There was no possibility of taking a walk that (November) day.

November is a dark and ominous month in Jane Eyre’s life.

Firstly, she is locked in the red room, as a child, at Gateshead. Secondly, she is lonely at Thornfield Hall, before Rochester’s arrival. Finally she is leading a solitary life in Morton, while her cousin, whom she doesn’t love, proposes to her.

Gateshead 

The first lines of Jane Eyre presents the reader with a gloomy November day:

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day…. the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.

The young girl, under ten years old, was confined to the house she detested. She had been taken in by a family who relegated her to the position of a homeless poor relative they despised. In the breakfast room, where she was expelled, away from the rest of the family, who were comfortably seated in the drawing-room, Jane observed:

…to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.’

Later that day, she was confined to the ghostly Red Room, after refusing to be bullied and beaten by her cousin John Reed.

Thornfield

Jane arrived at sombre Thornfield Hall  in October, but chilly November arrived fast, and Mrs, Fairfax informed Jane of what to expect from then on:

I’m sure last winter (it was a very severe one, if you recollect, and when it did not snow, it rained and blew), not a creature but the butcher and postman came to the house, from November till February; and I really got quite melancholy with sitting night after night alone.

Thornfield Hall was a vault-like, dreary place between November and February. On this occasion, Mr. Rochester returned in January, when he met Jane on the icy causeway, on her way to Hay.

Morton.

Shortly after moving to Morton, and recovering her health, in November, Jane set up a school, where she lived. She found both a job and lodgings. She describes the rudimentary building:

I had closed my shutter, laid a mat to the door to prevent the snow from blowing in under it, trimmed my fire, and after sitting nearly an hour on the hearth listening to the muffled fury of the tempest, I lit a candle, out of the frozen hurricane—the howling darkness.

Shortly after, still in November, she learnt of her uncle’s death and the fortune she had inherited. Months later, she returned to Thornfield Hall in search of Rochester.

November in Jane Eyre

November is the month of transition between the warmer and colder part of the year. It heralds a time of introversion and hard work in order to lay the foundations for the spring.

During those chilly autumn days at Thornfield, Jane more than teaches, she transforms Adele into a more docile pupil, and ears the respect of the rest of the staff who thought she was too frail for the job. By the time Rochester arrives she’s literally become the ruler of the roost. She sleeps upstairs with Mrs. Fairfax, very near the master’s room, she has got to know the house and the area, she has gained the respect of everyone, and she loves it at Thornfield. There is no-one to boss her around, until he arrives.

In Morton, she occupied her time drawing and reading, teaching, and gaining the respect of the locals as she worked as their teacher at the newly founded school, until she learnt of her new and improved situation.

The positive events in Jane Eyre occur in spring and summer, while winter is a time for introspection, loneliness, and hardship. Fortunately, spring and summer bring renewed hope and love to her life, as we have seen in other posts on this blog.

Emily Dickinson, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, also had a sad, cold,  and difficult view of November.

Charlotte Bronte would have loved this poem, which she probably never read.

How happy I was if I could forget
To remember how sad I am
Would be an easy adversity
But the recollecting of Bloom

Keeps making November difficult
Till I who was almost bold
Lose my way like a little Child
And perish of the cold.

 

Marriage and Fiction: Reader, I married him…

The Last chapter of Jane Eyre begins with these four words, “Reader, I married him.” As if with marriage the narrator wished to close the story, which started when Jane was a ten-year old orphan living unhappily with her cruel aunt, Mrs. Reed, and spiteful cousins; Georgina, Eliza, and John. She later went through the deprivations and severity of Lowood boarding school for poor girls, run by the dreadful Mr. Brocklehurst, where she trained, and later worked as a teacher. When she was eighteen, she applied for a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she met and fell in love with Mr. Rochester, who almost dishonoured her by preparing a bigamous marriage. He was already legally married to Bertha Mason, whom he had imprisoned in his attic. Bertha committed suicide, and Jane and Rochester were finally able to celebrate a lawful wedding, in the final chapter of the novel.

It was a Victorian convention to end novels in this way, indicating that virtue led to the stability and happiness which marriage represented. The problem here is that Mr. Rochester was neither virtuous nor stable, and every reader is aware of that. Whether you believe that this was the end of the story of Jane Eyre is, of course, up to the reader. This is what the narrator, Jane Eyre, a romantic and innocent twenty-year-old, thought would happen. But how reliable a narrator is Jane, the young, naïve woman who is blindly in love with Edward Rochester?

Readers have seen Edward Rochester through Jane Eyre’s eyes. She loved him in spite of his lies, and there were many of them. Rochester always denied being Adele’s father, and he insisted that he was unmarried, even in a church, as Richard Mason accused him of being betrothed to his sister. He blames everyone else for his problems; his father, his brother, Richard Mason, his first wife, and he even accuses Jane of bewitching him into loving her. Rochester is innocent in his own eyes, and he convinces Jane of his guiltlessness; this does not necessarily mean he convinces the reader. Readers make their own decisions.

