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Archives 2011 Group Reads > "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte--Volume the Second--Part 2--Chapters XXVI-XXIX (June 19-25)

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Christopher H. (christopher_h) | 1471 comments Mod
Here's the folder for the second part of the group read and discussion of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Enjoy!


message 2: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 19, 2011 07:56PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks for popping in to do this for us Chris! I hope things at work are going reasonably well.

(NB: I have transferred my post re hypochondria to the previous section.)


message 3: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 19, 2011 07:58PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Chapter 27 in this section details Rochester's marriage in Jamaica to Bertha, her subsequent 'madness' and Rochester's difficulties with her: 'And I could not rid myself of it by any legal proceedings [divorce of the mentally ill was not possible]: for the doctors now discovered that MY WIFE was mad - her excesses had prematurely developed the germs of insanity.' Having discovered this in the West Indies he decided to return to Europe to 'Place her in safety and comfort: shelter her degradation with secrecy, and leave her.' We now know that he did not permanently leave her, although he spent long periods away, and that he employed Grace Poole as a nurse, on a good salary, to keep Bertha locked up on the attic floor of Thornfield.

I find this an extremely sad chapter as Rochester explains to Jane the situation he found himself in as a young man, married to a 'madwoman' from a mentally unstable family and I wonder if there are folks here who consider Rochester's treatment of Bertha, a violent schizophrenic, as 'abusive'? In CB's time locking such a person up at home in the care of a paid nurse would have seemed infinitely preferable to confining them to 'Bedlam' or 'the madhouse' which were absolutely dreadful places, regularly used as amusing sideshows for visitors. (Dickens visited them to get ideas for his characters.)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/books...

Perhaps I am more sympathetic because I have had personal experience of the behaviour of paranoid schizophrenics: In the 1960s I was treated for depression in a large London mental hospital where part of our occupational therapy was helping to entertain schizophrenic patients in the locked wards. On several occasions I witnessed patients suddenly erupt and attack patients and/or nurses because of paranoid delusions (a common symptom present at some stage among about 90 percent of persons with schizophrenia). It took at least two male nurses to restrain them in order to administer an injection and place them in a padded cell until it took effect. In the 1970s I spent 6 weeks each year in Trinidad where I met my late husband's schizophrenic cousin who lived with his elderly mother. When his medication wore off or he refused to take it, he frequently attacked her and any neighbours who came to help. He was often taken to a Dickensian type mental hospital where he was bound to a bed by a straitjacket for several days before being sent back to his mother. In the 1990s I met the sister of one of my lodgers, who is well cared for in a small mental health unit. She has been given various medications over the years but every so often she becomes immune to them, or refuses to take them. On home visits she has several times attacked my lodger's young children and his wife. Refusing to take medication because they feel 'better' is common with schizophrenics and this is why they quite often have violent outbursts in public and have been known to commit murder when discharged from hospital or when visiting relatives. Also, medication can become less efficacious over time and a period of mental instability can ensue whilst new drugs are tried out.

The above are situations Rochester would have encountered with Bertha and which Grace Poole was paid to manage - without the use of modern drugs (laudanum might have been administered but we are not told this). It was fortunate that Thornfield had a third floor and secure accommodation or more people than Mr Mason, Bertha's brother, might have been injured over the years.

To my mind, Rochester's character has been badly affected by being trapped into this marriage and he has become desperate to find a permanent compatible mate, instead of taking up with 'loose' women as it seems he was wont to do. His situation is illustrative of the terrible circumstances that people were forced to ensure before divorce was possible or, for that matter, before efficacious drugs were found which stabilised such people as Bertha. I find his treatment of Bertha kind, not abusive. The servants say that Grace Poole was paid well, even though she was a drunkard who sometimes let Bertha out of the attic. He could have neglected her or sent her to an asylum - I dread to think what asylums in Yorkshire were like at that time if London ones were as described above! Similarly, he is taking care of Adele well, the offspring of one of his many mistresses, even though he was not obliged to do so and could presumably have left her in Paris. I do not think that these are signs of an abusive character. Nor do I think, as I posted in the earlier section, that his traditional teasing of Jane was abusive - she also speaks of teasing him, which shows that it was an accepted form of communication and, indeed, of courtship, such as I myself experienced in Yorkshire.

The only abuse I see is in arranging the bigamous marriage but this, to me, was a sign of his utmost desperation (and sexual frustration) not a sign of abuse. It could well have worked out well had Bertha's brother not denounced him in church. There were, incidentally, many bigamous marriages in Victorian England because of the divorce laws, so again my sympathy is with Rochester even though I also feel sorry for Jane:-

http://jfh.sagepub.com/content/22/3/2...

http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/revi...


message 4: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 20, 2011 09:09AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments On a lighter note, here is a 'courting' poem in the Yorkshire dialect, such as Rochester might have recited to Jane. (Dialect words are translated below the poems.):-

http://www.inkamera.ukgo.com/songsotr...

And one about the Dales which the Bronte sisters might have liked:-

http://www.inkamera.ukgo.com/songsotr...

The Songs of the Ridings were written by F W Moorman around 1900. Yorkshire is divided into three Ridings, North, East and West. The Brontes lived in the West Riding. The term 'riding' is of Viking origin and derives from Threthingr meaning a third part.


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments MadgeUK wrote: "http://jfh.sagepub.com/content/22/3/2.........."

