Friday, October 9, 2009

Jane Eyre and Literary Criticism

Visit Jane Eyre on the Victorian Web.

Choose a work of literary criticism to read. I recommend the following pieces:
"Jane Eyre's Three Paintings"
"She bit me...like a tigress"
"Dreams in Jane Eyre"
"Angry Angels"
"...Female Protagonists in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea"
Reason and Passion
Law, Insanity, and Self-Respect
Jane Eyre as Double Bildungsroman
Many of the lit. crits. in the imagery section
This and the other commentaries by R.B. Martin (found at the end of this short crit.)

Write a summary of the literary criticism. (What from the criticism might be useful and thought provoking for other students of the novel?)

Write a thoughtful response to the literary criticsm. (How has the criticism affected your understanding of the novel?)

300+ words. Due by pumpkin time Friday, October 16.

17 comments:

Brianna A said...

This criticism debates law, passion and reason. This is based off of Jane’s first attempt at marriage to Rochester when she learns of his insane wife, Bertha. The criticism shows the conversation between Jane and Rochester and how Jane argues for reason and law here instead of passion. The criticism then goes on to ask the big questions of what kind of reason Jane is using and how is it different from the beginning of the novel and also the question of what insane is, especially since Jane uses this word in her rebuttal and compares herself to Bertha.
As the criticism points out, Jane has come to Rochester dignified and resolute. When she tells Rochester that he will soon forget her he erupts with passion and throws reason out the wind. Jane tells him that she can not have respect for herself if she goes through with the marriage. This is a huge theme of the novel. Jane is continually being thrown in hard places and sometimes questionable and immoral choices but throughout it all she stays true to herself. This is a way that Jane Eyre kind of teeters away from the Bildungsroman because she does not change in a dramatic way in response to her environment rather she just moves on to another environment and is challenged again. Jane also talks about solitude and isolationism. When she is responding to Rochester’s pleas and furies Jane thinks about Rochester being left alone in his state and is sympathized to his condition and wants to ‘comply’. When she does respond to him she tells him that there is more friendliness in solitude and that then she will respect herself for being unsustained. This directly compares the two character’s difference in thought and action, Jane is ready to be alone and respects herself more for choosing isolationism over a passionate—yet wrong—love. However, Rochester is weak and unstable without her, her leaving causes his to be passionate and untamed. This is leads to another disagreement between them. Jane tells Rochester that when things are hard and crazy to deal with that is when you call upon to reason and law to help you. She says that she would be insane not to believe that this is the time when reason is most needed, which seems to be the guiding light in front of Jane throughout this process

Meredith S said...

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/61brnt9.html
This piece of criticism compares specific dreams in Jane Eyre and Alice in Wonderland. In both novels, the main character has a dream in which she is holding an infant and the infant transforms into something else. The character then drops the infant in both novels. In Alice’s case, the baby turns into a pig. She drops it out of surprise at the transformation. Lewis Carroll did this in reaction to how babies are always seen to be adorable and worthy of all attention. Jane’s dream is entirely opposite. She drops the infant out of fear after she realizes that it is a phantom. When she wakes up she sees an image of a disgusting beast. This dream is part of a series of dreams involving infants that Jane has. The manner in which infants appear in Jane Eye gives the impression that babies are insignificant and barely human- they do not become so until they are older.
The “human-animal” experience is noted in the criticism an opposite purpose in each novel. The pig that Alice encounters has a comedic effect and is meant to symbolize childhood frivolity. The creature that Jane sees is present in the novel to inspire fear and confusion. The beast is foreshadowing to when Jane later meets Bertha, who is described as being similar to a wild animal.
The comparisons made here make interesting points about how infants appear in Jane Eyre. The particular dream mentioned here and the other dreams she has about children occur during points in her life when there is building tension, either apparent or hidden. It might be too obvious to say that these dreams are appearances of her inner child holding her back from moving forward in certain aspects of her life. This contrasts perfectly with Alice’s infant. Alice begins her journey as a worrisome child and becomes more carefree and accepting over time. She finds humor and merriment, which nurture her state of childhood. Jane’s journey, however, begins with tension and the tension increases continuously. As she progresses throughout her journey her childhood is viciously torn apart by the forces around her with higher authority. Infants appear in Jane’s dreams as barriers preventing her from moving forward in life until her childhood version of herself is contented with what she is doing.

Marisa D. said...

