Letter N #AtoZChallenge Necks and Necklaces in #JaneEyre

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. 

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Necks and Necklaces in Jane Eyre

Necks are important in Jane Eyre, they symbolize pain, love, and worldly riches and grandeur.

Pain

  • 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…”

Love

  • 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.”

Jane wearing pearls at her first ill-fated wedding

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:

  1. 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.”

Woman with gold necklace.2

  • 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.

 

 

Letter C April #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Cousins Reed

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 Cousins Reed, told by Jane herself.


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I was an orphan, but I had many uncles and cousins. I’m going to tell you about my Reed cousins on my mother’s side. I’ll tell you about my Rivers cousins, on my father’s side later on.

Jane_Eyre_family-tree

I’m afraid the information I have is sketchy because some of the records were lost, and my surviving family were not able or willing to give me all the missing facts.

My mother’s maiden surname was Reed, and she had one brother, who looked after me when my parents died, although he died shortly after, when I was a child.

Nine years later, Mr. Rochester informed me that my uncle had been a respected Magistrate. He was a good man, who loved his sister, my mother dearly, so he adopted me when I was an infant.

Unfortunately, his wife, my Aunt Sarah Reed did not fulfill his wishes. When he died she treated me cruelly. They had three children, who were my cousins John, Eliza and Georgina. They did not love me, or even like me. Their mother had poisoned them against me, and treated me as little more than a servant, or unwanted guest.

JaneEyre1983_006Pyxurz

My cousins Liza and Georgiana ignored me most of the time, and my cousin John abused me often. He would hit me and tease me several times the day, although I tried to keep out of his way. Eventually, when I was ten years old, my Aunt Reed sent me away to Lowood, which in retrospect, was one of the greatest things she ever did for me. At Lowood I excelled in all subjects and became a teacher. It was my profession which enabled me to be free by providing me with an honest employment and independence at an early age.

John Reed

When I left Gateshead Hall, my cousin’s grand but unwelcoming abode, I never saw them again for the rest of my childhood.  My aunt gave strict instructions that I should never be allowed to return, even during the school holidays. Eight years later, I was employed as governess at Thornfield Hall in October. In May of the following year, I returned to Gateshead having been summoned by my aunt who was on her death-bed.

My cousin John died before his mother at his chambers in London. He was leading a life of debauchery, ruined himself and is believed to have committed suicide. The news so shocked his mother, my aunt, that it brought on an apoplectic attack.

My aunt informed me, to relieve her conscience, that three years earlier, she had received the following letter from my uncle, my mother’s other brother, John Eyre:

‘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.

‘JOHN EYRE, Madeira.’

She had informed my uncle that I had died of typhus fever at Lowood. She confessed that she had done it because she hated me because my uncle doted on my mother and insisted on adopting me when she died. She confessed that she hated me the first time she set my eyes on me because I was a ‘sickly, whining, pining thing who would wail in its cradle all night long—not screaming heartily like any other child, but whimpering and moaning.’ I must say that when I heard my aunt’s words, my heart for that poor little orphan. Was it my fault I had been born and survived my parents? How could a little baby girl, who has just lost her parents, inspire anyone to hate her?

My cousin Georgiana, who was reportedly beautiful, although I considered her too large, loud and boistrous, reminding me of Blanche Ingram, eventually married a wealthy worn-out man of fashion.

Her her sister Eliza became a Roman Catholic nun in France, becoming Mother Superior of the convent where she passed the period of her novitiate, and which she endowed with her fortune.

When I look back, I think of life’s unexplainable mysteries. My aunt thought she was punishing me by sending me to Lowood and then by telling my uncle I had died. In fact, she did me a great favour.

 

Jane Teacher

In the first place I gained knowledge, self-respect, a disciplined character, and a profession at Lowood, which I would never have attained had I remained in her house as a maid. Secondly, if I had been sent to Madeira with my uncle three years ago, I would never have worked as a teacher at Lowood or as a governess at Thornfield Hall, and I would never have met Mr. Rochester.

Jane teaching Adele

Perhaps that is why, when I remember her, my heart has no hate and seeks no revenge. Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord, and I’d say, she has had her fair share of sorrow without my participation.

I never met my Uncle John, but in the end, his lawyer, Mr. Briggs found me while I was in Morton, where my cousin Rivers’ lived. I inherited all his belongings when he died childless. It was a great deal of money, which enabled me to return to Mr. Rochester as a wealthy and independent woman, able to build my own house and be my own master, if I should so wish.