"...The bigamist had to have a good reason to have left his or her spouse, had to have been honest with the second spouse, and had to be able to support multiple families." [Bold added.]

We are given evidence that the Jane looking back on these days recognized some of the places where Rochester had a chance to be honest with her and was not. I was re-reading this morning the strange passage at the end of Volume 2, Chapter 5, after Mason has left and where Rochester makes strange mumblings about himself and Miss Ingram to Jane. It is almost as if he understands that relationship is now doomed and just stops himself from coming clean to Jane. (This is the first time Jane "flees" from Rochester - this time at the (fortuitous?) bidding of Gateshead (view spoiler).)

But more poignant still are the passages in Chapter 8 (23):

"God pardon me!" he subjoined ere long; "and man meddle not with me: I have her, and will hold her."

"There is no one to meddle, sir. I have no kindred to interfere."

"No--that is the best of it," he said. And if I had loved him less I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage; but, sitting by him, roused from the nightmare of parting--called to the paradise of union--I thought only of the bliss given me to drink in so abundant a flow. Again and again he said, "Are you happy, Jane?" And again and again I answered, "Yes." After which he murmured, "It will atone--it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and cold, and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves? It will expiate at God's tribunal. I know my Maker sanctions what I do. For the world's judgment--I wash my hands thereof. For man's opinion--I defy it."

But what had befallen the night? The moon was not yet set, and we were all in shadow: I could scarcely see my master's face, near as I was. And what ailed the chestnut tree? it writhed and groaned; while wind roared in the laurel walk, and came sweeping over us.



message 6: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 20, 2011 11:27AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Ruskin later claimed that there was some unspecified thing about Effie that disgusted him,

It is thought that what disgusted Ruskin was Effie's pubic hair and/or her menstrual blood. He had only ever seen Grecian-like statues of women which omitted pubic hair and when he discovered that Effie had some it apparently shocked him into impotency.

Bigamy took place in all classes because the difficulties of divorce applied to them all. It was easier however for the wealthier upper classes to keep mistresses. I don't believe that many working men would have been able to support 'multiple families' and their bigamy was likelier to have taken place in secret, in another town, for this reason.

I think it was difficult for Rochester to have been honest with Jane because she was so unworldly. He was frightened of shocking her into doing exactly what she did do. He might have had better luck in explaining the situation he was in to the more worldly Miss Ingham if he had the wealth she was seeking. Did he court her to make Jane jealous or because he thought she was more likely to accept the situation? He had been seeing her before Jane appeared on the scene but she did not then know that he no longer had a fortune.

I feel that CB is very much writing Rochester up as a typical Byronic hero and I was struck by the letter from her to a Mr Williams wherein she wrote: 'Mr. Rochester has a thoughtful nature and a very feeling heart; he is neither selfish nor self-indulgent; he is ill-educated, misguided; errs, when he does err, through rashness and inexperience: he lives for a time as too many other men live, but being radically better than most men, he does not like that degraded life, and is never happy in it. He is taught the severe lessons of experience and has sense to learn wisdom from them. Years improve him; the effervescence of youth foamed away, what is really good in him still remains.'

She (and Jane) are prepared to forgive him because he exhibits the characteristics of a Byronic hero, perhaps the sort of man CB herself yearned after. Not only does Jane see him as such but Mrs Fairfax excuses him too:'... if he has peculiarities of temper, allowance should be made....Partly because it is his nature-and we can none of us help our nature; and, partly, he has painful thoughts, no doubt, to harass him, and make his spirits unequal.' Blanch too entertains the same sort of romantic thoughts when she says she would like: 'An English hero of the road would be the next best thing to an Italian bandit; and that could only be surpasses by a Levantine pirate.'

The thing about Byronic heroes is that there is hope of their redemption and women in Victorian literature seem to willingly take the job of their salvation upon their own shoulders. Perhaps some women still do that:).


MadgeUK | 5214 comments What I'm saying is that the upper classes had the resources to hide it in a way that the lower classes did not.

I agree, although many mistresses were kept openly and that is another form of bigamy.

I saw that program and empathised - my first husband left me in the 1960s with four children under the age of 7 and emigrated to Australia with his mistress, never to be seen again although we learned that they eventually married.


message 8: by Lily (last edited Jun 20, 2011 11:40AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments One of the places I have always been uncomfortable with the first person narration in JR has been relative to Rochester and Miss Ingram. CB weaves an elaborate story relative to Jane's perspective, but it has also seemed at least plausible that she left unsaid that Blanche and her associates "smelled" some things awry after the unpropitious visit of Mr. Mason to Thornfield while they were present.

Only recently did something bring to my attention the fairy-tale allusion ("Sleeping Beauty") of "Thorn"field.


Kristen | 140 comments "I was wrong to attempt to deceive you; but I feared a stubbornness that exists in your character. I feared early instilled prejudice: I wanted to have you safe before hazarding confidences."
Oooo this part makes me mad. Selfishness! Horrible deceit.
Do you think that Jane would have accepted him if he had told her the truth?


Kim (KimMR) | 317 comments Kristen wrote: "Oooo this part makes me mad. Selfishness! Horrible deceit.
Do you think that Jane would have accepted him if he had told her the truth? ..."


Selfishness born of desperation, I think. And I assume that Rochester was right about Jane. She would have refused him had he told her the truth. She wouldn't have thought her refusal based on stubborness or prejudice. It would have been based on her sense of self-worth and her moral code.