Rochester is bad-tempered, conceited, and aggressive. He tries to humiliate Jane when she first arrives at Thornfield, and teases her mercilessly with Blanche Ingram, and his other guests. He reminds her constantly that she is not attractive, “You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are.” (Chapter XXIII) He even threatens Jane with these words, “Jane, I am not a gentle-tempered man—you forget that: I am not long-enduring; I am not cool and dispassionate. Out of pity to me and yourself, put your finger on my pulse, feel how it throbs, and—beware!” As a result of his violence she is forced to ask for God’s help, “I did what human beings do instinctively when they are driven to utter extremity—looked for aid to one higher than man: the words “God help me!” burst involuntarily from my lips.” (Chapter XXVII)

Jane does not finally tame him. He is rendered physically passive, after the accident due to partial blindness and a stumped arm, and emotionally sunk, because he has lost the two women who were sustaining his vanity and ego. When Jane finally returns, he recovers his physical and emotional strength, because he is now someone’s unconditional “master” once more. The question is: how long will Jane be able to continue with the idyllic life she imagines she will lead for the rest of her days? Is marriage the end of a story, or the beginning of another, greater adventure?

We can ask ourselves some questions in order to foresee how their relationship may well develop: Will Jane be content to spend the rest of her life as a recluse at Ferdean? Will Rochester be content to do the same after he recovers his sight and his health? What will happen once they have a family? Will Rochester relinquish his central role in her life in favour of a child or children? Are they really well suited? Do they have the same outlook on life? Does he have any consideration for his servants? Orphans? People in difficulty? Has he any religious beliefs, as she does? Does she like hunting and inconsequential social gatherings? Their conversation was lively while they were flirting, but now the conquest has been made and mundane daily matters will take over, how will “sir” react? How will the gentry of the area take to Jane? There is a large age-difference between them, what will happen when Rochester ages or dies and she is still relatively young?

Jane is the narrator and protagonist of Jane Eyre, but the novel ends when she is still a very young woman who has a whole life ahead of her. Jane Eyre is one of the greatest characters in literary history; her life cannot end with marriage to an egotistical, dishonest, and idle member of the Victorian gentry. I wanted more. Jane Eyre, the impressionable young bride, deserves a life of her own, so I imagined Jane Eyre Rochester, the woman, and wrote her story, twenty-two years after her marriage to Edward Rochester, in All Hallows at Eyre Hall,  because marriage is not the end of a fictional life; it is the beginning of another novel.

Can you think of any other ‘unfinished’ novels ending in marriages, which need to be continued?

Guest Luccia Gray: Clothes in Jane Eyre’s Time.

I’d like to introduce you to fellow blogger, and writer, Noelle Granger, author of an entertaining, 5-Star detective novel, Death in a Red Canvas Chair, whose protagonist, sleuth, nurse, mother, and police consultant, Rhe Brewster, has become my favourite amateur detective. Look out for the second installment, Death in a Dacron Sail. The cover reveal will be coming soon on this blog!

Noelle  has invited me to write a guest post on her entertaining blog. She suggested I write about clothes in Jane Eyre, and loving anything and everything to do with Jane Eyre, and having already researched for my novel, here’s what I came up with. Hope you enjoy reading the post and looking through Noelle’s blog!

Guest Luccia Gray: Clothes in Jane Eyre’s Time..

The Books Jane Eyre Read. Part One: At Gateshead Hall.

The orphaned Jane Eyre, was taken in by her uncle’s widowed wife, Mrs. Reed, and her spiteful cousins, John, Eliza, and Georgina. She suffered greatly at their home, saying of John, who was 14 and four years older than her,

‘He bullied and punished me; not two or three times in the week, nor once or twice in the day, but continually: every nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh in my bones shrank when he came near.’

In the first two chapters, which take place in her aunt’s house, Gateshead Hall, Jane Eyre mentions three books she had read in her childhood, before the age of ten, which tell us a great deal about her remarkable character.

Beitish birds

The first one is Bewick’s History of British Birds, which she was reading when her cruel cousin bullied her for the umpteenth, but final time. This drastic event occurs right at the beginning of the novel, she was reading when her cousin reprimanded her:

‘“You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg.’

He then flung the book at her, hitting her head against the door, and cutting it:

‘The cut bled, the pain was sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.’

roman history

Jane retaliated by accusing him of being a wicked and cruel murderer, slave-driver, and Roman emperor, because she ‘had read Goldsmith’s History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of Nero, Caligula, &c. really saw in him a tyrant, a murderer.’ It must indeed have been a vicious attack because she ‘felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering:’ and she hit him I self-defense.

