#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter10 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapte10

How I Advertised and was offered a post at Thornfield near Millcote

The number of victims during the typhus outbreak had drawn public attention on the school and by degrees various facts were made known which excited public indignation, such as the unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity and quality of the food; the wretched clothing and accommodations.

As a result, several wealthy and benevolent residents in the county financed a more convenient building in a better situation, and improvements were made in diet and clothing.   

Mr. Brocklehurst, who, from his wealth and family connections, could not be overlooked, still retained the post of treasurer; but he was aided in the discharge of his duties by gentlemen who knew how to combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion with uprightness.

I remained at Lowood for eight years after its regeneration, six as a student. I had an excellent education and excelled in all my studies; I rose to be the first girl of the first class. And two as a teacher.

Miss Temple stood by me in the stead of mother, governess, and, latterly, companion. But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between us. She married, removed with her husband, to a distant county, and consequently was lost to me.

After she left, I longed to enter the real world, where a varied field of hopes, fears and liberty, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek knowledge of life amidst its perils.

A kind fairy dropped the suggestion on my pillow. ‘You must enclose an advertisement and the money to pay for it under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald. You must post it at the post office at Lowton where I can inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any reply comes, and act accordingly.’

So, I followed my fairy’s suggestion and posted the following advertisement: ‘A young lady accustomed to tuition is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family where the children are under fourteen. She is qualified to teach the usual branches of a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music.’

When I returned a week later, a letter had arrived. I read it in my room with an inch of candle, which remained.

‘If J.E., is in a position to give satisfactory references as to character and competency, a situation can be offered her where there is but one pupil, a little girl, under ten years of age; and where the salary is thirty pounds per annum. J.E. is requested to send references, name, address, and all particulars to the direction:-‘Mrs. Fairfax, Thornfield, near Millcote.’

I knew it was a large manufacturing town seventy miles nearer London than the remote county where I now resided. Before accepting the offer I had to secure references, so I told the superintendent I had a prospect of getting a new situation where the salary would be double what I now received and asked if they would permit me to mention them as references. Mr. Brocklehurst informed Mrs. Reed as my natural guardian. She replied that ‘I might do as I pleased: she had long relinquished all interference in my affairs.’ The committee agreed to furnish me with a testimonial of character and capacity, signed by the inspectors of that institution, which I forwarded to Mrs. Fairfax, who then offered me the post of governess in her house.

I met Bessie who told me Miss Georgiana eloped and had to return home with her mother and her sister, John Reed had been thrown out of college for misconduct. She also told me an uncle of mine a wine merchant from Madeira had visited Mrs Reed.

I packed the same trunk I had brought with me eight years ago from Gateshead and took the coach from Lowton to Millcote.

****

This chapter jumps ahead eight years, informing us that over this time Jane has become an excellent student and respected teacher. Jane has grown up and is now emotionally and intellectually ready to leave behind Gateshead and Lowood, and start the third stage of her journey, at Thornfield Hall.

So far, the novel has given us all of Jane’s childhood as backstory and even the first time reader, who is not aware of the plot, is aware that her preparation is complete and her real journey is about to begin.

 

The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.

I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.

If you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.

See you next week for chapter 11. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter9 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 9

Resurgam: When Helen Burns Died In My Arms

The frosts of winter ceased, and the hardships of Lowood lessened. Serene May brought days of blue sky, placid sunshine, and soft gales. Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all green and flowery and its great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life.

The forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of pestilence, breathed typhus through its crowded walls, and the seminary was transformed into a hospital. Disease became an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its frequent visitor.

Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the pupils to receive infection: forty-five out of the eighty girls lay ill at one time. Classes were broken up, rules relaxed.

Miss Temple’s whole attention was absorbed by the patients. She lived in the sick room. The girls who were fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing to remove them left, some went home only to die, others died at the school, and were buried quietly and quickly.

But I, and the rest who continued well, rambled in the wood, like gipsies, from morning till night doing what we liked. We lived better too. Mr. Brocklehurst never came near Lowood and the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by the fear of infection; her successor provided with comparative liberality, and besides, there were fewer to feed.

My favourite place was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry from the middle of the beck, which was broad enough to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me. My chosen comrade, Mary Ann Wilson, was witty and original. She was older than I and knew more of the world, so she told me many things I liked to hear.

Helen had been removed to the hospital portion of the house with the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption. On sunny afternoons, I watched Miss Temple take her into the garden wrapped in a blanket from the schoolroom window, as I was not allowed to speak to her.

One evening on returning from my walk I saw Mr. Bates, the surgeon, with a nurse and I asked her, ‘How is Helen Burns?’

