Monday, September 23, 2013

SeptembEyre, Chapters 22-29

Spoilers for people who have not read this book. There are no comments PAST chapter 29.

Ohhh, how Jane finally gets to admit that she's in love with Rochester! And he doesn't waste a moment whipping out that marriage proposal, does he? After all the dancing around it and the mind games--flirting with Blanche, dangling a new carriage in Jane's face--all becomes clear. Well, sort of. Not really.

Because he still has a crazy wife in the attic! And in Jane's room, ripping up her veil! The gothic elements are really cranking in this section, and I ate it up like candy. 

Even after Jane and Rochester are engaged, I love that Jane still sort of has her guard up. On the one hand, it's a nice foreshadowing to ALL THE REVELATIONS coming up, but I also love that Jane resists being made into a Cinderella. She's never had need of a dozen fine dresses or a string of pearls, so why now? Rochester is baffled by it, but Jane stands her ground as Jane so often does to this point in the novel and in the sections to come. Her idea of marriage exists on a very different level from that traditionally accepted by society during this time.

And speaking of wifehood. BERTHA! My heavens, what a symbol--the penultimate madwoman in the attic representing the horrors of Victorian marriage. Or the ill effects of British colonization. Or a double of Jane herself...a sick foil who embodies all of her fears about marriage. Or a hell of a plot pusher. There's that, too. 

It's in this section, too, that I have ill feelings toward Rochester. One can take shelter in the idea that he was just desperate to hold onto happiness with Jane, but HE LOCKED HIS WIFE IN THE ATTIC. If she wasn't crazy before, she's ape-poop crazy now after years of confinement.

It's in this section we really learn the backstory about how tortured Rochester was, and how his family used him as a pawn to try and gain Bertha's fortune. I do feel bad for him but HE LOCKED HIS WIFE IN THE ATTIC.  Hmmphf. 

I was exceedingly proud of Jane for getting the heck out of dodge. Oh, what a heartrending decision, no doubt. But it's par for the course and reinforces Jane's ability to remain true to herself--not without internal struggle, for sure--but in the bleakest of times. 

Jane, penniless, without a true sense of a future, was one of the hardest parts to read. I was desperately worried for her as she set out in the coach with only a small parcel to her name and as she almost dies on the Rivers' front stoop.

St. John. Lordy, St. John. Can't wait to talk about him next week and my revolving-door feelings for Mr. Rochester. 

DRAMA, mama, and I love it!








24 comments:

  1. DRAMA is the perfect word for these chapters. Your 'ape-poop crazy' is now like my new favorite thing ever. I loathed Rochester throughout this section of the book - LOATHED.

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    1. Ha! Thank ya! He was a bit dickish, wasn't he?

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  2. Hahahaha "ape-poop crazy" is amazing. I know I've already said this, you BY FAR have the best sound bytes of this whole readalong.

    I have some (likely unpopular) thoughts about Jane in this section, though. I actually loved her refusal to be put up on a pedestal and completely changed by her engagement to Mr. Rochester, but actually I felt that she WAS changed by her engagement, because she kept NOT SAYING what she was thinking (which is the opposite of how she was pre-engagement).

    And also, for someone so committed to being independent and not relying on the goodwill of others, her mad middle-of-the-night dash with no money and no plan got on my nerves. I really felt bad for her during her homeless days, but also, what did she think would happen? I know, I know, she didn't think... but I like thinking Jane. She's too smart for that.

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    1. I can totes agree with you there, Kerry. She did clam up. I got the feeling she was trying to walk a fine line -- to resist his attempts to bedeck and spoil her, but she also didn't want to hurt his feelings. But of course, my clamming up and not being herself (not speaking her true thoughts), it just caused more scew-uppery and emotional distress for everyone.

      And same here. It did annoy me. I did a double take when she FORGOT HER PARCEL IN THE COACH TO NOWWHERE?!! OMG. I screamed at the book I think.

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    2. I think you're right about the fine line (and probably holding Rochester at a distance was best for her in the end, given the lack of wedding that resulted from the engagement), but I loved her inner dialogue so much and was disappointed not to see her speaking her mind!

      And I'd forgotten about the parcel part, but YES. That strikes me as a "You had one job" kind of blunder.

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  3. I agree with Jane's wandering homeless chapter as being one of the hardest to read, and I loved what you said here: "But it's par for the course and reinforces Jane's ability to remain true to herself--not without internal struggle, for sure--but in the bleakest of times." Remaining true to oneself during all of life's ups and downs is definitely a big theme in this novel. - Maggie @ An American in France

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    1. Right on, Maggie! She definitely struggled and didn't always make the best decisions...ahem *leavinginthemiddleofthenight* But she did follow her way most of the time! Go Jane!

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  4. Ok, I have to add my two cents just because I may have wayyyy too much of a crush on Rochester. BUT - if you read anything about mental illness and its treatment in this time period, that shit was bad. Super bad. I'm not saying keeping her in the attic was a good thing, but I am saying that most people had no clue how to treat someone like Bertha. Plus, some of the alternatives were absolutely horrifying. So. Looking at it through a slightly different lens, he's certainly not a saint, but he was a tortured character with no real viable options.

