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LIT 4386 British and American Literature
by Women

Class 10

Reading Assignment:

    Jane Eyre (468-784), through chapter 26
    POST #4 Group B

    Class Objectives:

  • To analyze Rochester's relationship with Jane
  • To analyze the impact of patriarchy on women's autonomy

Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Thornfield

Note that one of the central themes that develops in the novel is the dangerous power of emotion and the need to suppress them. Through the repression of emotion, the heroine begins to achieve autonomy.

Thornfield represents the place where Jane's passions are tested by her sexual maturation - the awakening of sexual passion.

Examine page 544, Jane's discontent at Thornfield before Rochester arrives. What does Jane want that she does not have? Has she learned anything from her past experiences? Has her situation changed at all?

Note also that this is the beginning of the gothic romance section, complete with the creepy estate and the gloomy, mysterious landlord. Also the imagery shifts from realism to the description of symbols, preternatural signs, ghosts and visions.

Knowing what we know about Grace Poole (it is actually Bertha Mason that she hears), this passage might symbolize Jane's expression of a sublimated sexual desire; or it might serve as a check or a warning about excessive desire. This immediately preceeds the arrival of Rochester, her new "master."

Jane's life takes on new meaning when Rochester arrives and becomes fascinated with her. On the day after his arrival she writes: "I discerned in the course of the morning that Thornfield hall was a changed place: no longer silent as a church, it echoed every hour or two to a knock at the door, or a clang of the bell; steps, too, often traversed the hall and new voices spoke in different keys below; a rill from the outer world was flowing through it: it had a master: for my part I liked it better" (550).

What role does Jane play in Rochester's household? What does it mean to be a governess?

What role does Rochester have?

What does Jane do when he entertains his guests at dinner? Why can't Jane come to him until he calls her after the guests have left? What role does she play in his life? (see chapter XIV for example).

Examine one of their first evening discussions: p. 560 -561 -- why is Rochester charmed with Jane? He asks her if she finds him handsome, and how does she answer? How can Jane aid in his "retransformation from Indian-Rubber back to flesh"?

He asks her on page 562 if he has the right to be masterful, abrupt and exacting. Note Jane's response. Why does he ask this? What expectations does he have?

Note Jane's statement about not abiding insolence even for a salary and his explanation of the mercenary nature of human beings: "Most things free-born will submit to anything for a salary..." (562).

Examine passage on p. 571 - Jane's frank admission of love - before the introduction of Blanche Ingram. How does Blanche Ingram compare with Jane in terms of social status? What is her economic status? What does she seek in Rochester? How does Blanche Ingram compare with Celine Varens? Why does Mr. Rochester introduce Blanche Ingram and the social elite into his house?

How do the ladies of Rochester's circle treat Jane?

See page 591-592. Compare this scene to the habitual marginalization of Jane at Gateshead.

Apparently, Rochester sets up Blanche as a false image of his "proper" wife in order to induce his subordinate to take up her rightful place as his partner. He prompts Jane to do it (in sometimes cruel and deceptive ways), but as he says to her later, she does offer herself to him.

On a mid-summer's evening walk in the seductive garden, Rochester tells Jane that he plans to be married within the month and that he will send Jane away to Ireland before his bride enters the house; she sobs and utters the wish that she was never born, p. 645.

Examine the passage: "Because you are sorry to leave it" through her declaration that she is free to leave him, and that she is superior to him because she will not enter into a mercenary marriage. "I ask you to pass through life at my side - to be my second self and best earthly companion" (646).

What are the terms upon which Jane insists to be taken? Why?

Why does Rochester accept these terms? Why does he want to bring about this union?

2. The Not So Happy Ending in the middle

Of course this would be the traditional place to end the domestic narrative, where the governess makes good and marries the master of the manor. But the story of Jane Eyre is far more complicated.

We learn that Rochester is already married, and that unfortunate wife is now locked in his attic, embruted by madness and her life in a cell. He has concealed the identity of his wife so that it left him free to marry again, and to fulfill his dream of his family destiny and patriarchal norm, a good, pure angelic wife to reform him.

Why does Jane decide to leave Rochester?

What role does class or money have to play in Jane's relationship to Rochester?

How does a woman gain independence?

What kind of independence would Jane have gained through legal marriage with Rochester?

What kind of dependence would she suffer through concubinage?

What kind of independence does she gain by leaving?

What sort of patriarchal authority does Rochester try to exert?

How does Jane's leaving Thornfield compare with Jane's leaving Gateshead?

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