This criticism is about the images of passion within Jane Eyre. Bronte depicts Jane’s passion as wicked, even though as the criticism states, “it is Jane’s passion that creates her vivid and commanding personality.” Jane Eyre is full of descriptive, rich imagery that allows the reader to see through Jane’s passion and into her world. Bronte uses metaphors such as “Fiery iron,” to describe Jane. The author uses fire many times to show passion within other characters besides Jane. Bronte frequently uses fire to describe Bertha and her animalistic passion, or insanity. She uses fire to tell the story of Rochester’s early marriage, and the bedroom fire that Jane saved him from, and that Rochester and Jane both use it to describe their passion towards each other. The criticism goes on to talk about the final image of fire, the rendering blaze of Thornfield Hall. Rochester attempts to save the animalistic Bertha as a way to redeem himself in Jane’s eyes, but he is too late and Bertha dies. The attempt indicated that he had controlled his “burning” passions regarding Bertha and Jane and repented for the wrongs that he had enabled on the women in his life, also including Adele, Cecile, and Miss. Ingram. Only after Rochester goes through all of this is he allowed to be with Jane again, with their burning desire for each other intertwined once more.
Bronte, according to this particular criticism, condemns the passionate and lustful tendencies of Jane and Rochester because of the evangelical doctrines of the time which advocated “moral purity and the zealous promotion of spiritually related causes.” She attempted to alleviate the passionate nature of her novel by showing that heated emotions led to destruction. Jane and Rochester are both forced to spiritually find themselves again before they would be allowed to be together. They were both subjected to emotional and spiritual purgatory as payment for the long life they would be able to live together.

nFrye said...

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/iwama8.html
"Bertha Mason's Madness in a Contemporary Context"

Over the years, many people have complained that Jane Eyre is a racist novel and that it shows a great insensitivity towards people who suffer from mental illness.
The author of this article felt that the book could perhaps suggest the feelings of people of the Victorian era towards people with mental illnesses. However, after doing some research, she found that, while the asylums of the time were crowded and in need of modernization for the numerous new patients, the people of the time were very sympathetic towards people suffering from mental illness. Many reports of the time period cried out against the practices of confining patients and felt a great need for new practices and hopes for the cure of the mentally ill.
The novel is considered racist mainly because typical stereotypes of the time period were exemplified by Bertha. Creoles at that time were labeled as insane and alcoholic, and Bertha's mother was called just that in Bronte's novel.
When I read Jane Eyre, I did not notice that the novel was particularly racist or insensitive towards the mentally ill. With the background that I had by reading Wide Sargasso Sea, and even with what I knew of people with mental illnesses and the writing of novels, I found the description of Bertha disturbing, but not controversial. I believe that Bronte used such an extreme character in order to help the reader sympathize with Jane and to see the darker, less-kind side of Rochester. Given the historical context of this article, I can see why issues of racism and insensitivity were so problematic for this novel in the Victorian era, where certain ideas were thought of as common knowledge. Bronte's racist portrayal of Bertha only heightens the sympathy towards Jane, as she is dealing with a "typical" insane and exceptionally dangerous Creole.

Sarah Al-Edwan said...

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/iwama8.html

This criticism discusses Bertha Mason’s mental illness, within a contemporary context. The author argues that the conditions in which Bertha was living in, was actually not common for that of a mental patient during Victorian times. Much of the article is references to other articles from that time period where efforts were being made not only by the government, but as the public as a whole to better understand mental disease, and to make the conditions for it’s patients more suitable for their recovery. Drastic measures compared to previous attempts were taken in order to improve the quality of where these patients were staying. A law was passed in 1841 making it a requirement for all mental asylums to be inspected. It was thought that if the environment of a mental patient was inviting, and comforting rather than jail like a cure would be a easier obtained goal. Charlotte Bronte is seen as a racist author, due to the fact that Bertha Mason was described as a Creole woman, and that her mother a Creole herself was also mentally ill and an alcoholic. But one idea that the author of this criticism pointed out was very important in order to understand this novel. The conditions in which Bertha is living in within Thornfield can say a lot about Mr. Rochester. According to these articles which were cited, suitable care was available for a mental patient. It is often misunderstood that Rochester had no choice but to take Bertha into his own hands, and to lock her away rather than to leave her to herself, only to die. Rochester chose to lock his wife away in an attic left to the abuse of Grace Poole, instead of either giving her to a well cared for facility, or to get her help in a world were a belief of a cure was becoming a more recognized notion. Rochester’s act of keeping her in a cold dark room, with no source of help or therapy ultimately ended in Bertha Mason’s suicide. All of the problems associated with Bertha could have been avoided if she was properly taken care of.

