Category Archives: All About Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre takes place in 19th century rural Yorkshire. It’s a very ‘English novel’, because almost all the characters are English, and the protagonists clearly represent typical traits of Victorian England.
Jane embodies an English appearance; she is pale, short, slim, with green eyes and russet hair. She also represents manners generally associated by an ideal Victorian woman; she’s meek, reserved, quiet, modest, morally upright, thoughtful and intelligent.
Mr. Rochester embodies all the characteristics of a typical, wealthy Victorian landowner and colonial imperialist. He’s arrogant, dominant, relatively idle, egotistical, self-assured, and tyrannical. How else was he supposed to rule the ‘uncivilised’ non-English world?
There is also a stark contrast between British and non-British characters. The most significant foreigner in Jane Eyre is Mrs. Rochester, née Bertha Mason, a Creole who was born and brought up in Jamaica, and spent the novel locked in a windowless attic. The negative connotations of madness and evil, which stem from the native inhabitants of the barbarian colonies have already been discussed in these three posts on The Madwoman in the Attic
On this occasion, I’d like to bring your attention to the European non-British characters and the presence of (other) European countries in Jane Eyre.
Jane’s approach to other cultures is through the study of literature and language.
She learns to speak French fluently at Lowood, which is why she is able to get the position of governess to Rochester’s French-speaking ward, Adele. French opens doors to Jane, making her stand out among the rest and enables her to further her position in the world.
She describes her French teacher thus;
“a strange, foreign-looking, elderly lady, the French teacher, as I afterwards found…”
Jane describes her knowledge of French in these terms:
“Fortunately I had had the advantage of being taught French by a French lady; and as I had always made a point of conversing with Madame Pierrot as often as I could, and had besides, during the last seven years, learnt a portion of French by heart daily—applying myself to take pains with my accent, and imitating as closely as possible the pronunciation of my teacher, I had acquired a certain degree of readiness and correctness in the language, and was not likely to be much at a loss with Mademoiselle Adela.”
Jane corrects Adele’s French defects; she’s too excitable, loud and superficial. Jane also teaches Adele English, in an attempt to make her into an ideal Victorian lady, as opposed to a French harlot, as Rochester would have us believe her mother was.
While Jane is in Morton with her cousins, Mary, Diana and John Rivers, she studied German and read Schiller, because her cousins were doing so. Jane shows a great respect for the German language and culture.
“I sat reading Schiller….. As I exchanged a translation for an exercise.”
We should bear in mind that Queen Victoria’s mother was a German princess. Princess Victoria was raised under close supervision by her German-born mother Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
Victoria was brought up by her German governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen, from Hanover, who taught her only German until she was three years old. After she became queen, her courtiers were almost entirely German and, of course, she married a German prince, Albert.
The language that was spoken in Buckingham Palace, and at all private occasions. It has even been said that when she was a young girl, Princess Victoria spoke English with a German accent.
From a literary and linguistic point of view, Jane respects and admires both French and German, although she has no first hand knowledge of the people or the countries. Her knowledge is purely academic and therefore theoretical.
The practical knowledge and experience of other European countries comes to the reader through the widely travelled Mr. Rochester.
“For ten long years I roved about, living first in one capital, then another; sometimes in St. Petersburg; oftener in Paris; occasionally in Rome, Naples, and Florence”
France is the most prominent European presence in Jane Eyre and the presence of France and the French people in the novel is shaped mainly through Mr. Rochester’s eyes.
His representation of French women is negative. Rochester admits to an affair with the French opera singer Céline Varens (Adele’s mother) in Paris, only to find out in time that Céline is Being unfaithful to him. He says he caught her with another man. (By the way, he also accuses Bertha of infidelity. Perhaps he chose his mistresses/wives unwisely, or maybe he was not the great lover we were led to believe?)
For Rochester, Céline Varens represents of a vain and immoral Continent who responds to his love with promiscuity.
Rochester also reveals to Jane that he has an array of former mistresses throughout Europe:
“I could not live alone; so I tried the companionship of mistresses. The first I chose was Céline Varens … She had two successors; an Italian, Giacinta, and a German, Clara, both considered singularly handsome”
Rochester established a specific link between beauty, sexual immorality and continental Europe, forgetting the fact that he was hardly behaving like an English gentleman himself, or perhaps he was?
After the wedding farce, when it was discovered that Rochester was already married, he offers Jane a villa in France where they can travel to and live without being married. This passage is also an example of his lies. He tells her she shall be Mrs. Rochester when he knows full well it can’t happen. Then he tells her she’ll live with him ‘innocently’.
“You shall be Mrs. Rochester—both virtually and nominally. I shall keep only to you so long as you and I live. You shall go to a place I have in the south of France: a whitewashed villa on the shores of the Mediterranean. There you shall live a happy, and guarded, and most innocent life. Never fear that I wish to lure you into error—to make you my mistress. Why did you shake your head? Jane, you must be reasonable, or in truth I shall again become frantic.”
