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Reading "Jane Eyre" now. Saw how many suggested it as best classical fiction to read. Free on-line link to text.
I am at chapter 10; Jane is ten going on eighteen in this chapter; Jane (Bronte) writes, "I now pass a space of eight years almost in silence: a few lines only are necessary to keep up the links of connection."
Miss TempIe has just married and left Lowood taking with her the tranquility Jane had come to enjoy.
Jane, our first person story teller, writes, "tired of the routine of eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: “Then,” I cried, half desperate, “grant me at least a new servitude!”
Jane asks for liberty, then lowers her request, she asks for change, stimulus, and again lowers her request, and at last hopes, for she is now half desperate, for at least for new servitude. How funny! Ahh, that I should even hope for even a new servitude.
Do we all have a single day when it comes home hard to us how we are in need of change?
Interesting to see Charlotte's personality come through in Jane.
Charlotte Bronte writes in the preface this brilliant observation:
Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.
These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world- redeeming creed of Christ. There is—I repeat it—a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them. The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show pass for sterling worth—to let white-washed walls vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinise and expose—to rase the gilding, and show base metal under it—to penetrate the sepulchre, and reveal charnel relics: but hate as it will, it is indebted to him.
These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world- redeeming creed of Christ. There is—I repeat it—a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.
The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show pass for sterling worth—to let white-washed walls vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinise and expose—to rase the gilding, and show base metal under it—to penetrate the sepulchre, and reveal charnel relics: but hate as it will, it is indebted to him.
It takes some moments to absorb but it is still relevant today. From here, we can get the following scene.
Jane first meets Mr. Brocklehurst.
I stepped across the rug; he placed me square and straight before him. What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with mine! what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent teeth! (Big bad wolf!) Man of God, self-proclaimed.
“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he began, “especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?”
“They go to hell,” was my ready and orthodox answer.
“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”
“A pit full of fire.”
“And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?”
“What must you do to avoid it?”
I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: “I must keep in good health, and not die.” :-) How spunky of Charlotte.
Unfortunate how all the teachings of the Bible are easily overshadowed and the motivation to be good is boiled down to one simple notion of eternal punishment. Unfortunate that as adults we are still hushed by this defense, direct or implied, when like Jane we too attempt rational arguments against misguided convention and self-righteous demagogues.
Last Edited on: 2/29/08 3:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Have you delved into Villete yet? I noticed the same underlining trend in that as well... where religion created an irrational acceptance of how as a lower class person is allowed to be treated. Here's my review from that:
This book is startlingly deep and profound on many levels that it makes me wonder that Jane Eyre receives most of the attention / accolades. Bronte gives us what is probably the most truthful and accurate look at life of a lower class citizen of this era. Knowing Bronte's biography fairly well, you can feel the author's deliberate attempt to be truthful to her readers as well as herself. Financial desperation, jealousy, frivolous love, true unblinded love, deep depression and human nature are the focus. I've read many reviews from all time periods on this book and one thing stands out in this book I feel is missed. The cold and unfeeling way people of wealth view and interact with the world and how it deeply and sometimes devastatingly affects those of the lower class. For example, the lead character has no friends but for a Dr. and his mother, they know this, but for months go without even writing her a letter. Upon meeting up with her again they merely say, "Oh, I'm sure you've been fine and didn't think of us at all." Yet these are considered to be the people who have treated Lucy Snowe the kindest of most of her life. The beginning is ambiguous as to who the main character is and the ending has some critics crying foul, but for this reader they worked its charm of mystery and pulled you into this woman's life.
Jane Eyre is my first.
Certainly in Bronte we can see how the powerful permit the weak so little (either in respect or wealth); the religious establishment ,as accomplice to the wealthy, hammer down the natural human urge for something better against the anvil of religion and threat of damnation, claiming all the while, "it is virtue we forge, and souls we save." So Bronte speaks from Jane Erye......
(Speaks self-righteous hypocritical Mr. Brocklehurst:) “Madam (to Miss Temple),” he pursued, “I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel; and each of the young persons before us has a string of hair twisted in plaits which vanity itself might have woven; these, I repeat, must be cut off; think of the time wasted, of—”
Now Charlotte reveals Mr. Brocklehurst:
Mr. Brocklehurst was here interrupted: three other visitors, ladies, now entered the room. They ought to have come a little sooner to have heard his lecture on dress, for they were splendidly attired in velvet, silk, and furs. The two younger of the trio (fine girls of sixteen and seventeen) had grey beaver hats, then in fashion, shaded with ostrich plumes, and from under the brim of this graceful head-dress fell a profusion of light tresses, elaborately curled; the elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawl, trimmed with ermine, and she wore a false front of French curls. (These are Mrs. Brocklehurst and the Brocklehurst daughters.)
I think this absurdity is why the Monty Python sketch "The Four Yorkshiremen" is such a classic and so funny. See You Tube video. Each man, now rich, in turn tries to prove his ability to sacrifice, virtue as defined by Mr. Brocklehurst, by describing their childhood of extreme deprivation.
Last Edited on: 10/12/07 9:16 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Not sure if you are watching this thread anymore Kerry, but I just finished Emma Brown, Charlotte Bronte's unfinished novel, finished by Clare Boylan. Honestly, only the first few chapters were by Bronte herself and the rest by Boylan, but I found it an informative read about the times and generally the terrible position women held in society because of these "morals of religion". Women rich or poor have hard lives. The poor though have lives in destitution.