As a result, Jane was locked in the red-room, where her uncle had died, and had a fainting-fit, imagining she saw him.

The following day, she was pampered and looked after by Bessie, her aunt’s maid. However, Jane refused to eat, instead she begged her to fetch Gulliver’s Travels from the library.

Gullivers_travels

Regarding Berwick’s book, first printed in 1797, she was only concerned with the pictures and the travelling aspect:

‘I returned to my book–Bewick’s History of British Birds: the letterpress thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could not pass quite as a blank….Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with “the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone.”

Jane is telling us she is interested in wildlife, travel, and the beauty of nature.

The second book she mentions is Goldsmith’s History of Rome. I suppose she is referring to Goldsmith’s Roman History Abridged for use in Schools, first printed in 1772, which was widely used in schools at the beginning of the 19th century. In this case we are implicitly being informed that Jane is a well read and intelligent child, who is able to understand ancient history, and project what she has read to her present reality.

Gulliver’s Travels, is by fat the most interesting of the three, It is a satirical novel by Irish writer and clergyman, Jonathan Swift, first published in 1726. Lemuel Gulliver’s an unfulfilled surgeon who sets out on his remarkable travels between 1699 and end in 1715. He is a gullible, honest man who is shipwrecked, abandoned, and attacked, throughout his travels. He constantly faces opposing forces he must deal with: big versus small, wise versus ignorant, good versus bad, etc.  When he finally returns to his home in England, he becomes a recluse who spends several hours a day speaking with the horses in his stables, and loosing his sanity, sadly the same fate which awaited Swift himself.

Gulliver is both a giant and a dwarf. He travels to distant lands where he is surrounded by tiny little people, and to a land where he is tiny compared to the giant-like people who live there. Gulliver is never with his own kind, and always feels out-of-place. When he finally does find a place he likes and is at home with the inhabitants, they reject him because they find him to be too much like the creatures that act as their servants.

Jane says it was a book she ‘had again and again perused with delight.’ She cherished the book and marveled at its pictures, because she had considered Lilliput as a real, solid place, instead of a mere fairy tale. She had imagined one day seeing, ‘the little fields, houses, and trees, the diminutive people, the tiny cows, sheep, and birds of the one realm; and the corn-fields forest-high, the mighty mastiffs, the monster cats, the tower-like men and women.’

However, when Bessie handed her the book and she turned the leaves, she failed to find the charm she had once succumbed to. Instead, Lilliput had become dreary, and the characters malevolent and fearful creatures. She now identified with a desolate Gulliver, who was wandering in dangerous regions. She then closed the book, fearfully, and left it on the table with a piece of ‘untasted’ tart, which reinforces the idea of loss of childhood, and innocence.

This identification with Gulliver’s plight casts the young child in the sad role of outsider. Jane is alienated at Gateshead, surrounded by people who do not accept her, or help her in any way. She is displaced and misplaced. She is not with her own kind. Her family considers her a subordinate, and on the other had she is lost having nowhere to go, belonging nowhere. Jane is like Gulliver, searching for companionship and acceptance.

The books Jane read tell us that she was a well-read, intelligent, and talented child, who was longing for love, affection, and acceptance. She knew about, and was interested in; history, nature, art, geography, and interpersonal relations, and struggles. She was aware that human injustice and evil were a reality, not a ploy in a children’s book.

The punishment in the Red Room marked the end of her childhood, and the end of her stay at Gateshead, because she was soon to move on to the next adolescent stage in her life, and her new abode, Lowood Institution.

 

Always Rereading Jane Eyre

IMG-20131211-WA0010I was an impressionable teenager the first time I read Jane Eyre and I have reread it countless times since then. Every time I have reread it I have uncovered another angle or aspect in this superb manuscript. My first impression was one of awe and admiration due to the sheer power of the characters and the story. Each rereading has produced a powerful effect shifting from wonder and respect to anger and disbelief. These pendular reactions probably mirrored my own personal development and life experiences.

I don’t think it’s necessary to go through these transitions, suffice it to say that this period of veneration lasted until I read Wide Sargasso Sea, from then on Jane Eyre suffered an irreversible upheaval. The characters and events have been constructed and deconstructed in my mind obsessively to such an extent that I had to write the sequel to both novels in order to get them out of my system, and that is exactly what I did.

Now that I have written my sequel I am going to reread Jane Eyre one more time, which I’m sure will not be the last time, but it will be a very different rereading.This time I’d like to reread it publicly on this blog, as if it were my diary. I don’t know the exact shape it will take, but my plan is to write about my reflections on the whole novel as I reread it from start to finish.

Why am I doing this? Because I need to read it again, and I need to publicly record my impressions and perhaps offer new insights to myself and anyone else interested in deciphering this unequaled work of art.