Jane, is quick and clever enough to see his deceit and naturally declines. She wasn’t prepared to live an immoral life in France and become one of his many conquests. Jane wanted a lot more than Rochester. She wanted it all; respectability, marriage and children, in an English upper-class setting.
Other European nations mentioned in Jane Eyre.
Jane finally becomes a rich woman thanks to her uncle John Eyre’s inheritance, derived from his wine importing business in Madeira, a Portuguese colony in the Atlantic Ocean.
Blanche Ingram’s skin is described as dark as a Spaniard’s. Bearing in mind all the other negative aspects in Blanche’s character and appearance, it’s not a compliment to the Spanish! Exotic, dark beauty in women, such as Bertha Mason and Blanche Ingram is associated with negative qualities and Spanish and Hispanic origins.
In summary, Mr. Rochester’s depiction of Europeans as has been seen is anything but positive.
On the other hand, Jane Eyre shows great respect for French and German culture and language, limited knowledge of other European languages or cultures, she does not give any evidence of bias against other Europeans, in spite of Mr. Rochester’s negative portrayal.
Jane does mention that she will not be an English Céline Varens, which is not a criticism of all French women, just one. She speaks kindly of Madame Pierrot, her French teacher, Adele, and Sophie, Adele’s French maid. She meets no other Europeans and makes no negative comments.
Jane is aware of her British heritage, culture and language, but she does not berate or undermine any others as Rochester does, and she expresses a marked interest in learning about French and German culture and language. Jane represents an open-minded and respectful approach to Europe, whereas Mr. Rochester treated Europe, literally, as a whore house.
Now I ask you, does this have anything to do with Brexit?
I’d say that half of the British population takes Jane’s respectful attitude to Europe, while the other half considers Europe with caution or even contempt, as Rochester does.
What do you think?
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today, Jane Eyre is going to point out the Ten differences between herself and Charlotte Bronte.
I’m very grateful to Charlotte Bronte for making me such a famous person, as Mr. Rochester might say, ‘You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are, have become the most famous female literary character in English Literature.’
Some readers mistake me, Jane Eyre, the author of my autobiography, for my pen name, Charlotte Bronte. That’s understandable, but there are plenty of differences between us.
But just to clarify matters, there follow Ten Differences between me, Jane Eyre, and Charlotte Bronte, my alter ego:
- I was an orphan and Charlotte wasn’t.
- I was educated at a boarding school, while Charlotte was educated at home by her father and her aunt.
- I had no brothers or sisters and Charlotte had one brother and four sisters (although two died in infancy).
- I never left England, and Charlotte travelled to Belgium.
- I married at an early age 19-20, and Charlotte married later in life, at 38.
- Charlotte wrote fantasy stories from an early age, while I preferred drawing as my creative expression, until after my marriage.
- I wrote my autobiography, while Charlotte wrote poems and fictional novels.
- I was fiercely independent, yet Charlotte always lived with and obeyed her father.
- I was described as beautiful by some and plain by others, read this post, while Charlotte was reportedly very ugly, no question about it. According to her biographer, Mrs. Gaskell, Charlotte had, “a reddish face, large mouth and many teeth gone; altogether plain”.
- I inherited a fortune from my uncle and married a rich man, while Charlotte was not rich and married a humble parson.
In spite of all these differences, there are also Ten Similarities in our lives:
- We were both very short and thin.
- We were both born and bred in Yorkshire.
- We both lived in the 19th century.
- We both fell in love with married men.
- We both worked as teachers and governesses.
- We both spoke French fluently.
- We were both masterful writers.
- We both wrote with pen names, she used Currer Bell, and I wrote my autobiography as Charlotte Bronte.
- We were both concerned with women’s unjust place in the world and fought for gender equality. I must add that I did so more actively than she did.
- We were both religious, but not hypocrites. We truly believed in our faith and the teachings of the Bible.
I’d say, my life may have been a little harder than Charlotte’s for the first ten years, but after that, I was much more fortunate than poor Charlotte was, thanks to my stronger character and single-mindedness. It could also have been because I was an orphan and had no oppressive family to tie me down or repress me, and because the man I fell in love with became a widower, so unlike Charlotte I was able to marry him and be happy, at least for a time.
I hope I’ve made my point. Jane is not Charlotte.
We did not have the same childhood or upbringing, nor the exact same physical appearance, nor did we lead the same kind of life, or marry the same type of man.
I’m resilient, strong-willed and wealthy. I’m in charge of my life.
I am independent, I married the man I loved and had a son.
Charlotte hasn’t been completely forgotten, of course, yet. However, people are still writing about me, talking about me, and making films about me. Me.
I’m also an enigma. Nobody really knows what happened to me after I wrote my autobiography, ten years after I married (I may have exaggerated a little there, it may have been less than ten).
