Letter I #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s First Person Narrator

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 it’s all about Jane Eyre is going to tell us about her use of ‘I’ or First Person Narrator. 

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Jane Eyre is my autobiography. It’s the true story about what happened to me from my childhood until I married Mr. Rochester, when I was nineteen.

I wrote my autobiography for you, Dear Reader because I wanted you, and only you, to know about my life from a first hand account. I have told you things I have never told anyone.

Only you know I was locked in the Red Room at my aunt’s house, only you know how I felt when I was introduced to Bertha Mason in Mr. Rochester’s attic, and only you know how I wondered and almost died on my way to Morton. We have many secrets, Dear Reader.

You know all about my first ten years at my Aunt Reed’s house, and everything that happened at Lowood. I did not lie, and I did not purposefully omit important details. I was honest and hard-working. I made few friends and no enemies. I learned a worthwhile profession and desired to move on and widen my horizons.

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When I arrived at Thornfield Hall, the lies started, Dear Reader. It was not my intention to lie to you, and I did not lie about my feelings, or what I saw and heard. However, I was lied to, and delivered those lies to you, unknowingly.

Mrs. Fairfax, Leah, and Grace Poole, told me there were no ghosts or other persons at Eyre Hall, when they knew that Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason, was living in the attic. I realize that now. Grace Poole took up her food, slept with her, and held the key to her room. Everyone at Thornfield Hall knew about her, except you and me, Dear Reader.

Edward lied to me by telling me he was unmarried, even inside the church where we were to be wed, in the vicar’s presence. He assured me there was no one in the attic, except Grace Poole. He also told me he wasn’t Adele’s father, and he led me to believe that he would marry Blanche Ingram. I was fooled and so were you, Dear Reader.

Wedding

Then, when I visited my aunt on her death bed, I also discovered she had lied by telling me that my father’s family were poor, and that my only relative, my Uncle, John Eyre, was dead. I later learnt that my uncle was wealthy and that I had three wonderful cousins.

When I left Thornfield, I was forced to lie myself. I gave the Rivers a false name and refused to tell them my real story, for fear of rejection. I told my cousins my name was Jane Elliott when no such person existed. On this occasion, I did not lie to you, Dear Reader. You knew exactly who I was.

You must forgive me for lying, Dear Reader. I lied because I was naïve, gullible and in love. I believed the things they all said to me, but they all lied, mercilessly, cruelly, for their own advantage. My aunt lied to hurt me, Mr. Rochester lied to seduce me, and the servants at Eyre Hall lied to protect their master, and preserve their salaries.

I forgave them all, Dear Reader.

I forgave my aunt on her deathbed: ‘you have my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God’s, and be at peace.’

After the bigamous marriage attempt, Edward asked me to forgive him: ‘Will you ever forgive me?’ He asked and I forgave him, too. ‘Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot.’ I told you Dear Reader, because only you know my heart. ‘I forgave him all: yet not in words, not outwardly, only at my heart’s core.’

The lies are not yet over. My final lie to you Dear Reader, is a wish. I wish to be happily married to Edward forever, but I will never know if my wish came true.

Many warned me that he would return to his selfish ways, that he was too self-centered to be a good father and husband. Others were sure that I was too strong willed and independent to remain in a secluded old manor house, looking after a moody, sick, rich landowner for the rest of my days, while there was so much to be improved in our country, so many orphans to look after and children to teach.

One reader imagined I built a house with my uncle’s inheritance, where Thornfield Hall once stood and called it Eyre Hall in memory of my Uncle John Eyre. She imagined I looked after my ailing husband and his ward, Adele, as well as my son, John. I supported parish schools for orphans and poor children, maintained the church at Hay, invested in charities for poor families, and I was a fair and considerate employer. I managed the Rochester Estate, where tenants and farmers paid fair rents and had safe houses in which to live. This Dear Reader imagined there were more secrets at Thornfield Hall and Eyre Hall that I had not yet discovered, because there were more secrets at Eyre Hall. She also knew I was a passionate woman, so I may have encountered love once more.