    And I love/hate this section. And re: your comment above: I so get the distress she was in, but when she forgot her stuff in the coach? Yeah, nearly lost my stuff as well. :)

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    1. I hear ya re: Rochester. The alternative for Bertha might've been having a hole drilled in her skull or something. That's why I love this book. SOOOO much to talk about! I couldn't believe she forgot her parcel on the coach. *dropkick*

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    2. I wondered about Rochester's keeping her locked up in the attic vs. more "standard" mental care at this time. I mean, he was *mostly* trying to do the right thing by keeping her at Thornfield rather thanh some old damp hall with no life in it, right? But then, he did still lock his wife in the attic. And we have no one's claim but his own, really, that she was mad in the first place...

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    3. And maybe the bigger problem for me is that he lied about locking his wife in the attic and made up that sham about Grace Poole. Maybe that is really what pisses me off so.

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  5. The whole Bertha thing is fascinating. I tried to find my copy of "Madwoman in the Attic" by Gilbert and Gubar, but couldn't find it. It's feminist readings on Victorian Literature. Anyway, a lot of people think that Bertha is a total victim. How reliable is our narrator? How reliable is Rochester's telling of the story that leads he and Bertha together? Jane is an honest person, but as a sheltered, Victorian lady who has (I would assume) never seen anyone who wasn't white, is her physical description of Bertha valid? And for goodness sake, Bertha is locked in the attic! I'd be pretty violent too...so is her madness the cause or the effect? I really haven't personally come down on what I think about it. I love your little paragraph listing all the possibilities!

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    1. Isn't it? So much to discuss in regards to Bertha. I was thinking of Madwoman in the Attic as I was reading! My mentor first told me about that book, and I've read bits and pieces. And I did question Rochester's trustworthiness as I was reading. He's obviously biased, desperately in love with Jane and willing to do anything to keep her. This casts a shade of unreliability on him immediately for me personally. It's all quite fun to ponder!

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  6. Oh my gosh, your reactions to reading this are hilarious/amazing. And it totally makes me want to go back and read it over again.

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  7. Okay, to your ATTIC point, and speaking as a girl who has been in love with this book since the age of eight (so I am far from objective on this point), he did lock his wife in the attic BUT I second picky girl's point. Rochester has this crazy wife, and he can't let her be completely UNconfined because she'll stab all the servants and probably the neighbors. So the choices are for him to keep her at home with full-time care (which is what he does), or for him to do the, in my opinion, much much worse thing of shipping her off to the crazy people's equivalent of Lowood Institution. Think how awful that was to Jane, and she had the mental capacity to keep herself under control when she was angry -- Bertha doesn't have that. She would be confined regardless, and probably beaten a lot if she were in an institution.

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    1. And I question Rochester's trustworthiness as a narrator. And the bigger issue that bugs me is probably that he lied.

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    2. Jenny! Me too! I read it so young that I totally can't be objective. But I see what Andi is saying, too, re: Rochester's trustworthiness. But from his character - from what we mostly see from him - I can't imagine he'd lock her away just because. There's nothing that supports that for me. And the respect that others seem to afford him goes a long way for me.

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  8. Darn, I'm so late with commenting, but I do want to second people's comments on the validity of Rochester locking up Bertha in the attic. I'm sure it's not alot of fun, but better than an institution because she has personal attention. As for whether it's the cause or effect, Bertha's mother was also mad so I think Charlotte meant it to be genetic (though I'm sure Charlotte didn't quite know that term.)

    And truth-is-stranger-than-fiction fact - Charlotte dedicated Jane Eyre to William Thackeray because she loved his writing, but she had never met him. Cut to gossip around London that the author of Jane Eyre was an old governess of Thackeray's because Thackeray's wife was also mad and confined in his home! At least she wasn't violent though.

    I loved reading your hilarious recap!

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    1. Crazy! Re: the whole Thackeray thing. And this means I need to finally read Vanity Fair. Because, Thackeray.

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  9. I love Rochester, but Bertha is my problem point where he is concerned. He locked her in the attic, as opposed to giving her free run of the premises because she was a danger to herself and others. He kept her confined and under constant supervision for everyone's sake. He kept her at Thornfield, so that he didn't have to tell anyone that she existed. I cut him a little slack here because I totally believe that he got railroaded. His behavior (brooding and bitter about his circumstances when he's rich and has the freedom to do as he wishes) makes much more sense when seen in relation to his back story.

    I'm not sure I understand your comment about Bertha being the penultimate madwoman in the attic. Was there one after her?

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    1. I know why he locked her up and that it may well have been in her best interest given the medical "treatment" of the time. I suppose I should go back and add an addendum saying that it's really the lying to Jane part that irked me. At the end of the day, that's really my rub.

      As for Bertha and my comment about the penultimate "madwoman in the attic," I just meant that she was the beginning of what's become a common trope in literature and film. I was thinking specifically of Gilbert and Gubar's book, The Madwoman in the Attic, which examines this trope in Victorian literature specifically. But the trope itself endures from Charlotte Perkins Gilman, to The Simpsons, and horror movies. ;)

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  11. Andi, I LOVE your recap, but I love every one of them so that's not saying much is it?! I agree with all your points except I wasn't so hard on Rochester, a la what some of the others' comments said.

    "The gothic elements are really cranking in this section, and I ate it up like candy." - Oooh yeah, loved them. The 'Vampyre' bit was particular eye-rollingly delicious ;-)

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