Someone imagined I built a house called Eyre Hall with the money my uncle left me, on the grounds where Thornfield Hall once stood, and wrote a sequel called The Eyre Hall Trilogy. It sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think?
Today’s a special day. It’s Charlotte Bronte’s 200 birthday, so I’ve decided to post letter ‘R’ with some more words to describe Jane Eyre. Playing around with words beginning with ‘R’ related to Jane Eyre, I came up with this fun summary of the most important aspects of the novel.
Jane’s a survivor. She has no use for regret, because she’s resilient and makes use of her resolve to overcome her problems. She takes refuge in another town and starts a new life with a new identity, because she refuses to be ruined by circumstances. Jane is a rationalist and a reasonable young girl, she never lets her feelings take over completely. She’s always in charge of her life.
I’d consider Mr. Rochester a bit of a rake, a rascal, and a rogue, by leading Jane into believing he was a bachelor. He also did a lot of roleplaying, including playing a fortune-teller to laugh at his friends and inventing a rival for Jane in Blanche Ingram, although he had no intention of marrying her. I mean, what would have happened when her influential family found out about his wife?
There is never any rancor on Jane’s part. She forgives everyone including her aunt and cousins. She doesn’t seek revenge, which she knows is the Lord’s. She is not vengeful and does not recriminate Mr. Rochester after the marriage farce, she simply moves on with her life.
Rapport and rapture is what Jane and Rochester felt when they met. Jane Eyre is overall a romance. It is one of the most romantic novels ever written. There’s a beautiful quote from Mr. Rochester regarding Jane and Rochester’s ribs.
Mr. Rochester loves rattling Jane. Their conversations are full of verbal duels, and Jane is as good at arguing and provoking her as she is at provoking him.
There is a raving lunatic in the attic called Mrs Rochester. The question is when did she start raving and why?
Jane constantly speaks to her Dear Reader and she loves reading, and obviously writing as she wrote her autobiography at such a young age. Jane’s world is portrayed realistically and honestly. She makes sure her Dear Reader knows exactly how she feels. The autobiography is written from the mature Jane’s perspective according to her recollection, ten years after she married. It’s a retrospective story.
Jane was a bit of a rebel as a child, and even as an adult, she’s not prepared to live according to other people’s conventions. Jane was concerned with moral or religious respectability. She wanted to follow God’s law, not man’s version of it, based on hypocrisy.
Thornfield Hall, one of Jane’s residences, will definitely need rebuilding if they are going to stay on the Rochester Estate, which presumably they will be doing. In my sequel, I took care of that by building Eyre Hall.
Charlotte Bronte was considered a bit of a recluse. She reportedly didn’t like London or leaving the parsonage, especially after her sisters died.
Jane is recompensed for all her suffering. Her struggles are rewarded, and she is finally reconciled to Mr. Rochester, whom we are told recovered the sight of one of his eyes, and most of his mobility after the fire. Jane Eyre is about the renaissance, of a poor orphan girl and how her struggle for survival is finally rewarded, therefore all the wrongs she endured are repaired.
Finally, I have boldly decided to recreate Jane’s world, by retelling and rewriting part of her story; the part she wasn’t completely honest about, due to her naivety. My aim has been to reinvent Jane’s future twenty-two years after Jane Eyre married Mr. Rochester.
Would you like to join me in this new and exciting journey to Eyre Hall?
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. I’m going to discuss Jane Eyre’s Rebirth and Sequel in the Eyre Hall Trilogy.
The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a three-part sequel to Jane Eyre.
My aim was to pay tribute to Charlotte Bronte and so many other Victorian authors, whom I consider my literary Masters.
The Eyre Hall Trilogy owes its existence to the following 19th century literary geniuses in no particular order:
The Brontes, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, R.L. Stevenson, Conan Doyle, Elizabeth and Robert Browning, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, George Elliott, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lord Tennyson, Hardy, Wilde, de Quincy, and Jane Austen.
I have aimed to write an enjoyable Gothic Romance, which makes suspenseful and exciting reading for contemporary audiences.
Readers will encounter many of the original characters in Jane Eyre once again, but this series will also bring to life many new and intriguing ones, spinning a unique and absorbing narrative.
The Eyre Hall Trilogy is now complete:
Book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, takes place twenty-two years after Jane’s marriage to Edward Rochester. Jane is coping with the imminent death of her bedridden husband, and Richard Mason has returned from Jamaica to disclose more secrets and ruin her happiness once again, instigating a sequence of events which will expose Rochester’s disloyalty to Jane, his murderous plots, and innumerable other sins. Mason’s revelations, and the arrival Bertha’s daughter, Miss Annette Mason, will turn Jane’s world turned upside down.