Katina T said...

The literary criticism I chose to read is called “Reason and Passion”. It was interesting how Bronte formed characters to represent certain aspects of Jane’s personality. The most vivid and obvious traits that are portrayed are passion and reason. The character that represented the most apparent example of passion was Bertha. While Bertha represented a fiery passion, St. John was the exact opposite: he was icy with reason. When I first read the novel, I didn’t like or understand that Jane even considered marrying St. John, but as I read this criticism, it helped me comprehend why Jane pondered it. Like passion, reason is also a temptation that Jane could possibly lose herself in. While she had an intense passion for Rochester, she found security in St. John. Although passion is an almost irresistible temptation of going against her morals, the temptation of security led Jane to the discovery that she could never marry a man she doesn’t love. So in some cases of the novel, passion was the enemy of Jane, and other times, reason was. Passion and reason are symbolically controlled in Jane’s personality when both Bertha and St. John die. Jane needed to find a balance between passion and reason. This criticism goes on to call the medium between fire and ice as a “warm slush”. The book ends with this “warm slush” solution that leaves many readers unsatisfied. In my opinion, I guess I’m just a softy for happy endings, so I didn’t really mind at first. But once I read this criticism, I too, wanted to understand how Jane found a resolution for the tension between passion and reason. Jane didn’t find a solution by herself, but the author handed her one. Some sort of fate (or just Bronte’s inner hope that she, herself, will find a resolution in real life) killed off Bertha, gave Jane a large inheritance, and somewhat created an equilibrium for Rochester’s and Jane’s relationship by blinding Rochester and amputating his arm. Despite this “warm slush” ending, and a Victorian time period setting, the novel still remains popular somehow. I think this is because it is a perfect example of an independent woman staying true to herself, and she is still able to be wealthy and have a loving husband after what seems like endless hardships. It provides hope and inspiration for anyone who reads it.

Andrew Ryan said...

The criticism compares the views on deafness and blindness during the nineteenth century. The criticism goes on to say how during the nineteenth century being blind was far better than being deaf. People during this time thought of deaf people as being more animal than human. Deaf people were also associated as being dumb as well because during this time most deaf people were not educated because there were very few schools available for the deaf. The criticism also states how deaf people were not allowed to "inherit property, to marry, to receive education, to have adequately challenging work-and were denied fundamental human rights”. Deaf people were also seen as remaining in a childlike state.
On the other hand blind people were often praised due to their abilities of writing poetry and poetical composition. The blind were also admired for their sense of hearing which was incomparable. People were impressed with the blind because since they had no sight they could not be distracted.
The criticism relates blindness with Jane Eyre because at the end of the novel Rochester is stricken blind. With Rochester now blind he is able to communicate and listen better to Jane and both characters become more dependent of one another. Rochester needs Jane around so he will not feel lonely and Jane needs him now more than ever because she has been without his love for too long.
The criticism is correct in stating that with Rochester now blind he is more dependent on Jane and that Jane is more dependent on him. By being blind it would make Rochester’s hearing more sensitive, and he would fasten all of his attention through hearing. He would not be distracted by vision, and he would be able to focus solely on Jane. It also says that by becoming blind, Rochester becomes more poetic, and also a better listener which makes his love for Jane much stronger. If this is the case, it is strange that Bronte would make Rochester regain his sight again. By gaining his strength it would seem that he would lose his dependence on Jane and would not need her as strongly as he does now. In the criticism it states that “Brontë certainly would never have relegated Mr. Rochester to a state of deafness that society viewed so negatively.” If Bronte wanted to show how much Rochester meant to Jane she should have made him deaf, because if Jane still loved him even as a deaf person, it would prove more strongly that regardless of what the social order thinks, she loves Rochester.

B Shay said...

Brendan Shay

The article I read was the "Dream's" one.

