Jane Eyre [lecture notes] by

23 June 2013

This is just for me to have – notes made while watching the Jane Eyre lectures. May not make much sense to anyone else.

Bildungsroman – novel of formation/coming of age/finding your way.
Social outlets for women? Where can they develop themselves? Only way to find fulfilment for a woman is through love. i.e. “Reader I married him.”
C19th marriage is be all, it is a success for women.
Woman waits. Man adventures. Female = passive. Agency is given to the male.

Forking path – move through different circuits/paths. Through time as well as space?
What path is our life? This is how we bacame who we are.

Published 1847. language is polished, but dated?
Bronte’s prose is slow, long, thick. But it evokes, it grows.

Domestic Fiction?
Description of Brocklehusrt as the wolf from Red Riding Hood. – Bronte uses other forms of literature inc fairytale to evoke feelings and atmosphere in her novel
And earlier the phallic description – Freudian? So her language is not entirely docile. It contains more than a casual reader might think.

How does a person evolve?

Jane believes you must strike back when you are struck at. – oppose evil.
But a belief that caused great disturbance at the time it was written.

Importance of social class and status. Jane is Rochester’s employee as well as his social inferior.

As well as being the story of Jane’s success this is a story of abuse. How much abuse stays with Jane through the book. Her childhood is blighted by it. The Reeds. Mr Brocklehurst etc
Her life is continually based on what other people order.
The abused child lives inside the adult, the past is never gone, it is always there.

What are we to make of Bertha Mason? – animalistic & beastlike. All passion & emotion. The demon opposite of the “angel of the house”.
described as mad – from a family of madness – liars and insanity. so says Rochester.
The sins of her mother – also an unchaste drunkard manwoman.

She is everything Victorian society abhored, exactly the opposite of what is wanted in a wife.

But all the policing of Bertha has failed. Security is a fiction – the beast is here and cannot be confined.
Throughout the novel she has always been felt and heard, even if not seen. Rochester cannot control her.

Is there a relationship between Jane & BErtha?
Bertha is the opposite in many ways of Jane. But what is Bertha’s role. Is she violent against Jane, or is it to stop the wedding?
Jane sees Betha’s face in the mirror, the text says she sees Bertha, but is this reflection also on of Jane?
Is Betha Jane’s Hulk? Is she there to exact revenge for cruelty done to Jane?

Jane by herself, demure and obedient is incomplete, a symbol – the Victorian ideal of femininity is also incomplete and wrong.
Bertha is justice.

For the relationship between Jane and Rochester to work Rochester must be disempowered. Jane must be empowered.
He has to be softened in order to be a real marriage prospect.

Straight reading :
Jane is feisty, couragous. She recreates herself anew, gains her own self esteem and self respect and in the end finds Rochester as an equal not a master.

Shadow reading :
Betha is an aspect of Jane. She is the truth that we are all animals.
Probably not the author’s intent, but of the reader’s interpretation.

Jane & Bertha’s relationship is unknown to both – strangers can impact on us without our knowledge.

1st person narrator is the authority in the text. We believe and empathise with her. But none of us can possible be aware of ourselves from an objective perspective. We see our own reasons an justifications

for our own behaviour.
Other characters sometimes describe Jane in negative terms. Obviously Mrs Reed & Mr Brocklehust, but even Bessie and the maids describe Jane as a difficuly child, yet she never describes herself as such.

Can we ever really know ourselves?

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4 Responses

  1. Kelly says:

    Fence, you may like The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. It tells the story of Bertha Mason from her point-of-view (1st person narrative, which alternates with Rochester's), fleshes her out and makes her a sympathetic, real live person with actual thoughts and feelings, and serves as an excellent prequel to Bronte's book. I found it fascinating!

    Jane Eyre is probably my favorite novel of all time. I first fell in love with it in high school and have reread it every few years ever since. The last movie released was really excellent, too.
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Boys ‘n’ Bikes and Girls ‘n’ Books

  2. Kelly says:

    I forgot to say that Rhys approaches the story from a feminist angle, as well as a racial one, so it definitely touches on the themes you brought out in your notes. Ooh ooh, another story about those pesky "madwomen" that's simply wonderful is The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, but maybe you've read it… I seem to remember you doing a review of Herland once! Though I could have just dreamed that. :)
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Boys ‘n’ Bikes and Girls ‘n’ Books

    • Fence says:

      I actually have read that one Kelly. It was part of my English course in college. Not that I remember much of it now.

      I did read Herland, that was actually for the last coursera course thingy I did, but I haven't gotten around to The Yellow Wallpaper yet. I came across a couple of mentions of it when reading about Gilman and it sounds like something worth reading.

  3. Kelly says:

    After I wrote my last comment, I checked and saw that you had read Herland! So I wasn't making it up. :) I honestly don't remember much about the stories in it, so it didn't make a huge impression, but The Yellow Wallpaper did. It is a truly wonderful (and creepy) story, totally bringing out the patriarchal (and abject) suppression of women during that time. Just avoid – AT ALL COSTS I BEG YOU – the film version of it starring Juliet Landau. It was abysmal and missed the point entirely.
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Boys ‘n’ Bikes and Girls ‘n’ Books