Book 2, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, moves the action on after Edward Rochester’s death. Jane Eyre, who has been blackmailed into marrying a man she despises, will have to cope with the return of the man she loved and lost. The secrets she has tried so hard to conceal must be disclosed, giving rise to unexpected events and more shocking revelations. This time, the action will move from the Yorkshire countryside, to Victorian London, and across the Atlantic Ocean to Colonial Jamaica.
Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, which is available for pre-order and will be launched on 21st June, Midsummer’s Day, is the final part of the trilogy.
The first part of Midsummer at Eyre Hall is very dramatic and action-packed. Jane will find herself in completely unexpected and dreadful circumstances, which neither she, nor the reader would ever imagine, so I can’t say much more!
The second part begins to show some improvement in her situation and contains more surprises, including two new characters, who will drastically change Jane’s life forever.
In this final installment, Jane will undertake perilous physical and emotional journeys across England, from Yorkshire, to magical Cornwall, and Victorian London. She will discover who her friends and enemies are, and she will have to make challenging and drastic decisions, which will affect everyone on the Rochester Estate.
I hope the reader will find the end is satisfactory, although the final outcome is happier for some characters than for others…
For those living in Spain you can also purchase paperback versions at http://www.libroseningles.com/
For those of you who have read books 1 and 2, would like an ARC of Midsummer at Eyre Hall, it will be available at the beginning of June.
Please let me know if you’d like to be the first to read it 🙂
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. I’m going to show you some famous and significant quotes from Jane Eyre.
I love these quotes because they show us how powerful Jane’s character was.
She wanted to be Mr. Rochester’s equal. She insists on being independent, having free will, and being the same.
She refuses to allow him to trample on her, in spite of being much richer than her, much older than her, and part of the patriarchal ruling classes.
Finally, I love the way she’s more concerned with happiness than doing what’s expected. That’s why at the end of the novel, when she discovers his first wife has died, she returns to him, in spite of the indignity of returning to the man who lied to her.
She’s prepared to give him another chance, but on equal terms.
She marries him in the end, but she warns him that she is no longer a poor dependent:
‘If you won’t let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an evening.’
She asserts her independence by threatening to choose to build a house of her own next to his.
I’m so sure she’d eventually be the ruler of the roost! Aren’t you?
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. I’m going to tell you about the Prequel to Jane Eyre written almost a century after Jane Eyre was published.
Wide Sargasso Sea, the Prequel to Jane Eyre
Although my main inspiration in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was Jane Eyre, its prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea, written over a hundred years later by Jean Rhys, has been almost equally responsible. Both novels are complimentary and it is their combined stories, which have led to my sequel, The Eyre Hall Trilogy.
I read Wide Sargasso Sea, about thirty years after reading Jane Eyre. This short, but intense novel, which was written in the 1960s, tells the story of Bertha Mason in three parts: her childhood, before she met Mr. Rochester, their first meeting and arranged marriage and first four years of matrimony, and finally her death at Thornfield Hall.
After reading Wide Sargasso Sea, it’s impossible not to reread Jane Eyre with new insight and perspective.
Jean Rhys was born in Dominica, an island of the British West Indies to a Welsh doctor and a third-generation Creole of Scots ancestry. She must have understood Bertha Mason’s feeling of alienation in England herself, as she says in this eloquent quote:
Rhys’ novel tells the formerly untold story of Bertha Antoinette Mason from her birth in Jamaica to her death at Thornfield Hall.
Antoinette who was silenced, imprisoned, and abused in Jane Eyre, is given a voice and a life, a real life, in Wide Sargasso Sea; a life Charlotte Bronte insinuated but never told. In Wide Sargasso Sea Antoinette tells Rochester; “there is always the other side, always”, and that is the story Rhys weaves in Part One which Antoinette narrates.
Edward Rochester narrates Part Two and is shown up as the shady, unscrupulous character he became in Jane Eyre. His elder brother was to inherit the Rochester Estate, so his father arranged a marriage to a rich Jamaican heiress for Edward, his second son, or the ‘spare’. Rochester disliked Jamaica and although his wife was beautiful, he was not aware that she was Creole, and it displeased him, especially after marrying her and disposing of her generous dowry.
When he inherited the Rochester Estate due to both his brother and father’s sudden deaths, he decided it was time to return to England. That was when he locked Bertha away in a windowless, cold and damp attic, claimed he was unmarried and went gallivanting to France, as he himself admits to Jane.
The Third and Final Part is told once more by Antoinette, who not surprisingly, after ten years in an attic, has become the ‘madwoman in the attic’. She supposedly burns Thornfield Hall, endangering the lives of the rest of the occupants, and commits suicide.
Gilbert and Gubar’s seminal study on feminist literary criticism, Madwoman in the Attic, was written in honour of Bertha Mason. I’ve written several posts on this topic in previous posts on this blog:
My fascination with these two novels escalated when I taught Postcolonial Literature to undergraduates at the University of Córdoba. One of the topics on the syllabus was a comparison of Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, and that really sparked classroom discussion and my imagination. The idea of reinstating the first Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason, had been nagging at me for a long time, until I decided to reinstate Bertha Mason by bringing her daughter to life and back to the Rochester Estate in my Sequel to Jane Eyre, The Eyre Hall Trilogy.