If you enjoyed my autobiography, which is only for your eyes, Dear Reader, you already guessed that I would I write more novels for the general reading public. Jane Eyre was an author.

Dear Reader, is this what you imagined my life would be like twenty years after I married Mr. Rochester?

 

 

Letter G #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Gardens

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 it’s all about Jane Eyre’s Gardens. Jane will tell us all about the gardens in her life, in her own words.

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The first garden I can remember was at my Aunt Reed’s house, Gateshead Hall. There was a glass-door in the breakfast-room, which led onto the shrubbery and the path leading to the gate and the fields, where the sheep fed on short, blanched grass. I remember it was almost leafless, so it must have been the end of autumn, because when I walked out further, there was another part of the plantation with leafless, silent trees, and falling fir-cones. I can see a few autumn, russet leaves swept by the winds. I spent nine springs and nine summers in that house, and yet I cannot recall ever seeing a single flower. No child should be forced to have such a colourless childhood.

Snowy garden

When I first arrived at Lowood Institution, when I was ten years old, it was winter, and I did not enjoy being forced out to the garden for fresh air in the freezing, snow-covered garden, especially since our clothes were insufficient to protect us from the severe cold. We had no boots, and our shoes were soaked and our numbed hands covered in chilblains, as were our feet.

The garden was a wide enclosure, surrounded with high walls, and a covered verandah along one side. There were broad walks and a middle space divided into scores of little beds which these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate.

When April arrived, I had settled in. I had some friends and I had grown to enjoy the classes and the lessons. We could at last endure our daily hour in the garden, and when it was sunny, it was pleasant. I was overjoyed to plant in my garden the seeds we were given and some roots I had dug up in the forest.

The brown flower beds turned green, and flowers peeped out amongst the leaves: snow- drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. The vegetation matured in May and Lowood became green and flowery, at last. The great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland plants sprang up profusely.

Orchard spring

It doesn’t seem possible, but I imagined it was the first time I had seen the sweet explosion of spring. The garden glowed with flowers: hollyhocks sprung up tall as trees, lilies opened, tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies.

In June, the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell. The evenings were so warm and serene, I knew this was where I had to be. Nevertheless, as the years passed, when I went upstairs to my room and opened the window and looked out, I yearned to travel beyond the hilly horizon, over those most remote peaks I longed to surmount. I hadn’t left Lowood in eight years and I longed to follow it farther, which I did when Miss Temple married and left.

Thornfield Hall didn’t have a garden, as such, it had a lawn in front of the building and grounds leading onto a great meadow, which was separated by a fence. Beyond there was an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.

There was an Eden-like orchard, which was full of trees blooming with flowers. A very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. A winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse- chestnut, led down to the fence At the bottom was the fence, and beyond, the fields and the winding path which led to Hay.

Proposal garden

The orchard with gooseberry trees, large plums, and cherry trees, was my favourite place to wander unseen, and it was pleasantly shady in spring and summer. There was a delicious fragrance of sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose. It was here, one June evening, when trees laden with ripening fruit, that Mr. Rochester proposed to me, the first time, by the light of the rising moon.

After leaving Thornfield Hall, when it was discovered that Mr. Rochester had a wife, who was locked in his attic, I wandered about like a lost and starving dog, crossing fields on foot to get as far away from Thornfield as was possible, I knocked on a clergyman’s door. It was Moor House, in Morton, where the Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers lived. It was a small grey, antique house with a low roof and latticed casements. The garden was dark with yew and holly and there were no flowers.

I stayed there until I recovered my strength and found a job as a teacher. My new home was a cottage with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor half hour from Morton. There was a small school room and a kitchen with had four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard. Above, there was a small chamber with a bedstead and chest of drawers. There was a tiny garden with a wicket, which shut me in from the meadow beyond. It looked very scanty when I arrived, but I was going to plant some roots in spring.

