Kressel Housman's Reviews > Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
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May 29, 08

bookshelves: classics, all-time-favorite, fiction, victorian
Read in January, 1982

Despite an anti-Semitic phrase in a particularly delicious scene, this remains one of my lifetime favorites. I love it all - the childhood descriptions, the falling in love, and the courage to leave. I like the return, too, but the parting scene - WOW! I've even quoted Jane's words to my rabbi because it so eloquently states how to get past a nisayon. I read it again and again, and I'm sure I always will.
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Quotes Kressel Liked

Charlotte Brontë
“Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour ... If at my convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre


Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Is the comment you are refering to the Esther reference? I wouldn't necessarily call it anti-semitic. I think it is fair to say that the Christian understading of Megillas Esther is not our understanding of it (or anything else that has to do with Torah or the Tanach for that matter.)

I have read other books of the period that have even worse anti-semitic comments. (Oliver Twist anyone?)


Kressel Housman Yes, the Esther comment is exactly what I'm talking about. And I don't think I'll ever read Oliver Twist just because of the anti-Semitism.


message 3: by Skylar (last edited May 25, 2008 01:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Skylar Burris I'm curious as to what the comment is. Could you quote it in its context?


Kressel Housman From Chapter 24. He's just asked what gift he can present to her, and all she wants is to ask a question.

"Now, King Ahasuerus! What do I want with half your estate? Do you think I am a Jew-usurer, seeking good investment in land? I would much rather have all your confidence. You will not exclude me from your confidence if you admit me to your heart?"

The reference "half your estate" refers to Esther 7:2, but Esther never asked for half the king's estate. She just wanted the Jewish people to be spared a holocaust. Ahasareus offers her "anything, up to half the estate," which tells you something about him. 49-51 she can have, but never 50-50. Charlotte Bronte got the whole thing backward.


message 5: by Skylar (last edited May 26, 2008 03:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Skylar Burris Thank you for giving it to me in context.

Now that I've read it, I'll offer a different opinion. I don't think she is actually thinking of ESTHER as a "Jew-usurer," or suggesting that Esther's goals were anything but noble; I think she is merely putting Rochester in the position of Ahasareus, and rebuking him for TREATING his Esther, his queen (his Jane) as a mere "Jew-usurer." Her complaint is just that: that, just like Ahasareus, he is NOT offering his queen a TRUE equality (an equality of mind and heart), but is instead treating her as though she were merely to be satisfied by money, rather than treating her as the strong, courageous, and--most importantly--PRINCIPLED Ether-like person that she is.

Or am I completely misreading the speaker's intent? It's been a long time since I read Jane Eyre, but it seems to me Bronte very much "gets it." Jane Eyre is casting herself in the role of Esther, and as Esther, she does not want to be treated as some "Jew-usurer."

Now, I certainly understand how the use of the term--in ANY context--irks; it shows a general, underlying, cultural anti-semitism that was simply, unfortunately, the norm in England in those days, but I don't think she is acutally re-interpreting Esther in a negative light; rather, I think the reference to Esther may be a calculated part of the feminist theme.


Kressel Housman Thanks for pointing that out. It makes me feel better about the whole thing. And I think I might have to adjust my review.


Sarah This has been a terrific exchange so far. Kressel, could you explain the word "nisayon" to me? I'm also wondering what you think of Daniel Deronda...?


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