Dream’s are always an opening to a person’s inner conscience, especially for someone who has kept a better part of their emotions to themselves, like Jane Eyre. Her dream’s act as a kind of portal to her real self, the person, who if not burdened down by all the world’s orders and taboos, would eventually come to flourish. There are so many thing’s that she would love to say, but knows she can’t because that would be “against what people believe in” or “against GOD’s will”. For example Jane, inside, would love to run away with Rochester and have an adulterous relationship with him. This never happens though because she knows they will be expedited from society, and possibly judged by GOD for this “sin?”.
These thoughts which Jane keep’s boiling inside her head, eventually find a way out in her dream and dream-like states that she has. Even if it’s not apparent that she has certain feeling during the day, her dream’s drop all barriers and leaves only Jane and her emotions. These dream’s reveal the true thoughts of Jane, that the reader might not have been aware of until that moment. Her dream-like states, are a real example of how her sub and inner thoughts pool into the outer world. Apparently the protagonist has a hard trouble not dazing off during the day and important moments in her life because she was often lost in though, and not aware or her consciousness. These are opportune moments for her dreams to escape, almost like they were alive. When she first arrives at Thornfield, she shows Rochester three paintings that she drew in an almost “Artist’s Dreamland”. Obviously they were the host for the parasite like dream’s to escape and latch onto. On closer expection, the painting may reveal her conscience at the moment, or warnings to what may be coming.
Bessie, Jane’s old governess, once said that “to dream of a child was a sure sign of trouble”. This encompasses another part of Jane’s almost supernatural dreams that she has. Time and time again Jane wakes up after having different dream’s of children, holding a child, or even being choked by one. Proceeding each dream something bad always happens; someone dies or becomes ill, a house burns down… These dreams are warnings. But for what are these warning’s about? Possibly saying that her present situation is dire need of changing, that her future will be bleak. You can interpret these as insanity, or a sign from GOD, but Jane naturally felt like listening to herself was the right choice. There’s also another theory that’s come up, the supernatural one. Following all these references of ghosts and eerie moments in the book, her having a dream about a fire that eventually does happen does not seem very weird. Maybe Jane herself is of another world, but the only way to tell is to take a look into her inner conscience.

This reading really got me thinking about something’s I missed the first time through. I honestly did not make any real connection between Jane’s dream’s and reality. At first my perspective of Jane’s day dreaming was that she was really bored living the grind of life. Reading this essay really got me thinking about a possible “barrier” between her real self and the world, and how the dreams we’re just a cooked up mess of the thoughts inside the barrier. Also the addition of supernatural forces really get’s you thinking differently about the book. All in all, I should probably read this book again, slowly…

Sabrina said...

The literary criticism I chose is called “Dreams in Jane Eyre,” by Allan Gordon. In the criticism the author talks about the meaning of Jane’s dreams within the story. The writer brings up interesting points about Jane’s dreams and what he thinks they reveal. Much of his criticism would be helpful to other readers in my opinion because of the parts of the book he uses to back his thoughts. The most vivid point he brings up is Jane’s imaginings about children and how they always lead to unfortunate events in her life. He talks about when she dreams about a baby and the next day she wakes up to the horrifying news about her cousin dying and Mrs. Reed being on her death bed. Another time she is sleeping, she wakes up to a scream from Bertha, and yet again woken up to the beast cutting her veil. Jane’s dreams about children always follow a nightmare in her actual life. Gordon also makes it a point to bring up Jane’s other dreams/day dreams which reveal her love for Rochester. Throughout Jane and Rochester’s relationship, if anything positive happens, Jane would constantly relate back to whether it was real or not, asking if she had dreamt it. Other students who read Jane Eyre can refer to Allan’s literary criticism for help understanding the meaning of Jane’s thoughts while she sleeps.
“Dreams in Jane Eyre,” affected my understanding of Jane’s story by giving me insight of someone else’s opinion. The way that Allan is able to explain the reasoning for happenings after her thoughts helps me to see the underlying themes. It was hard for me to pick up all of the clues while reading the book, but after hearing Gordon’s ideas, it is clear to me that every dream had a deeper meaning. Bronte “plants seeds” throughout Jane Eyre that “bloom” later in the book. For example, the “red room” is a place that Jane fears when she is living with the Reed’s, but she then goes back there while she sleep the night before she is about to get married to Rochester (the first time). One example of how the analysis helped my understanding is about the pictures that Jane had drawn at Lowood. As I read Jane Eyre, it did not seem like it was an important part of the story, but Allan shows the meaning behind Jane showing Rochester the three pictures. Since Rochester was intrigued by them, it deepened their connection. By reading this literary criticism Gordon wrote I have a deeper understanding of the motif of dreams.

amycarpenter57 said...