Jane Teacher

I was glad of this opportunity to make a living on my own as a school-teacher and when I looked at the quiet fields before my cottage, I knew I should be happy, but I cried of loneliness. I stayed at the school until the end of autumn, when I discovered I had inherited a small fortune from my Uncle John in Madeira, and that the Rivers were my cousins on my father’s side. So, I returned to Moor House to live with them, until one night I heard Edward calling me, and I returned to Thornfield Hall.

Thornfield had been burnt down by Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason. I eventually found Edward at his Manor House, Ferndean. It was an isolated and sombre place. There was no garden, there were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy frame of the forest. The house presented two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed and narrow, and the front door was narrow too.

When I found Edward, he was crippled and blind, and feeling rather sorry for himself. He said he was like the old lightning-struck chestnut tree in the Thornfield orchard, but I told him he it wasn’t true, to me he was as green and vigorous as the last time I had seen him.

Mr. Rochester Blind

The second time he proposed to me was also in the open air. I led him out of the wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields, which I described to him. They were brilliantly green with flowers and hedges and the sky was sparklingly blue. He sat in a hidden and lovely spot, on a dry stump of a tree, and I sat on his knee, while I told him about my travels since I had left Thornfield.

I told him I was an independent, rich woman and that I could build a house next to his. This house would have a beautiful garden, which he would one day be able to see when he recovered his eyesight. I think that might happen. I would call it Eyre Hall, in honour of my uncle, John Eyre.

Jane and Rochester friends

Fictional Houses: from Thornfield to Eyre Hall

Throughout literature houses, or buildings where people have converged have become central elements and powerful symbols in the creative process.

According to Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space ( La Poétique de l’Espace, 1958), the house becomes the representation of the universe. It can also be examined as the manifestation of the soul through the poetic image.

Houses in literature are often places of intimacy which can hold memories, experiences, they can also keep secrets, and arouse sensations, merging into the action by becoming a witness, accomplice, and even instigator of events. In any case, the symbolic value of houses cannot be underestimated.

It would be impossible to mention all the houses in English literature. The aim of this brief overview is to bring our attention to the importance of houses by reminding us of some of the most significant literary houses, which have become part of our collective unconscious.

We could start with the Herot, the Mead Hall in the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, which J. R. R. Tolkien recreated as Meduseld (meaning mead hall in Old English) in Middle-earth, a richly decorated meeting and gathering hall for the King and his advisors. Herot was both a seat of government and as royal residence, symbolizing civilization and culture, wealth, safety, and merriment, in contrasts with the darkness, danger, and evil of the swamp waters inhabited by the monster, Grendel.

A reconstructed Viking Age longhouse (28.5 metres long) in Fyrkat

 

Our next stop would be at the The Tabard Inn, in the London borough of Southwark, which accommodated the numerous pilgrims on their way to their annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, fictionalised by Geoffrey Chaucer in the The Canterbury Tales. The Inn keeper, Harry Bailly, accompanies the pilgrims on their journey and proposed that each tell two tales on the way to Canterbury.

 

The Tabard Inn, Southwark, around 1850

Hamlet’s tortured speeches, Ophelia’s singing, his father’s ghost, the deaths of Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, and Hamlet himself, are inseparable from the place where they took place, Elsinore Castle, in Denmark.

Helsingoer Kronborg Castle known by many also as “Elsinore,” the setting of William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

 

The novel which is considered to initiate the gothic genre is set in and called, The Castle of Otranto, written by Horace Walpole. Many more gothic novels are set in singular buildings, such as Count Dracula’s dark and ruined castle inhabited by vampires, recreated by Bram Stoker.

By Horace Walpole. Title page from the third edition

 

Moving to the early 19th century, Jane Austen writes about more stately and luxurious houses, such as Pemberley, the fictional country estate owned by Mr. Darcy, in Pride and Prejudice. The beauty of the house plays a key role in Elizabeth Bennet’s attitude towards Darcy and leads to her reappraisal of her first negative opinion of Mr. Darcy.