‘Very poorly. Mr. Bates has been to see her.’

‘And what does he say about her?’

‘He says she’ll not be here long.’

“Where is she?”

‘She is in Miss Temple’s room.’

That night when my companions in the dormitory were all wrapt in profound repose, I crept out and set off in quest of Helen. I had to give her one last kiss and exchange with her one last word before she died.

I found the door slightly ajar and saw the outline of Helen’s body in a little crib. 

‘Helen!’ I whispered softly, ‘are you awake?’

She was pale, wasted, but quite composed. ‘Can it be you, Jane? Why are you here?’

‘I heard you were very ill, and I could not sleep till I had spoken to you.’

‘You are just in time probably.’

‘Are you going home, Helen?’

‘Yes; to my last home. I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no one to regret me much. By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault.’

‘But where are you going, Helen?’

‘I am going to God.’

‘Where is God? What is God?’

‘My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness.’

‘You are sure that there is such a place as heaven, and that our souls can get to it when we die?’

‘I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me.’

‘And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?’

‘You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane.’

I lay with my face hidden on her neck and she said, ‘I feel as if I could sleep: but don’t leave me, Jane; I like to have you near me.’

‘I’ll stay with you, Helen; no one shall take me way.’

She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.

The next morning, I was carried back to the dormitory and learnt that Miss Temple had found me laid in the little crib with my arms round Helen’s dead body.

Her grave is in Brocklehurst churchyard: for fifteen years after her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word ‘Resurgam.’

This chapter is a disturbing combination of carefree time away from school, frolicking in the woods in the budding spring, during the month of May, and the dreadful typhus outbreak, which affected half of the girls at Lowood.

Jane made a new friend and was allowed to run wild in the woods, while the teachers looked after the sick girls. Unfortunately, her best friend, Helen Burns, was taken ill and later died in her arms. The way ten-year-old Jane recounts these dreadful events in such a matter-of-fact way, as if they are not such dreadful hardships, is disquieting.

I still remember the first time I read the paragraph in which she describes how Helen died in her arms while she slept, and it still sends shivers up my spine. I suppose hardship, death and disease were a normal part of Victorian life, but the degree of acceptance, bordering on lack of feeling, is heart wrenching. 

I found her narration of the typhus epidemic detached, as if the suffering of so many girls didn’t affect her and she was happy to spend her days having fun in the woods.

The way she narrates Helen’s death is also strangely disconnected. She must have been cold and breathing with difficulty when she died, but Jane says nothing of that, or how she feels about her friend’s death. Her reaction, the next day, when she found out her friend had died in her arms is oddly cool. The little girl has learned to control her deepest thoughts and emotions from everyone, including the reader.    

The event definitely affected her as she tells the reader she returned in 15 years’ time, at 25, after she had married Mr Rochester, to lay a headstone on her friend’s grave. The word ‘resurgam’ is Latin for “I shall rise again.” And it’s found in the Bible referred to the resurrection of Christ on the third day. Helen was fervently religious, as we can see from the extract. Helen was a fundamental influence in Jane’s religious beliefs and faith in God, especially regarding life after death. 

After everything she has already gone through, the reader is now more aware than ever that Jane will survive any crisis life throws in her way.

The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.

I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.

If you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.

See you next week for chapter 10! 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter5 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 5

My First Day at Lowood Institution  

I left Gateshead Hall at six am on the morning of the 19th of January. At twilight, after a 50-mile coach journey, we descended a valley into a dark, windy wood. A servant accompanied me along a pebbly path and into a house.

A tall lady with dark hair, dark eyes, enveloped in a shawl said, ‘The child is very young to be sent alone.’ I later learned she was Miss Maria Temple, the superintendent of Lowood.

She instructed Miss Miller to take me to another long room with great tables and girls aged between ten and twenty, uniformly dressed in brown stuff frocks and long pinafores, seated round on benches, in their hour of study.

Four girls went out and returned bearing trays with a thin oaten cake cut into fragments and mugs of water which were handed around. I drank because I was thirsty, but I did not eat.

After the meal, prayers were read by Miss Miller, and the classes filed off, two and two, upstairs to a large room with rows of beds, each filled with two occupants. I fell asleep at once.

At dawn a loud bell signalled we should wake up, wash our faces, get dressed and formed in file, two and two, descended the stairs and enter the cold and dimly lit schoolroom where Miss Miller read prayers.

We sat around four tables with one teacher. I sat with the smallest children. After four classes we had burnt porridge for breakfast. I ate a few spoonfuls because I was starving and then we went back to class. At twelve, the classes stopped and miss Temple ordered a lunch of bread and cheese.