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments Right now this story is reminding me of Rebecca -- the willingness of the chief protagonist to "disappear" into the Mediterranean countries for the rest of her life. That is a choice Jane could have made, but I think we probably mostly agree that would have been out of character both for Jane Eyre and for Charlotte Bronte to have created such a character. (Whereas Daphne du Maurier could.)


Kristen | 140 comments "Drearily I wound my way downstairs: I knew what I had to do, and I did it mechanically."
...
"In the midst of my pain of heart and frantic effort of principle, I abhorred myself. I had no solace from self- approbation: none even from self-respect. I had injured — wounded — left my master. I was hateful in my own eyes. Still I could not turn, nor retrace one step. God must have led me on. As to my own will or conscience, impassioned grief had trampled one and stifled the other."


I thought this was interesting. I also felt that this was in contrast to her younger self, who acted in passion. Instead of giving in in the heat of the moment, she sneaks out in the middle of the night, guided by only principle, against every other impulse. I think that takes an enormous strength of will.
Also I find it interesting that her situation is compared to biblical scenes of God's punishment:
No reflection was to be allowed now: not one glance was to be cast back; not even one forward.
This calls to mind Lot's wife who when she glanced back at the city of Sodom about to be destroyed, turns into a pillar of salt. (God had commanded Lot and his family to leave the sinful city before he destroyed it, and the idea is that Lot's wife looks back longingly, and is therefore condemned.)
"The last was an awful blank: something like the world when the deluge was gone by."
This calls to mind the story of the biblical flood.
The interesting part of these comparisons, is that Jane is putting her self in the category of those saved from destruction. Everything she knows has been destroyed.


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments BunWat wrote: "...And for all his talk about stubborn prejudice, he doesn't really believe he's right either."

I don't know. I can't tell. From the text, I think Rochester vacillates between being totally convinced he's right and having doubts. Perhaps here is one place we as readers find ourselves "judging his character." But there are many pieces to the "rightness" or "wrongness."


MadgeUK | 5214 comments I like Kristen's reference to the story of Lot's wife and Lily's comparison with Rebecca. Great stuff here!


MadgeUK | 5214 comments but it has also seemed at least plausible that she left unsaid that Blanche and her associates "smelled" some things awry after the unpropitious visit of Mr. Mason to Thornfield while they were present.

I have always found it implausible that people in the neighbourhood did not know about the 'madwoman in the attic' and the disturbance in the night when Mason was attacked must have awakened such suspicions. Bertha had been there for ten years and there must have been lots of gossip. Although the reason CB gives is that they found out that Rochester no longer had a fortune so was not a good catch.


message 16: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 20, 2011 10:58PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments This is where I find Rochester 'wrong', because it implies a threat of rape, therefore of abuse (Chap 27):-

'Jane! will you hear reason?" (he stooped and approached his lips to my ear) "because, if you won't, I'll try violence." His voice was hoarse; his look that of a man who is just about to burst an insufferable bond and plunge headlong into wild license.'

Her response is interesting in that she finds 'charm' in the danger: 'I saw that in another moment, and with one impetus of frenzy more, I should be able to do nothing with him. The present--the passing second of time--was all I had in which to control and restrain him: a movement of repulsion, flight, fear, would have sealed my doom,-- and his. But I was not afraid: not in the least. I felt an inward power; a sense of influence, which supported me. The crisis was perilous; but not without its charm: such as the Indian, perhaps, feels when he slips over the rapid in his canoe.'

She uses tears as a deliberate strategy to calm him down: '"If the flow annoyed him, so much the better.' and stopped crying when his 'softened voice announced that he was subdued'. Jane now sees the danger in his passion and also in his harsh judgement of the mistresses he had taken: 'Hiring a mistress is the next worst thing to buying a slave: both are often by nature, and always by position, inferior: and to live with inferiors is degrading.' She realises that she too could be placed in this position if she ran away with him and despite her own sexual passion: 'a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning!' she realises that she must 'Depart!'

Jane tells Rochester she must leave him and to do as she does 'Trust in God...Believe in Heaven'. His response is to blame her for his predicament: Then you condemn me to live wretched, and to die accursed? Then you snatch love and innocence from me? You fling me back on lust for a passion--vice for an occupation?'

Jane shows her strength of character in this definitive section of the novel, which is an important part of her bildungsroman:

Still indomitable was the reply--"I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now. 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; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth--so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane--quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart is beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.'

Rochester grabs her and 'seemed to devour me with his flaming glance; physically, I felt, at the moment, powerless as stubble exposed to the draught and glow of a furnace' (more fire imagery). Again there are intimations of rape but her determination protects her. Significantly she dreams of the Red Room and her mother, perhaps signifying her earlier innocence. She has been through fire, now she is purified, redeemed. Rochester's redemption is still to come.

This is a very powerful and sexually charged chapter, especially as it was written by the virginal CB! Her reading of the naughty Byron must have inspired her:).


message 17: by Kim (last edited Jun 20, 2011 11:10PM) (new)

Kim (KimMR) | 317 comments MadgeUK wrote: "but it has also seemed at least plausible that she left unsaid that Blanche and her associates "smelled" some things awry after the unpropitious visit of Mr. Mason to Thornfield while they were pre..."