Hey, Teacher, Leave Those Readers Alone! Why a Governess's Narrative in Jane Eyre Shocked Certain Victorians

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/mayer1.html

Sonja Mayer states a very important point about Jane Eyre in this essay which is generally overlooked by many modern viewers. That is, that part of its scandalous nature is not just that its narrator is a woman but that she is a governess. The position of governess was not highly respected in Bronte’s time and many of its contemporary readers felt that she was blurring the lines of gender and class roles. The essay then goes on to detail a governesses role in society and how another factor that made Jane Eyre so shocking was how strong a person Jane was. She “called the shots” with her relationship with Rochester which was appalling in that time period.

However, I would just like to reflect on Jane as a governess and what that means for the novel Jane Eyre. As said in the essay,

“A Victorian governess was usually in an awkward class position within her employer's household. She was not exactly a servant, but she was not a member of the family, either. This made her social position very uncertain, as she was not fully accepted by either the servants or family (Smith, B.G., qtd. in Wells).”

Governesses generally ate alone in their rooms, being forbidden to socialize with the “lower” servants. Wealthy parents most likely did not want their children being taught by anyone who even associated casually with the lower classes. And since governesses rarely dined with the family this led to isolation and loneliness. And the best that a governess could hope for from her charges was a kind of gentle condescension after they grew up and left her care. Even before Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre, a fellow female author touched on this subject as well. In Jane Austen’s Emma, Jane Fairfax, a governess comments on how her position is similar to that of a slave.

This topic is interesting to me because it was something not touched upon in class at all and I believe that there is something to be considered about it. Jane Eyre, as a bildungsroman, comments on the social order, part of that being class. Bronte makes her main character essentially have no class, no place in the social order whatsoever, and this is through Jane’s own choice to become a governess. The other governess Jane, Jane Fairfax from Emma, had no choice but to become a governess as there was no other occupations open to her. Jane Eyre, however, had a job at Lowood. This job gave her a place in society, it wasn’t high but from my knowledge, teachers at an actual school had some position in the social order as opposed to a governess who lived in someone else’s house.

Making Jane a governess was not a random choice by Charlotte Bronte, it was a deliberate and conscience decision as part of her critique on the social order.

Francesco P said...

Passion, Contradiction, and Imagery in Jane Eyre by Mark Jackson, was the article I chose to concentrate on, as I felt it was closely tied with the theme of the novel as a whole. It states that the contradiction inherent within Jane as an individual is the “buoyant but unquiet sea” of the tension between her passion and her sense of reason. The article also suggests that Jane’s intense passion is evidence of the notion of the true love she carries for Rochester. The contradiction exists because of the “counteracting breeze” which the authors defines as “delirium” representing whether, rationally, Jane should choose to pursue Rochester based on their previous correlation. However, the intensity of Jane’s passion perseveres as a predominant influence over her sense of self. This aspect also depicts how intense ungovernable emotions creates conflict between Jane and Rochester, as Jane must learn to be capable of love without impeding her inner ethical self, and Rochester must in unison, lower his dominancy within the relationship, without violating his own sense of morality. Sympathy, as the article professes, is the human emotion, which liberates Jane and Rochester from their inner conflict, and allows them to grow closer by means of compassion and understanding.
I would not quite declare that the passionate and reasonable aspects of Jane’s nature are contradictions. The reason why we can see Jane’s intense expression of emotion and define it as passion is because we parallel it with Jane’s strong sense of reason, which grounds her and gives her the consistency we recognize within Jane. We are then able to perceive her deviation from this consistency as passion, driven by a force outside of her reason, yet exemplified all the more intensely by comparison. The novel’s motive as I perceive it from this perspective, is not how the contradiction of passion and reason leads to the genuine unison of Jane and Rochester; A contradiction which must be balanced by some form of control over the passion. Rather, Bronte convolutes the situation and introduces scenarios to the novel, which alleviates the natural imbalance that exists in Jane and Rochester’s relationship. By doing this, Bronte relinquishes the need for either of the characters to consciously sacrifice a part of themselves in order to fulfill their internal desires. It is because of this that I’m hesitant in accepting the ending as the moral conclusion to the dilemma of Jane and Rochester’s association. It is not an internal resolution; so much as it is the circumstantial re-definement of the story to allow the opportunity for the mutual sympathy, and sequentially, the relationship that they develop with their broadened perspectives.

Megan Keegan said...

