeds.
This is my choice of most dramatic line from the chapter, because it sums up what Richard Mason’s message to Jane is all about (although it’s like the pot calling the kettle black!):
“You have been wronged, as my sister was before you. Mr. Rochester is not, has never been, an honest man.”
The whole point of chapter one is summarised in these three excerpts.Namely that Mr. Rochester is not the man Jane, or readers, believed him to be.
Even judging him by 19th century morals, Bertha Mason, or rather Mrs. Rochester, which is who she was in Jane Eyre, was obviously mistreated by her husband, which is why he didn’t want anyone to know about his crime.
If he were such a good, kind man, doing the best for his sick wife, why doesn’t he want anyone to know about it? Bertha Rochester was a rich heiress, married to the penniless ‘spare’, until his older brother died, so he inherited the Rochester estate, and decided he no longer needed his rich, Jamaican wife.
She may have been locked away first and gone mad next, or it may have happened the other way round, as Mr. Rochester tells us. In any case, If Bertha was ill, she should have been looked after properly by a nurse and a doctor. Certainly not locked in a windowless attic with a drunken servant as her jailer.
In All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Mr. Rochester is on his death-bed, and once Jane deals with all the secrets and problems Mr. Rochester has left behind, she’ll be forced to make some serious mistakes, before she is able to get her life back on track. In book two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, Jane will start her journey and new life, as matriarch of the Estate, revealing the lies and wrongdoings, which will cause havoc in the lives of all the Rochester family. Book three, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, will witness drastic changes in all their lives as the injustice is repaired and order and stability are finally restored, at great personal cost.
Two paperbacks will be going out to the two lucky winners. Congratulations and happy reading!