I always had the impression that people did know (or suspect) that there was "a madwoman in the attic", but were not aware that she was Rochester's wife. The servants knew that Grace Poole was well-paid, so they must have had an idea of what she was doing. If the servants knew, then I think it is reasonable to assume that everyone in the neighbourhood had some idea of what was going on.


message 18: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 21, 2011 02:45AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I think Grace Poole was paid for her secrecy too. Perhaps neighbours thought it was a mad relative but even so, this would not be good in the marriage stakes.

Which reminds me, are folks familiar with Gilbert & Gubar's feminist approach in The Madwoman in the Attic? Online review: 'It took about a century for the angel in the house to join forces with the madwoman in the attic. According to Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, even when this angel occupied the foreground in nineteenth century novels, she was shadowed by her dark twin. Beneath the placid brook, the turbulent whirlpool churned. This split image had a long history in romance, and a famous nineteenth century version in Thackeray's bitter picture of Becky Sharp as a ‘fiendish marine cannibal’ towards the end of Vanity Fair. But Gilbert and Gubar were the first to unite the angel and the madwoman in a single being, applaud her expressive transgressions, and identify her with the woman writer. When the monster-woman rose from the depths to the attic, mostly because Charlotte Brontë had located her there in the novel that gave Gilbert and Gubar their title and provided ‘a paradigm of many distinctively female anxieties and abilities’, she staked a new claim to her legitimate share of the house of fiction.' It is a jolly good read and I recommend it.

http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?is...

Unfortunately, this BBC radio broadcast is no longer available but the comments on it are interesting:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s0cn3


message 19: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 21, 2011 02:42AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I remembered this morning that we encountered bigamy in Jude the Obscure too: Annabella married bigamously and Jude contemplated doing so.


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments Just in terms of her confinement, several things about arrangements for Bertha have seemed troublesome: 1) Confinement without any outdoor exercise (possible for the mentally deranged at that time, still seems difficult to imagine in a country manor where the master is frequently absent) 2) The need for at least two caregivers, not just one (has always seemed a story-telling expedient to me to have only Grace) 3) Adele's lack of curiosity and exploration 4) Mrs. Fairfax's apparent lack of knowledge about Bertha 5) Jane's seeming lack of curiosity after some time at Thornfield, especially given her vested interests in its master. (Just re-read Chapter 16, where Jane's encounter with Grace Poole after the fire in Rochester's bedchamber occurs and Jane did claim she would question Rochester, but then he leaves on a journey before she can -- so CB seems to have given some thought to this consideration of Jane's character.)

Early on there is a passage about the servants talking a bit about Grace Poole:

"Ah!--she understands what she has to do,--nobody better," rejoined Leah significantly; "and it is not every one could fill her shoes--not for all the money she gets."

"That it is not!" was the reply. "I wonder whether the master--"

The charwoman was going on; but here Leah turned and perceived me, and she instantly gave her companion a nudge.

"Doesn't she know?" I heard the woman whisper.

Leah shook her head, and the conversation was of course dropped.

All I had gathered from it amounted to this,--that there was a mystery at Thornfield; and that from participation in that mystery I was purposely excluded.
(Chapter 17)

Jane did fancy that there might have been a romantic connection between Grace and Rochester.


message 21: by Lily (last edited Jun 21, 2011 06:19AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments MadgeUK wrote: "...Which reminds me, are folks familiar with Gilbert & Gubar's feminist approach in The Madwoman in the Attic? ..."

All four of their books sound fascinating. Wonder if, when I can find the chance to explore a bit.

The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar

No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century -- 3 volumes


message 22: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 21, 2011 10:54AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Lily wrote: 'Just in terms of her confinement, several things about arrangements for Bertha have seemed troublesome.................

Re (1) It would have been difficult for Grace Poole to contain her in the large grounds of such mansion. Also, exercise was thought to stimulate people then, not calm them down. (2) Grace Poole's son assisted her. (4) Did Mrs Fairfax know more than she 'let on' to Jane? (5) Adele's lack of curiosity puzzled me too but children did as they were told in those times so if she was told not to go to the third floor...(6) Jane did do some exploring at one point but if the third floor were locked up she wouldn't be able to get into Bertha's quarters as only Grace and Rochester had keys.

However, it still seems implausible and noises must have been heard through the open window where the red scarf fluttered. I guess all the servants wanted to keep their jobs so just pretended not to hear/see/know anything.

It reminds me of the old Yorkshireman's Motto!:-

'Ear all, see all, say nowt;
Eyt all, sup all, pay nowt;
And if ivver tha does owt fer nowt -
Do it fer thissen.


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments MadgeUK wrote: "...(4) Did Mrs Fairfax know more than she 'let on' to Jane?... "

I wondered that, too:

He kissed me repeatedly. When I looked up, on leaving his arms, there stood the widow, pale, grave, and amazed. I only smiled at her, and ran upstairs. "Explanation will do for another time," thought I. Still, when I reached my chamber, I felt a pang at the idea she should even temporarily misconstrue what she had seen. Chapter 23

Mrs. Fairfax surprised me by looking out of the window with a sad countenance, and saying gravely--"Miss Eyre, will you come to breakfast?" During the meal she was quiet and cool: but I could not undeceive her then. I must wait for my master to give explanations; and so must she. Chapter 23

Then there is that whole troubled sequence with Mrs. Fairfax where she concludes:

"I hope all will be right in the end," she said: "but believe me, you cannot be too careful. Try and keep Mr. Rochester at a distance: distrust yourself as well as him. Gentlemen in his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses." Chapter 24

Jane seems to assume the comments are directed towards retaining chastity until marriage. Indeed the reader may wonder how much Mrs. Fairfax really knows and whether she is probing a bit to attempt to learn what Jane knows. But, she never takes her aside and out-and-out warns Jane. Perhaps she even has been wondering what her husband might have advised her to do, as she muses about him.

http://www.literature.org/authors/bro...


message 24: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 21, 2011 03:59PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Mrs Fairfax or other servants might have lost their jobs had they revealed such a big secret. All she could do was warn Jane not to get too close but using another reason.