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today Jane’s going to tell you about her origins and her orphaned childhood.
My name’s Jane Eyre and I’m an orphan.
My parents died when I was but an infant. My mother’s brother, Uncle Reed, kindly took me in, although he too died when I was a baby. His wife, my Aunt Reed, had promised to look after me, but she disliked me so much that my birthday was never celebrated, and I never dared to ask when it was.
When I asked my aunt about my father’s family, she said she had no news of them. Miss Abbot, who had been her maid for many years told Bessie, the younger maid that my father had been a poor clergyman whom my mother had married against the my grandfather Reed’s wishes, because he was beneath her, so he cut her off without a shilling. My parents died within a month of each other of typhus, a year after they married.
If my mother’s brother, Mr. Reed had been alive instead of buried in his vault at Gateshead Church, he would have treated me kindly, but his widow enjoyed humiliating me and telling me I was wicked, so I was an unhappy and unloved child. I was habitually abused, consequently, I was full of self-doubt and often depressed. My aunt said I was wicked, which meant I was often punished. Sometimes I was made to sit on my own, which I didn’t mind, because I disliked them all, but other times I was locked in a room, which I hated.
Fortunately, my aunt sent me away to Lowood Institution, with the assurance that she would never see me again. It was still too soon as far as I was concerned.
Nine years later, while I was working at Thornfield Hall, my aunt she sent for me on her death-bed and gave me the following letter, which she had received from my uncle, Mr. John Eyre, my father’s brother three years earlier.
‘Madam,—Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my niece, Jane Eyre, and to tell me how she is? It is my intention to write shortly and desire her to come to me at Madeira. Providence has blessed my endeavours to secure a competency; and as I am unmarried and childless, I wish to adopt her during my life, and bequeath her at my death whatever I may have to leave.—I am, Madam, &c., &c., ‘JOHN EYRE, Madeira.’
When I asked her why I hadn’t been informed, she replied, “‘Because I disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly ever to lend a hand in lifting you to prosperity.”
She told my uncle that I had died of typhus. She said it was her way of taking revenge, on a poor orphan. I forgave her, but it wasn’t enough. I knew she still had to make peace with God, which would only happen if she were truly sorry, which I doubted.
I discovered my uncle had died while I was working as a teacher at Morton, after leaving Thornfield Hall. His lawyer, Mr. Briggs, was looking for me because my uncle had died and left me all his property, which was twenty thousand pounds. So thanks to him, I was rich. I was sorry he had never found me, so I had never met him, but if I had lived with him in Madeira, as he had wished, I would never have met Edward.
My mother, Jane Reed, had a brother, John Reed, who was married to my Aunt Reed.
My father had a brother called John Eyre, a wine merchant who lived in Madeira, and was my benefactor. He also had a sister, who married Reverend Rivers, that was how I was related to my cousins St. John, Mary and Diana.
When I married Edward, I had no parents, uncles or aunts, but I had five cousins. I was sure I would have no type of relationship with Eliza or Georgina, and St John would travel to India, but I had two wonderful cousins, Diana and Mary, who were like two sisters to me.
I have always refused to indulge in self-pity. Life is too precious to waste time feeling sorry for oneself or thinking about what might have been. My present and my future is in my hands, and I aim to make the most of it.
I’m sorry I lost my parents, and I feel sympathy for the little orphan who was humiliated and abused for the first ten years of her life, but everything that happened after leaving Gateshead has brought me closer to finding happiness, so I’m grateful for every minute, which helped my character grow.
Perhaps I’ll write a sequel to my autobiography, and tell everyone about the house I built a house with my uncle’s inheritance, which I called Eyre Hall in his honour.
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today I’m going to tell you about the symbolism regarding necks and necklaces in Jane Eyre.
Necks and Necklaces in Jane Eyre
Necks are important in Jane Eyre, they symbolize pain, love, and worldly riches and grandeur.
- Her cousin John enjoys breaking birds’ necks
“John no one thwarted, much less punished; though he twisted the necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set the dogs at the sheep…”
- Blood trickles down Jane’s neck when her cousin John hits her:
“I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him in frantic sort.”
- Miss Scatcherd, a teacher at Lowood, punishes Helen Burns by hitting her mercilessly on the back of her neck
“…returned in half a minute, carrying in her hand a bundle of twigs tied together at one end. This ominous tool she presented to Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtesy; then she quietly, and without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher instantly and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of twigs. Not a tear rose to Burns’ eye…”
- When Jane left Gateshead to be an intern at Lowood she held on to the only person who had been kind to her in her aunt’s house, Bessie.