“The Tension between Reason and Passion in Jane Eyre,” by Nicolas Johnson, focuses on the reasoning for all the details about Jane that Charlotte Bronte added. Johnson brings attention to the fact that Jane might be the epitome of what Bronte herself wants to be. He says that this could be the reason there is some tension within Jane and how she is constantly looking for steadiness in her environment. In some cases, she receives balance from the people that surround her. These characters are very important to the novel and to Jane as a developing woman. There are clear contrasts between characters and their relationships to Jane, as mentioned in the criticism. Johnson notes that Bertha is full of passion, and John is very cold. He ties these characters to Jane by saying that there is a part of Jane that is both of these things, “her emotional and logical natures.” Through seeing her relationships develop with others, we can also see into Jane’s mind. Dangers of passion and nature are also described. Both themes are seen when Jane almost marries Rochester. Johnson explains how “Jane cannot 'see God for his creature' of whom she has 'made an idol.'” He describes how if Jane cannot see God (herself) for who she is, she will loose herself. Her passion for Rochester and her overwhelming love nearly blinded her from her own feelings and needs. An obvious contrast to this scene is Jane’s temptation to marry St. John. Johnson reveals how important it is that she almost succumbs to the pressure of pleasing him and in turn giving up the identity she has fought to discover.

By looking at someone else’s take on Jane Eyre, I feel that many small details have been brought to my attention. Analyzing how Bronte and Jane are related was very interesting to me. I agree with Johnson’s point of how Bronte portrays Jane as someone she wishes she was herself. By doing this, she has created a character full of passion and fire but who is also easily influenced. The way that Bronte introduces Jane and has her grow makes it easy to relate to her. For this reason, Jane Eyre has been extremely successful for a long time. The “power and relevance” of the novel is timeless.

Molly A said...

Molly A
http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/rose1.html
Law, Insanity and Self Respect

Both Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and the literary criticism regarding Jane Eyre, address a particular issue in similar fashions. The situation that is presented with Rochester, involving his marriage to Bertha, is illegal and wrong as far as civil laws are concerned. The dialogue shared between Jane and Rochester properly displays the love they share for one another. She desires, more than anything, to continue down the path on which they’ve already begun traveling. However, she feels strongly, as she explains to Rochester, that she must depart, because their situation is deemed “wrong”. There imposes the choice that is referred to: what is technically, religiously, and lawfully right, or what makes her happy.
The true problem is, however, that Jane feels obligated to follow the guidelines of her own standards. These standards have been greatly influenced, although not duplicated, by the common expectations of her surroundings. This, resultantly, changes the choice referred to in the criticism. It is not so much laws vs. happiness, but rather personal morals vs. personal happiness. She says, “The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself”, she addresses the thought of isolation with regards towards her self-respect. However, she neglects to mention the details of happiness, what makes her happy and what makes her unhappy. Therein lies the conflict, her morals are not what make her happy, but rather a guideline she feels obligated to stay true to.
”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.” It is exemplified through this quote that Jane is aware of the purpose her expectations serve. They are for the moments in which they will be tested, when happiness will oppose them. When this internal struggle arises, the importance of morals emerges. However, if morals are used as a way to withdraw passion from happiness, then they are encouraging a life of order, not enjoyment. In fear of deviating from what is a “correct way to live”, Jane willingly restricts happiness. This is the main internal struggle that she so constantly deals with; and it is derived from the expectations of the social order, though it is not a result of the social order.
I agree with the author of this criticism in her observation that Charlotte Bronte is depicting strong forms of individualism. However, I feel that moral and civil laws are not as direct an issue as they are perceived to be. Although Charlotte Bronte illustrates them as such, there is a deeper meaning and a more complicated method of understanding their intentions. Through Jane’s words, reactions, and thoughts, the reader is able to grasp a feeling of her internal struggle to achieve both happiness and devotion to her personal morals.

Nick B said...