As Rochester said to himself in Chapter 27 when explaining what he had decided to do to Jane: ''Go,' said Hope, 'and live again in Europe: there it is not known what a sullied name you bear, nor what a filthy burden is bound to you. You may take the maniac with you to England; confine her with due attendance and precautions at Thornfield: then travel yourself to what clime you will, and form what new tie you like.....See that she is cared for as her condition demands, and you have done all that God and humanity require of you. Let her identity, her connection with yourself, be buried in oblivion: you are bound to impart them to no living being. Place her in safety and comfort: shelter her degradation with secrecy, and leave her.'

This is what he did when he returned from the West Indies and I guess he told some tale to the servants - perhaps that she was a 'bastard half sister' which was mentioned in the marriage scene: 'I daresay you have many a time inclined your ear to gossip about the mysterious lunatic kept there under watch and ward. Some have whispered to you that she is my bastard half-sister: some, my cast-off mistress.'


Kim (KimMR) | 317 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Mrs Fairfax or other servants might have lost their jobs had they revealed such a big secret. All she could do was warn Jane not to get too close but using another reason.

As Rochester said to hi..."


Thanks Madge, I thought there had to be something in the text which made me think that people knew about Bertha, even if they didn't know who she was.


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments Kim wrote: "I thought there had to be something in the text which made me think that people knew about Bertha, even if they didn't know who she was. ..."

See also Msg 24.


Kim (KimMR) | 317 comments Lily wrote: "Kim wrote: "I thought there had to be something in the text which made me think that people knew about Bertha, even if they didn't know who she was. ..."

See also Msg 24."


Oh yes, thanks, Lily. I should have said "something else in the text". I remembered the part of text you quoted when I posted earlier, but I'd forgotten that Rochester also commented on the issue. As I may have already mentioned, I listened to JE on audio book this time around and I haven't yet managed to go and get the text from the bookshelf before making comments!


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments Kim wrote: "Lily wrote: "Kim wrote: "I thought there had to be something in the text which made me think that people knew about Bertha, even if they didn't know who she was. ..."

See also Msg 24."

Oh yes..."


Kim -- guess I misunderstood the sequence of posts -- I had thought you were also seeking the one I posted. I didn't mean to be impertinent.

I, too, have been listening to Jane Eyre on audio this time. As you have said, it is a gratifying experience. Though I had pulled from my bookshelf the Signet edition used for a face-to-face book club years ago (perched alongside The Wide Saragossa Sea , which we read the same month), its print seemed too small for my aging eyes. However, even as I have been listening to the CDs, I ran across an edition illustrated by Dame Darcy, published by Viking Studio (Penguin Group) in 2006, on a remainders table at a nearby university bookstore. Fun! There are even some full page color illustrations.

Still, the lazy side of me uses one of the online texts to pull any text or references I want here. The one I use most often is here:

http://www.online-literature.com/bron...

It is the easiest to search of those I have used.

(P.S. -- I see you are an avid reader of Georgette Heyer. Michael Dirda introduced me to her work a year or so ago and I hope to use your ratings to make some future reading choices.)


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments The Illustrated Jane Eyre

This is the edition to which I refer.


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments When I was looking for the edition above, I came across this review by Elizabeth. Although it doesn't "belong" to the segment of JE we are discussing this week, the general theme of humor in the book struck me as one that we haven't particularly discussed to date, so am bringing these comments to our attention, again with thanks to Elizabeth:

"If that doesn't get you, though, read it for the humor. Jane Eyre is funny? Honestly, I've laughed out loud reading it. It's not a cartoon, but the reason the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester is so real to me is the small scenes of affection that make me smile. If all Mr. Rochester did was wander about on the moors, moaning, or deceiving Jane, or otherwise acting like a tormented and pompous ass (which seems to be his mission for much of the book), I wouldn't bother. My favorite scene is when Jane goes to him and asks for her wages so she can visit her aunt. He gives her too much, because he wants her to have the ease that money brings, and then he wants to give her too little to make sure she'll come back to him, and they're standing in the hallway, and she's got her purse behind her back, and he's reaching for it -- I can visualize it of not quite touching, reaching for the purse, making little comments. This is when I knew that he was a real human being, not just gothic-figment, and that he really loved her.

"Don't get me started on the scene where Jane throws water all over him. I know it's about the fire, and all scary, but, come on, isn't that exactly what we all wanted to do to him ever since he brought Blanche Ingram into the house? Can't you see him waking up sputtering and soaking? I was amused."