“ I was taken from Bessie’s neck, to which I clung with kisses.”
- Jane died with her arms around Helen Burns’ neck:
“I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against Helen Burns’s shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen was—dead.”
- Adele puts her arms around Jane’s neck affectionately:
“I remember Adele clung to me as I left her: I remember I kissed her as I loosened her little hands from my neck.”
- Finally, when Jane finds Mr. Rochester at Ferndean, he says he found the pearl necklace she had left behind at Thornfield Hall. He says:
“…and, after examining your apartment, ascertained that you had taken no money, nor anything which could serve as an equivalent! A pearl necklace I had given you lay untouched in its little casket; your trunks were left corded and locked as they had been prepared for the bridal tour.”
Mr. Rochester wore it himself around his neck (under his cravat) as a reminder of Jane’s love:
“Do you know, Jane, I have your little pearl necklace at this moment fastened round my bronze scrag (neck) under my cravat? I have worn it since the day I lost my only treasure, as a memento of her.”
- Diana and Mary show affection by hugging their brother’s neck:
“They both threw their arms round his neck at once. He gave each one quiet kiss, said in a low tone a few words of welcome”
- When blind Mr. Rochester discovers his beloved Jane has returned to him:
“The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my shoulder—neck—waist—I was entwined and gathered to him.”
Riches and Status:
- The portraits of Mr. Rochester’s ancestors on the staircase wall, which she saw on her first day at Thornfield Hall.
“Traversing the long and matted gallery, I descended the slippery steps of oak; then I gained the hall: I halted there a minute; I looked at some pictures on the walls (one, I remember, represented a grim man in a cuirass, and one a lady with powdered hair and a pearl necklace), at a bronze lamp pendent from the ceiling, at a great clock whose case was of oak curiously carved, and ebon black with time and rubbing.”
- Blanche Ingram’s description by Mrs. Fairfax:
“Tall, fine bust, sloping shoulders; long, graceful neck: olive complexion, dark and clear; noble features; eyes rather like Mr. Rochester’s: large and black, and as brilliant as her jewels.”
- After proposing he says to her Mr. Rochester offers her his riches:
‘I will myself put the diamond chain round your neck, and the circlet on your forehead,—which it will become: for nature, at least, has stamped her patent of nobility on this brow, Jane; and I will clasp the bracelets on these fine wrists, and load these fairy- like fingers with rings.’
- When Jane leaves Thornfield Hall, she also leaves a pearl necklace, which could have been and heirloom, the one on the painting. This symbolizes Jane’s relinquishment of the riches Mr. Rochester offered her.
“I encountered the beads of a pearl necklace Mr. Rochester had forced me to accept a few days ago. I left that; it was not mine: it was the visionary bride’s who had melted in air. The other articles I made up in a parcel; my purse, containing twenty shillings (it was all I had), I put in my pocket: I tied on my straw bonnet, pinned my shawl, took the parcel and my slippers, which I would not put on yet, and stole from my room.”
- Finally, at the end of the novel, when Mr. Rochester has recovered his eyesight, he says:
“Jane, have you a glittering ornament round your neck?”
I had a gold watch-chain: I answered ‘Yes.’
In this case, we can assume that Jane has bought and chosen her necklace, because it was the first time he had seen it.
Jane told us that Miss Temple’s gold watch hung from her girdle, probably with a string or cord, yet Jane’s hands from a gold chain around her neck. Jane has reached and surpassed her childhood idol, Miss Temple.
The gold chain lets her Dear Reader know that Jane has finally acquired the social status she dreamed of by her own means, and on her own terms. She is not wearing an heirloom, but a jewel she has chosen and bought herself, in this case a gold necklace.
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today Jane is going to tell you all about the Mason family, her husband’s troublesome in-laws.
I met two members of the Mason family personally; Mr. Richard Mason and his sister, Bertha Mason, who was Mr. Rochester’s first wife.
Richard Mason was Edward’s brother-in-Law, when I first met him, Richard took the liberty of installing himself as a guest at Thornfield. When Edward discovered that he was at Thornfield he was distressed and asked me to spy on him, worried that he might be talking about grave and mysterious things, but I told him he seemed engaged in a merry conversation with the other guests. Then he asked to speak with him privately in his study. I was worried about Mr. Mason’s intentions. They talked for an hour and seemed to part on friendly terms.
Later that night there was a great commotion at Thornfield Hall. Everyone was woken up by cries of help coming from the third storey. Edward told them it was a servant who had had a nightmare, but later, when everyone had gone back to bed, he called me to nurse Mr. Mason, who had been attacked, but I knew not by what kind of creature. I should have realized they were keeping a dark secret, but I had no idea what had happened and dared not even ask.