Law, Insanity, and Self-Respect in Jane Eyre

Self respect is commonly thought of in conjunction with abiding by the laws, and, inversely, insanity is thought of as breaking the laws. That’s because laws are basically the written social order. An observation we repeatedly made in Jane Eyre was that she, not quite tries to break the social order, but definitely tries not to fulfill it. When confronted with the fact that Mr. Rochester, her supposed soul-mate, was already married she has to make a choice: to ignore her dignity and the social order in favor of love and happiness or; abide by both her personal and the public beliefs and give up happiness for peace of mind.
When Jane is in her room debating with herself the issue of whether or not to stay with Rochester it may appear that her reason for leaving is how people will look at her if she stays. This feeling is imparted by that mentality on our part, she is actually virtually independent from the public view. She focuses more on her own sense of self respect, which, not so coincidentally, is fairly close to the social order. This is because, while growing as an individual, she also absorbed qualities of her culture, making her beliefs similar to those of the world, the key difference being that she feels she’s abiding to her values when choosing, whereas others are comfortable with knowing their abiding to the worlds’. Jane knows as soon as the facts explode at the wedding attempt that she must leave, the debating hours are really just her steeling herself to do it. This is because, despite being firm in her beliefs, her choice is a hard one to swallow, especially with the other choice so appealing.
Jane’s other choice is to ignore her self respect and the respect of her peers in favor of personal happiness. Intrinsically she knows, however, that without her self-respect even the life she dreamt of with Rochester wouldn’t be enough to make her happy. If it was only the ill will of her peers then she probably would have stayed with Rochester, but as it conflicted with her most important value, self-respect, she couldn’t do it. This results in a (one sided) heated argument between Jane and Rochester. Eventually Jane’s calm resoluteness wins out, and her escape early in the morning prevents any further confrontation.
As I wrote this I came to realize that the literary criticism I’m working off of isn’t very critical. It just summarizes what happened, asks some thought-provoking questions, and has a long quoted passage. Though I agree with the summary, I think it should have been more in depth, as critical reading involves not only surface events but the meaning behinds those events as well.
The key point of this part of the book, beyond the surface choice, is to distinguish between her self-respect and the social order. This difference isn’t noted in the summary, the choice is phrased as being between civil laws and happiness. The real point is that while Jane is acting based on her personal beliefs, these beliefs closely parallel society’s beliefs, as her feelings developed with societal influence.
At the end of the criticism a question is posed about how the idea of isolation is dealt with in the novel. The author uses this quote from Jane Eyre "the more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself." The idea portrayed in this quote however, isn’t quite true, despite her having personally said it. She really means, as is later apparent, that the more friendless and unsustained she could be, the more she will respect herself. She realizes when she ends up happily with Rochester that she only had to know she had the ability to leave him, she didn’t actually have to live alone and unhappy. The summary of how the proposed topics are dealt with in the book was correct, but the author didn’t look into the subjects’ significance enough, and even when she did she could have gone a step further.

fenkor said...

H. Ono

Jane Eyre's Three Paintings: Biblical Warnings & Greek Legends

This work contains one of several references to the bible through the paintings by Jane Eyre. The first involves a painting that shows "a desolate shipwreck." A cormorant carrying "a gold bracelet with jewels" joins the first painting to the one Jane draws of Blanche Ingrim before they meet through the commmon link of jewelery. Peter Bolt then says that The cormorant is Blanche through an allusion to Leviticus Ch 11, V 17 then repeated in Deuteronomy, again in Isaiah Ch 34, V 11 and in Zephania. (The Cormorant is unholy carrion dwelling amongst desolation and despair)

The second painting involves the Greek legend of Latmos or Mount Latmos. According to legend this was the place where the goddess Selene saw and fell in love with Endymion which led to her vowing to protest him forever. With the second meeting between Jane Eyre Rochester the reader learns of Jane's commitmen. The fact that Mr. Rochester identifies the painting is also suggested as being important. At the end of the book Jane says plainly that she will do the same as Selene and confirms that Endymion is Rochester and Selene is Jane.

The third painting is a prophecy that shows the image of a huge head. In the Book of Job there is a passage that made references to being "eyes to the blind and feet was I to the lame." Prophesy is fulfilled through Mr. Rochester being both blind and crippled when he is reunited with Jane at Ferndean. With many books using things that the characters do in order to give a hint of the future (dreams, paintings, ect.) you might wonder what would have happened if Jane had "drawn" a better future. Though this would be out of character for Jane with all the sophisticated and twisted references that Bronte makes. Only those who really know the bible would pick up on this reference and it would reveal an almost literal interpretation of the bible by having Mr. Rochester actually bling and crippled. But, Wide Sargasso Sea makes this book with its happy ending look very idealistic by showing Bertha's side of the story. In class it was discussed that Bronte brought up the fact that there were people who said that they were Christian and were not. (Brocklehurst with his well off family) There's also St. John who appears to be and ideal Christain by ssying and doing many of the things he said. But Jane finds a flaw that shows that he lacks love and doesn't really understand the point of marriage. The real John in the bible was well known and thought to be a gret man by the people. He witnessed Jesus and ended up being killed much like how St. John in the book dies or is going to. There are conflicting ideas on many parts of the bible and one of them involves whether John failed or not and the things he could have done for Jesus.

letsfollowthesun said...