(Actually, the fire and dowsing occur in Chapter 15 and Miss Ingram's party isn't mentioned until 16-17, as far as I have checked, but we can understand well E's point!)


message 31: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 22, 2011 10:29AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I use the online-literature website too Lily because, as you say, it is the easiest to search. It doesn't divide JE into Parts though so I have found Chris's headings a bit confusing.


message 32: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 22, 2011 10:27AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments My favorite scene is when Jane goes to him and asks for her wages so she can visit her aunt.

Jane asks to visit her aunt but doesn't ask for her wages - he offers her money:-

"Well, you must have some money; you can't travel without money, and I daresay you have not much: I have given you no salary yet. How much have you in the world, Jane?" he asked, smiling. I drew out my purse; a meagre thing it was. "Five shillings, sir." He took the purse, poured the hoard into his palm, and chuckled over it as if its scantiness amused him. Soon he produced his pocket-book: "Here," said he, offering me a note; it was fifty pounds, and he owed me but fifteen. I told him I had no change...."I don't want change; you know that. Take your wages."

It is a playful exchange which shows their burgeoning relationship in an amusing light. The location is confusing because Jane asked him when he was playing billiards with Miss Ingram in the billiard room but then the text reads: '[He] threw down his cue and followed me from the room. "Well, Jane?" he said, as he rested his back against the schoolroom door, which he had shut.' So the schoolroom must have been adjacent to the billiard room which I thought seemed odd. I thought him resting his back against the schoolroom door was significant and rather intimate, as if he was comfortable in Jane's presence.


Kristen | 140 comments Lily wrote: "When I was looking for the edition above, I came across this review by Elizabeth. Although it doesn't "belong" to the segment of JE we are discussing this week, the general theme of humor in the b..."

Jane Eyre is definitely funny. I think that was why it originally became one of my favorite books. I loved her as a sort of darkly comic semi-spiteful child. My favorite part of the entire book is when she is asked how to avoid the flames of hell, and she answers "I must keep in good health and not die." Every time I've read this book, I've at least snickered delightfully if not completely laughed out loud.


Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments MadgeUK wrote: "...It doesn't divide JE into Parts though so I have found Chris's headings a bit confusing."

LOL! Even addition is annoying at times, isn't it? I am struggling every time.

Here is a little chart (which I hadn't taken the time to make earlier -- the volumes/chapters are from my hard copy):

Volume 1 - Chapters 1-15
Volume 2 - Chapters 1-11 or Chapters 16-26
Volume 3 - Chapters 1-11 or Chapters 27-38


Everyman MadgeUK wrote: "I wonder if there are folks here who consider Rochester's treatment of Bertha, a violent schizophrenic, as 'abusive'? In CB's time locking such a person up at home in the care of a paid nurse would have seemed infinitely preferable to confining them to 'Bedlam' or 'the madhouse'."

I would not consider simply confining her at home rather than in an institution to be abusive. That could easily represent a more caring, loving response to her illness.

However, the conditions he provided did seem to be abusive -- locked away in a tower, not provided competent nursing care but providing only an often drunk and usually surly caregiver, as far as we know not providing her with any resources for recreation, no outdoor exercise, apparently seldom visiting her or spending time with her. Those and other aspects of her confinement do seem abusive.


Everyman MadgeUK wrote: "I agree, although many mistresses were kept openly and that is another form of bigamy. ."

Not sure why you would say that's a form of bigamy. Certainly by definition it's not.

But to the extent that it can be considered a form of bigamy, then Rochester is clearly a serial bigamist. Which hardly bodes well for Jane if she ever does decide either to marry him or to become his mistress.


Kim (KimMR) | 317 comments Lily wrote: "Kim -- guess I misunderstood the sequence of posts -- I had thought you were also seeking the one I posted. I didn't mean to be impertinent.
"..."


I'm so sorry, Lily. I didn't think you were being impertinent at all. I just thought that I hadn't explained myself properly in my previous post(s)! I've been a little distracted over the past few days.

Thanks for the information about the online literature search website. I didn't know it existed and I will add it to my favourites.

As for Georgette Heyer, I grew up reading her because my mother had grown up reading her. She remains a "comfort read" for when I'm feeling low. (Although I'm also doing a re-read this year for a Heyer group challenge). Most people I know who really like her books also started reading her as a teenager. I will be interested in whether she can be appreciated by an older more mature (!) reader coming to her without that long-standing affection for her work.


Tim (tjb654) | 18 comments Everyman wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "I agree, although many mistresses were kept openly and that is another form of bigamy. ."

"... to the extent that it can be considered a form of bigamy, then Rochester is clearly a serial bigamist. Which hardly bodes well for Jane if she ever does decide either to marry him or to become his mistress."


Jane seems to realize this. Rochester says, "I now hate the recollection of the time I passed with Celine, Giacinta, and Clara." And then Jane relates to us, "I felt the truth of these words; and I drew from them the certain inference, that if I were so far to forget myself and all the teaching that had ever been instilled into me, as--under any pretext--with any justification--through any temptation--to become the successor of these poor girls, he would one day regard me with the same feeling which now in his mind desecrated their memory. I did not give utterance to this conviction: it was enough to feel it. I impressed it on my heart, that it might remain there to serve me as aid in the time of trial."


Kim (KimMR) | 317 comments BunWat wrote: "So he tries to settle for what he can get. Jane isn't much of a settler. ..."