I met, no it could not be called a meeting, I mean I came face to face with Bertha Mason the night before my first ill-fated wedding day. She stood before my eyes in my room in the dead of night. ‘She was tall and large, with thick and dark hair hanging long down her back. I know not what dress she had on: it was white and straight; but whether gown, sheet, or shroud, I could not tell. Her face was a fearful, ghastly, discoloured and savage face with red eyes. She reminded me of a Vampire. She tore my veil and approached me with a candle and I fainted.
Edward tried to convince me it had been a nightmare until I saw the torn veil on the floor. I would find out who she was on my wedding day, after the wedding was interrupted and we were taken upstairs to see her in her windowless room on the third floor.
Richard interrupted our marriage because he was defending his sister from her husband. Rochester was given a high dowry of 30,000 pounds for marrying her, by Mason’s father.
It seemed strange to me that he was not concerned about her physical welfare. He seemed to agree that she should stay in the attic. I suspected that Mason was a villain who had tried to blackmail Edward.
Many years later, one of my Dear Readers, who knew Mr. Mason was a villain, imagined he would return to haunt me twenty-two years later, while my husband lay on his death bed, in her novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. She has written another post about Richard’s role as villain.
There were other members of the Mason family, whom I never met. Edward also told me that Richard and Bertha’s father, had been an acquaintance of Edward’s father, and they had planned Edward and Bertha’s marriage as a business arrangement. Edward’s father negotiated a 30,000 pound dowry and conditions, such as his removal to Jamaica to marry and live there with Bertha.
Much later, when Bertha’s presence became known to me, Edward also told me he found out Bertha’s mother was a lunatic, who lived in an asylum, and that she had another brother, who was a ‘dumb idiot’.
Finally, Bertha burnt down Thornfield Hall and committed suicide, at least that what I was told…
It does indeed seem that the Mason family were the most unpleasant in-laws.
Another Dear Reader called Jean Rhys, wrote a whole book about the Mason family called Wide Sargasso Sea. It’s a prequel to Jane Eyre. More about that in letter ‘P’ for Prequel, on Tuesday.
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today I’m going to show you a lesser known aspect of this novel. I’ll tell you about the many characters in Jane Eyre who lie. I’ll also be revealing an imperfect Jane, because I’ll be telling you about Jane Eyre’s own lies to us, her Dear Reader, and other characters in the novel.
Liars in Jane Eyre
“Deceit is, indeed, a sad fault in a child,’ said Mr. Brocklehurst; ‘it is akin to falsehood, and all liars will have their portion in the lake burning with fire and brimstone.”
Jane was severely humiliated at Lowood by standing on a stool and being called a liar by Mr. Brocklehurst.
After descending from the stool, Jane says, “…so overwhelming was the grief that seized me, I sank prostrate with my face to the ground. Now I wept: Helen Burns was not here; nothing sustained me; left to myself I abandoned myself, and my tears watered the boards.”
Throughout the whole novel Jane is excessively concerned with her Dear Reader believing her. It seems Jane wants the Dear Reader to know she’s not a liar, but her autobiography is full of lies, including her own.
In her autobiography, Jane tells us all about her life from her childhood to her marriage to Mr. Rochester, with great detail, in a moving, heart-felt story.
Jane is a powerful narrator, because she convinces the reader of her honesty. We believe her completely while she is at Gateshead with her cruel Aunt Reed, we continue to believe her while she is at Lowood, and even during her first months at Thornfield, we are mostly with her a hundred per cent, but after that, our trust begins to waver.
Jane becomes unreliable when she falls in love with Mr. Rochester. She becomes his spokesperson: a liar, too, albeit unwittingly, or perhaps not.
Readers are aware that when a story is told in the first person, it must be, at least partially unreliable, because the main character cannot know all the truth or facts, and must rely on the information other characters give her. We believe many of her characters’ lies, because Jane believes them.
Unreliable narrators add more complexity to the story, because they don’t tell the truth, and the reader needs to read the narrative more closely and make his/her own decisions about the veracity of events narrated.
The extent to which Jane believes the lies, because she wishes to believe them, is up for discussion.
Was Jane the only person in the house who didn’t know Bertha was there, in spite of seeing her once, before her marriage, when she tore her veil? Why did she always believe others’ accounts of the laughter and strange noises on the third floor? When Mr. Mason was attacked by someone in the attic, why didn’t she ask who it had been?
Did Jane prefer not to know about the pretense in the attic?
Perhaps she did, at the time the events occurred, but what about years later? There are two Janes in Jane Eyre. The naïve, 19-year-old Jane, and the mature Jane who writes the autobiography ten years after events occurred. The mature Jane has had plenty of time to grow up and realize that she might have been too naïve, at the time. Nevertheless, the older 29-year-old narrator maintains the pretense of Mr. Rochester’s innocence. Why? Why is the older Jane narrator even more unreliable than the young Jane?
Let’s look at the reasons why some narrators don’t tell us the truth:
- They can be naïve.
- They can be mentally unstable.