Terri M.

Summary of the literary criticism piece, The Tension between Reason and Passion in Jane Eyre.

This article goes in depth with the theme of passion versus reason. These key themes in Jane Eyre could be Bronte talking about how she is struggling with the trials of her own life. The reason for the book being so detailed is because the life of Bronte was full of detail. The essay suggests that the book is not a work of historical fiction, but instead has timeless lessons about life woven into it, making it a classic. The tension that is portrayed between characters may in fact be tension that Bronte is feeling with in herself and is displaying through character’s that she has made up to represent her emotions.
An example of this bold assertion is when Thornfield being destroyed by Bertha’s passion (setting it on fire) and Jane’s ties being broken from Gateshead by her passion (incident with John Reed that led to her escape from the Reed home). While one person’s passion destroys them, the other person’s passion gives them liberation. The article also compares St. John and Rochester, and Bertha and St. John. The many mentors that Jane had in her life are also mentioned, such as Helen Burns and, strangely enough, Brocklehurst.
It is concluded that Jane does not resolve her conflict between reason and passion, but finds a happy medium. Bronte may have been showing the readers that she has not found the place between “fire and ice”. Bronte may have still been struggling with passion versus reason in her own life and that is why the reader gets “fairy-tale ending” feeling, Yet another reason maybe that Bronte was hoping that this is what her happy-ending would be like. The author finds the ending distasteful.
St. John who represents Reason and Bertha, who represents Passion, die literally and figuratively within the novel, pointing at the notion that extremes of passion or reason are not the path to take. Instead a meeting ground is required. Brocklehurst loses his position at Lowood and thus dies to the story. Helen Burns also dies to the story when her life is lost. The tension of reason versus passion is relevant today. Jane life may have been a portal to Bronte’s life. The supporting characters might represent parts of Bronte or the way she handled situations.

Response to Article
Write a thoughtful response to the literary criticism. (How has the criticism affected your understanding of the novel?)


While reflecting on Waiting for Godot this past summer I came to the conclusion that Estragon and Vladimir could be a representation of one person, and the conflict that can arise from within oneself. The novel could be portraying the ways that the individual (Bronte) handles passion. The article that I read gives a similar response to Jane Eyre. The article starts by stating, “In fact, it could be argued that these various characters are really aspects of her central character, Jane, and in turn, that Jane is a fictionalized version of Bronte herself. From this it could be argued that the tension between these two aspects really takes place only within her own head. Bronte is able to enact this tension through her characters and thus show dramatically the journey of a woman striving for balance within her nature.” I like this explanation because I remember our class wondering/discussing why certain dates were unfinished, and why certain towns were not named directly. The author of the article gives us a reason for this. The name and date are not important to novel. The novel is about finding a balance of reason and passion is one’s own life.
Imagery, as we all know, played a huge role in the novel Jane Eyre. This article was revealed an interesting view on the fire versus ice motifs. Fire representing passion and ice representing reason. Passion, like fire is easy to lose control of. It can become wild, and ultimately cause destruction. Ice can shaped into virtually anything, and will stay in that shape for a long time.

hayden said...

The criticism in question debates Law, Sanity and Self-Respect. The criticism quotes Rochester’s some what of a plea to Jane to marry him after her being exposed to Bertha. He tries to convince her to stay with him even though it goes against morals. He goes on to say that she has no family who it could offend and that no one but the servants know of Bertha’s existence. She chooses to leave the country despite his plea and her unrequited love towards him favoring her moral standing instead. It questions Bronte’s human and religious laws along with Jane’s natural morality. It also mentions Jane’s underlying feeling of isolation and how she conveys her feelings of companionship.
As stated in the criticism Jane feels it would be best if she left and Rochester in all his desperation tries to persuade her to stay even though it would go against her morals. Jane had a bit of an internal struggle with herself with her conscience saying to still marry him under the circumstances. Jane’s reply to his passion was simple and showed her true character in the moment as she replied “I care for myself. The solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I respect myself.” Jane throughout the book shows her passion for her self respect and morals. In this one moment though she make sit very clear to a point where she throws away something she loves to keep herself in upstanding values with herself. Rochester on the other hand temporarily loses his sanity when confronted with the problem of his love deserting him and attempts to fix it by telling her no one will care because there is no other people who care for her except himself. But as previously stated she with a silvertongue replied with her love of solitude over an indecent love.