That's so well-put, BW. Rochester has had to make compromises in order to have even the semblance of a happy life and is prepared to continue to do so. That's just not Jane's nature: she will choose certain unhappiness rather than betray her principles. To compromise those principles would change her into someone she is not.


Tim (tjb654) | 18 comments And if she is "changed into someone she is not," she will no longer be the person Rochester loves, but rather "the successor of these poor girls."


message 41: by Lily (last edited Jun 22, 2011 06:51PM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments Kim wrote: "I will be interested in whether she can be appreciated by an older more mature (!) reader coming to her without that long-standing affection for her work. ..."

LOL! (I don't know how to do a strike-through and it didn't copy.) Definitely older, definitely not a teenager, not so sure about the more mature, at least some days! Michael Dirda writes well of Heyer in his Classics for Pleasure . You might enjoy taking a look at those passages sometime either at the library or in a bookstore.

Michael conducted a call-in column on books for many years for The Washington Post which I much enjoyed. The archive is here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...
(It seems very slow to retrieve specific columns tonight.)

Ironically, the following came up on Dirda on himself in the one I pulled, from the last one archived.

"Who says I function productively as an adult? There are those who would call me childish, narcissistic, dreamy, and out of touch with reality. I wouldn't necessarily dismiss any of these descriptions.

"But insofar as I do function it's because I'm able to channel a certain obsessive-compulsive nature into my work. Whatever I do I like to do well. Things don't always work out, but it's my nature to try to do my best, given the constraints of time, energy, etc."



Everyman Tim wrote: "Jane seems to realize this. Rochester says, "I now hate the recollection of the time I passed with Celine, Giacinta, and Clara." And then Jane relates to us, "I felt the truth of these words; and I drew from them the certain inference, that if I were so far to forget myself and all the teaching that had ever been instilled into me, as--under any pretext--with any justification--through any temptation--to become the successor of these poor girls, he would one day regard me with the same feeling which now in his mind desecrated their memory. I did not give utterance to this conviction: it was enough to feel it. I impressed it on my heart, that it might remain there to serve me as aid in the time of trial." ."

She has understanding beyond her age. Men who will cheat on one wife will cheat on all wives. Wisdom gained from years of family law. I'm always amazed when women who where "the other woman: taking a man from his first wife suddenly get outraged when the man moves on to yet another woman. Like his cheating with you didn't tell you that he would also cheat ON you?

I hope Jane takes this thought to heart and doesn't ever fall for Rochester's enticements.


Everyman Kim wrote: "Rochester has had to make compromises in order to have even the semblance of a happy life and is prepared to continue to do so."

Wise comment!


message 44: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 23, 2011 01:21AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments BunWat wrote: "That passage has always seemed significant to me too, Tim. I think that Jane knows that however much Rochester wants to persuade her, and himself, that it doesn't matter to him whether they are pr..."

Great observations BW.

I think there is a difference in attitude to cheating on a wife and cheating on a mistress. A man who has had other women can settle down to marriage having 'sown his wild oats' (ditto women). In Victorian times because sex before marriage with ordinary girls of your own class was almost impossible, taking a mistress or resorting to prostitutes was a common practice. There is no indication that men in general were not loyal to their wives after marriage. It is sticking out for marriage that is important to Jane. Becoming a mistress was much more of a risk. Pregnancy as a mistress was much more risky too.


message 45: by Lily (last edited Jun 23, 2011 07:51AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 1603 comments MadgeUK wrote: "...I wonder if there are folks here who consider Rochester's treatment of Bertha, a violent schizophrenic, as 'abusive'?..."

I have avoided responding to the question with which Madge opened the discussion for this section until some others had spoken. Let me return to it now with some personal perspectives.

First, as has been pointed out here and by many of the critics, caring for the mentally disturbed in Victorian homes in just about any circumstances other than the conditions in institutions like Bedlam was probably (far) less abusive. Second, I am not certain we are given enough information for a diagnosis of Bertha, although I suspect there are conjectures, with which I am not familiar, in the critical literature. Third, my reading of the situation surrounding Bertha will always be colored by having read JE for the first time (I may have encountered it as a teenager, but had forgotten it to any depth) as an adult in conjunction with Wide Sargasso Sea . But, I think even without the intervention of Rhys, given the character portrayed of Rochester, I would have asked what had led to Bertha's condition. But, the novel JE would have provided little textual evidence, only clues for speculation.

Whether the "truth" is as Rochester relates or as Rhys sheds the possibility, I do think we are given a portrait of man as ham-strung as woman by the demands of the society in which either finds her/himself. CB then continues to lay out a picture of where Rochester and Jane each take the adversity that life brings them.

I do also agree that the conditions of Bertha's confinement and of Grace Poole's employment leave a lot to be desired, but I don't know enough to judge them fairly by standards of the day. Still, some seem to fall within the range of considerations of what would be human decency.


message 46: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 23, 2011 09:39AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I don't think it is possible to make reasonable comparisons with Wide Sargasso Sea, written by a Dominican in a different century, to Jane Eyre, even though Rhys also outlines the mental instability of the family. It makes a normal interpretation of JE as written by CB impossible because it is full of conjecture.

It is true that the appalling conditions of mental hospitals, as described by Dickens and others, had improved by later in the century. However, even in the 1960s when I was in a large Victorian mental hospital, the conditions of really insane patients left much to be desired, as I have reported elsewhere. Bertha would have spent quite a lot of time in a padded cell or in a straitjacket because calming drugs, other than laudanum, were not available.