Harewood House, near Leeds in West Yorkshire, was the setting for Pemberley in the ITV fantasy series Lost in Austen.

 

The middle and end of the 19th century and Victorian literature saw a return to somber abodes, after a brief period of delightful Regency homes.

The Bronte sisters resumed the gothic atmosphere in their characters’ dwellings. Wuthering Heights is the name of the inhospitable farmhouse where the story unfolds, and Thrushcross Grange, where the pleasant Lintons lived, represents comfort, peace and refinement.

 

igh Sunderland Hall, near Halifax, West Yorkshire is considered by some as the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.

 

Thornfield Hall, is the unforgettable gothic mansion which Jane Eyre describes thus on her arrival as governess:

‘I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.’

Thornfield was allegedly burnt down by Bertha Mason, the first Mrs. Rochester. Towards the end of the novel, Jane returns and finds it a ‘blackened ruin.’

 

Haddon Hall has appeared on television in 2006 as Thornfield Hall in Diederick Santer’s 2006 BBC version of Jane Eyre

In the sequel,  All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Richard Mason begins the narration by describing Eyre Hall, a house Jane Eyre rebuilt on the grounds of her beloved Thornfield Hall.

 

 

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‘The carriage swayed its way up the birch lined driveway towards Eyre Hall, tunnelling through the ghostly morning mist. The muggy air reeked of wilting foliage and soggy earth as the carriage halted abruptly, and the coachman closed and barred the heavy yard gates. The vehicle rocked as he leapt on, spurring the horses back into movement. Seconds later, I stepped out unsteadily onto crunchy gravel, adjusted my cloak and hat, and looked up to the rebuilt mansion for the first time.
Twenty-three years had passed since my last visit to another house in this same spot, when I was bitten by a raging lioness fighting to preserve her offspring and her reason.’

Eyre Hall has a central role in the novel, having witness the events which have occurred in the last twenty-two years, since Jane married Rochester. Eyre Hall will continue to witness the surprising events that will lead up to Rochester’s death, and thereafter.

Another unforgettable fictional dwelling is Satis House, the sinister mansion where Pip meets the spellbinding Estella, and the enigmatic Miss Havisham, is as powerful as any of the characters in Great Expectations.

According to the biographer John Forster, the novelist Charles Dickens, who lived nearby, used Restoration House as a model for Miss Havisham’s Satis House in Great Expectations

 

Manderlay, the house where Max de Winter lived with Rebecca, and his nameless second wife and narrator of Rebecca, is one of the most famous houses in 20th century literature, and one of the most memorable novels written by Daphne du Maurier.

Du Maurier’s Childhood visits to Milton Hall, Cambridgeshire, home of the Fitzwilliam family, influenced the descriptions of Manderley, especially the interior.

Brideshead Castle, where Lord Sebastian Flyte, the younger son of the aristocratic Lord Marchmain’s family mansion, takes his eccentric Oxford friends to meet his family, still breathes the atmosphere of pre-war England, while passively observing changing times, recreated by Evelyn Waugh, in 1945.

 

Harewood House, seen from the garden. It has featured in both the television and film versions of Brideshead Revisited
Not all novels are set in houses, and houses many not even be significant elements in a novel, but when the character’s abode is central to the action, it becomes one of the most enduring elements in the novel.

I hope that readers of All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Volume One of the Eyre Hall Trilogy will feel they have been walking along its corridors and up the stairs into the bed chambers, or sitting in the drawing room by the fireplace, or looking out of the windows towards the wintry landscape. Perhaps they even feel the ghosts of Thornfield lurking around, as Jenny Rosset, one of the characters says to Richard Mason:

‘I was at Thornfield, as you know, but I’ve never been to the new house. It’s in the same spooky place. I bet it’s full of them ghosts I heard at Thornfield. They live in the tree trunks and earth caves around the house. They whisper in the night, sometimes they come out and play mischief.’

 

Which are your favourite literary houses?

In case you don’t remember all their names, there is a much longer list of fictional houses here.