- They can be liars who are purposefully misleading.
I’d say Jane becomes unreliable for all of the above reasons.
Firstly she is naïve, she was not only nineteen when she met Mr. Rochester, and she had led a sheltered life, not having left Lowood Institution for the length of her stay, eight long years. She had met very few men, probably only Mr. Brocklehurst and the local vicar, and had no experience of real life outside those walls.
Jane believes all the lies other characters tell her, and practically everyone in the novel lies to her. Her aunt lies to her, Mr. Rochester, and the servants at Eyre Hall, including Mrs. Fairfax.
Secondly, she suffered a transitory mental instability; she was in love, or rather madly and hopelessly in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester. Recent scientific research has investigated the chemical storm that romantic love can trigger in our brains. Dr. Frank Tallis, has gone as far as to write a book about love as a mental illness called Love Sick.
Finally, I hate to say this, but I believe Jane, the 29-year-old narrator, is also purposefully misleading. Why? Because she wants us to love ‘her Mr. Rochester’, the man she has fallen in love with, as much as she does. She wants us to forgive him, respect him, and love him, because she needs her Dear Reader’s complicity. Consequently, she accepts his lies, forgives him, embellishes his treatment of Bertha, Adele, Blanche, and herself, so that we will see him as she does, and love him.
Jane purposefully, and successfully, manipulates her Dear Reader into loving Mr. Rochester.
She’s in love and we all know love is blind. When St. John Rivers suggests Mr. Rochester behaved incorrectly:
‘He must have been a bad man,’ observed Mr. Rivers.
‘You don’t know him—don’t pronounce an opinion upon him,’ I said, with warmth.
What? What’s to know? He lied to you, repeatedly.
Mr. Rochester is clearly unreliable because he is a compulsive liar, constantly trying to convince Jane of his innocence. He’s also selfish and immature; someone else is always to blame for his problems.
Mr. Rochester has told Adele her mother is dead, yet he later confesses to Jane that her mother fled to Italy with an opera singer and abandoned the child in Paris.
The truth is that he married a rich heiress for her money, locked her in his attic, had an illegitimate child in France, the child’s mother is not dead, he had no intention of marrying Blanche Ingram, he was not ruined, he insisted he was a bachelor, he tricked Jane into a bigamous marriage. When all else failed, he offered to make Jane his mistress, which would have compromised her future and ruined any chances of having a family, and he knew it.
Lies are hurtful. The person who is lied to is deprived of any control over their future because they cannot make an unbiased decision. They are not fully informed about their possible courses of action, so they may make a decision that they would not otherwise have made.
Jane’s power of decision is withdrawn by Mr. Rochester’s lies. If Jane had known Mr. Rochester was married, she would probably have behaved differently.
Finally, we must remember that Jane herself lied on several occasions.
She lied to Mr. Rochester when she told him she had no family. On her behalf, she was communicating someone else’s lie; her Aunt Reed’s.
She lied by omission to Mr. Rochester, when she didn’t tell him about her cruel aunt or her hard days at Lowood. She did not wish him to see her as an unwanted or humiliated young girl, so she omitted those details of her life, which she only tells her Dear Reader.
She blatantly lies herself, by inventing a false identity, including a false name, when she tells her cousins her name is Jane Elliott. The reason is self-preservation, but it seems she would have put up with the pretense forever if necessary. She didn’t own up, or tell her cousins the truth, she was found out by St. John.
Finally, Jane, the mature narrator, lies to us, her Dear Reader, by insisting on Rochester’s innocence and her naiveté ten years after events occurred.
In summary, almost every character lies or is lied to.
Aunt Reed: Lies about Jane’s uncle and cousins.
Cousin John: Denies his abusive behavior to Jane.
Cousins Georgiana and Lizzie: Ignore their brother’s abusive behavior and support his lies (by omission).
Mr. Brocklehurst: Says her aunt is pious and charitable.
Miss Temple: Doesn’t tell Jane she’s getting married and leaving Lowood (lying by omission).
Mrs. Fairfax: Said there were no ghosts or other persons at Thornfield Hall.
Leah and Grace Poole: Support Mrs. Fairfax account (lying by omission).
Mr Rochester: Claims to be unmarried, insists Adele’s not his daughter, says Adele’s mother is dead, leads Jane to believe he’ll marry Blanche Ingram, leads the Ingrams to believe he’s been ruined. (There are many more lies I cannot prove, but infer from the narrative, related to the fire, Bertha’s death and his father and brother’s deaths).
Adele: Claims her mother is dead.
Jane: Omits details about her days at Gateshead and Lowood. Gives a false identity at Moor House.
The only truthful characters are Helen, who dies in her arms at Lowood, and Ironically, her cousins are the only people young Jane lies to directly and purposefully.
So, do you still believe Jane and Mr. Rochester’s marriage, based on lies and passion, would have been happy in the long term?