After lunch we went out to the garden, a wide space surrounded with walls so high as to exclude every glimpse of what lay beyond. Some flower beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate, and each bed had an owner.

Some girls ran playing active games while others sat in the shelter of the verandah where I leant against a pillar and spoke to a girl reading a book. I asked her some questions, and she told me Lowood was a charity school for orphans and poor children. I found out the treasurer was Mr Brocklehurst, a clergyman who lived in a large hall two miles away.

We re-entered the house for dinner made up of some potatoes and strange shreds of rusty meat, mixed and cooked together. After dinner we had more classes until five o’clock. Miss Scatcherd ridiculed a girl by making her stand in the middle of the large schoolroom.

Soon after five p.m. we had the best meal of the day, comprising a small mug of coffee, and half-a-slice of brown bread which I devoured and wished for more.

Half-an-hour’s recreation succeeded, then study; then the glass of water and the piece of oat-cake, prayers, and bed. Such was my first day at Lowood.

This picture of Oliver Twist asking for more, reminds me of the burnt porridge Jane Eyre had to eat on her first day at Lowood. Jane is the female equivalent of Oliver (published by Charles Dickens about ten years before Jane Eyre).

Jane was one of the youngest children in the institution and she had just arrived, so she accepted her lot and didn’t complain, although some older girls did.

Here we have another sad chapter where Jane is forced to live at a charity school as a pauper and endure the hardships of the life of a Victorian orphan. It’s like a prison. The girls wear identical ugly and uncomfortable clothes, made of ‘stuff’ a coarse material. The food is disgusting, and it’s a cold and lonely place, and although her stay has only just begun, we can imagine there is much more hardship in store.

There are two positive points in the chapter which give us some hope for Jane. She meets Helen, who will become her best friend, and she also meets Miss Temple, the superintendent, a kind and fair teacher who will leave a mark on Jane, as we will soon see.

Again, we have faith that Jane will find a way to survive yet again in another hostile environment.

The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.

I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.

If you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.

See you next week for chapter 6!

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter4

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 4

How I met Mr Brocklehurst  

November, December, and half of January passed away. Christmas and the New Year had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual festive cheer; presents had been interchanged, dinners and evening parties given, but from every enjoyment I was, of course, excluded.

On the 15 of January I was called to the breakfast room to meet a visitor.

‘What is your name?’ The tall man with the large eyes and grim face asked.

“Jane Eyre, sir.”

‘How old are you?’

‘Ten.’

‘Are you a good child?’

My aunt shook her head. ‘The less said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst.’

‘Do you know where the wicked go after death?’  he asked.

‘They go to hell,’ was my answer.

‘And what is hell? Can you tell me that?’

‘A pit full of fire.’

‘And should you like to fall into that pit burn forever?’

‘No, sir.’

‘What must you do to avoid it?’

‘I must keep in good health, and not die.’

He looked displeased. ‘Do you say your prayers night and morning?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Do you read your Bible?’

‘Sometimes.’

“Do you read the psalms?”

“They are not interesting.”

Mr Brocklehurst gasped. “That proves you are wicked.”

‘And deceitful,’ said my aunt. ‘May I depend upon this child being received as a pupil at Lowood to be to be brought up in a manner suiting her prospects and to be made useful and to be kept humble.’

He nodded. ‘You may.’ Then he turned to me. ‘Here is a book entitled the ‘Child’s Guide,’ read it carefully. There is an account of the awfully sudden death of Martha, a naughty child addicted to falsehood and deceit.’

When he left, knowing I would soon be leaving, I told my aunt how I felt. ‘I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if anyone asks me how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty.’

The fourth chapter of Jane Eyre introduces Mr Brocklehurst, a clergyman and fanatical christian who is the supervisor of Lowood Institution for Orphaned Girls. we will see as the novel progresses how he mistreats the girls at the boarding school.

This chapter shows ten-year-old Jane to be sure of herself and eloquent enough to maintain a lively discussion with Brocklehurst and tell her aunt exactly what she thinks of her.

The reader has no inclination to feel sorry for this girl, who has a strong, principled character, and although she is still a child who needs to learn to control her temper, we know that she will survive whatever ordeals she will encounter at Lowood.

If you check out this page of the British Library you can see a photograph of Charlotte Bronte’s handwritten manuscript of Jane’s conversation with Mr Brocklehurst.

The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.

I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.

If you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.

See you next week for chapter 5!

Images from Pixabay

Letter L #AtoZChallenge Liars 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 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. 

L

 

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.

 

 

Nasty mr_rochester

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.

Jane’s Lies

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.

cast montage jane eyre es

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?