I agree that Rochester's treatment of Bertha was poor, although I wonder what other nursing care would be available in the middle of Yorkshire at that time. He also had a dwindling fortune with which to pay for it. What, however, do you do with an unmedicated patient who might at any time tear off their clothes however fine they might be, attempt to eat their own faeces, or violently attack anyone within their vicinity? I have seen two grown male nurses struggling to contain a female patient quite out of control and being injured themselves in the process. Unless you have witnessed the violence such patients are capable of, it is very difficult to judge these situations.

As to what 'led' to Bertha's condition, schizophrenia is often an hereditary condition which runs in families. It is unreasonable to assume that Rochester caused it, given what CB tells us about Bertha's mother and family. Confinement probably aggravated it but that was acceptable treatment then. Dickens reported on the 'solitary' cells of a Philadelphia prison where solitary confinement had just been introduced as a 'humane' measure but which Dickens found 'hideous', although he thought it suited women more than men:-

'On the haggard face of every man among these prisoners, the same expression sat. I know not what to liken it to. It had something of that strained attention which we see upon the faces of the blind and deaf, mingled with a kind of horror, as though they had all been secretly terrified. In every little chamber that I entered, and at every grate through which I looked, I seemed to see the same appalling countenance. It lives in my memory, with the fascination of a remarkable picture. Parade before my eyes, a hundred men, with one among them newly released from this solitary suffering, and I would point him out....The faces of the women, as I have said, it humanizes and refines. Whether this be because of their better nature, which is elicited in solitude, or because of their being gentler creatures, of greater patience and longer suffering, I do not know; but so it is. That the punishment is nevertheless, to my thinking, fully as cruel and as wrong in their case, as in that of the men, I need scarcely add.' (From Philadelphia, and its Solitary Prison," Ch. 7 in American Notes (1842).)

Victorian Web is quite good on the subject of Bertha's imprisonment and the standards of Victorian care for the mentally ill:-

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/b...

IMO there is a danger of our judging the situation in the light of modern treatment/psychiatry with modern drugs which were then only available in a few English establishemnts and which would have been expensive and by no means as efficacious as treatments today.

What concerns me more in CB's portrait of Bertha are the racist overtones of imprisoning a Creole who is variously described as an 'animal' and 'fiend' and I think the Victorian web comments are relevant here. Other 'baddies' in JE are also dark skinned and foreign looking (Madeiran), Mrs Reed, John Reed and Blanch Ingram - whose description is not dissimilar to Bertha's.


message 47: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 23, 2011 09:44AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments In his 1842 report on St Luke's mental hospital Dickens describes the immobilizing chairs, no longer in use but "preserved in a lumber-room," as "hideous curiosities indeed." Benjamin Rush proposed "the Tranquillizer" Chair in order to immobilize and bind an uncontrollable patient (cf The Philadelphia Medical Museum, 1811 pic below), the chairs at St. Lukes were less extreme in restraining only the lower body and preventing backward or sideways movement of the upper body.

He also critiques 'several specifics of the old-style treatment in a series of memorable passages arguing that "nothing was too wildly extravagant, nothing too monstrously cruel to be prescribed by mad-doctors"--like "spinning in whirligigs," for example. Joseph Mason Cox, in his landmark treatise, "Practical observations on insanity" (1804), popularized the swing as a treatment for the mentally ill. In his 1828 treatise, "Cases of mental disease," Alexander Morison proposed a "Rotatory Machine" much like the one Dickens describes, although it is possible that St. Luke’s used a swing with multiple seating like W. S. Hallaran’s circulating swing, constructed for the asylum in Cork and described in his "Practical Observations on Insanity" (1818). This could rotate four patients simultaneously at a hundred times a minute.' !!! (Dickens also mentions a wooden 'key' invented by John Haslam at Bedlam to use when force feeding patients.)

http://pactwisehelp.com/photogallery/...

http://historiccamdencounty.com/ccnew...


Kristen | 140 comments that was an interesting essay. there was definitely a victorian fascination with mental illness. in the victorian art history class i took in college, there was an entire section devoted to photography of the mentally ill. hundreds of pictures of disheveled women with blank stares or very disturbed looks on their faces. i wish i could remember the name of the institution, but there was one that displayed these photographs of the women on their walls. the idea was that if the woman saw an image of herself in her current state, it would prompt her recovery. they also posted before and after photographs, as a sort of evidence of effective treatment for potential clients to see.


MadgeUK | 5214 comments Yes, Branwell's 'madness', caused by his addictions, must have had some bearing on CB's view of mental illness and how it should be treated. I believe the family tried to confine Branwell to the house too. Similarly, we have to ask why was he not sent to a mental hospital and if his treatment at home by his sisters was humane. A form of treatment is spelled out in Anne's Tenant of Wildfell Hall where the husband of the protaganist is an alcoholic, supposedly based on her experiences with Branwell. Apparently it was Anne who was his main carer. There is another good Victorian Web discussion of this here:-

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/b...


message 50: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 23, 2011 10:35AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments In discussing Bertha's incarceration we are perhaps forgetting that CB based the 'madwoman in the attic' upon a real story which she found out about when she visited Norton Conyers:-

http://www.findsomewhere.co.uk/Hidden...

http://www.findsomewhere.co.uk/Hidden...


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