Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thoughts Being Shared

I believe I've developed an addiction to blogging. Not only do I have two separate blogs on blogger, but I was also easily persuaded by my sister to take up Tumblr. She insisted that it was much more functional than blogger, and I have yet to discover what the big fuss is about, but I decided to give it a try just to see. It turns out that Tumblr is actually really fun and also strangely addictive in the same way blogger is. The only advantage I see, however, is the fact that you can type in a key word and everything anyone on Tumblr has ever blogged about that subject pops before your eyes... 

Of course, I had to type in "Jane Eyre" and it led me to one of the greatest analyses I've yet to encounter on the novel and the peculiar, complex, incomprehensible, and yet amazingly beautiful relationship that exists between Jane and Rochester. This analysis sums up what I could never put in words. This is why I and countless other readers have found a binding and relatable attachment to the novel. I wish I knew who wrote this miraculous post, but the person who posted it neglected to give anyone the name from which the post came. Whoever you are, if you happen to be reading this, know that I love and agree with everything you have written and that there is absolutely no copyright intended. Shall you read? 

It is the strangest meeting and it foreshadows the end-resolution.
Not only does he fall flat on his face, he can’t stand on his own two feet anymore, and is forced to use Jane as support to get to his horse and mount it again. A most unflattering and unheroic picture: an independent man of the world who needs to lean on a tiny, frail looking female figure. It’s not just ironic, it’s jarring. 
The theme persists of the hero never really being able to act the hero (instead he is saved by the female lead): she saves his life after Bertha sets his bed on fire, he can’t make her rich nor is he allowed to dazzle her with gifts, he’s not around when Bertha enters her room and tears the veil, he can’t give her his home (it’s burned down), can’t provide her with her first family, he can’t find her after she ran off and make sure she’s physically well. He doesn’t even directly own te title of giving her a position for a governess. Mrs Fairfax gave Jane the job. And as for paying her wages: he owes her 5. His lament of “Jane, Jane, Jane” that causes her to return to Thornfield would, in other romances, have been the thing the female lead would be doing, not the manly hero. 
And in the end, he is reduced back to the state of the hero who’s forced to physically lean on Jane, once more, in his blind state, just as when he first meets her. 
Jane is the action hero, whereas Rochester, whether he likes it not or not, is rendered to a passive role. And you need only to get a copy of the Venus and Mars advice books, that tries to defend this culturally ingrained idea where men are the action heroes and women take a passive role in courtship, to realize how the romance tale of Jane Eyre is even now still much ahead of gender role perception in courtship. 

StJohn, in contrast, is much more of an action hero: he actively takes her in the house and saves her from death and poverty, he supplies her with a job, he is the means through which she learns she has family relations and an heirress. Were it not for StJohn she would have no family, no money, no home, no food, no life. In contrast to Rochester, he pursues her, pops the question thrice without even loving her, and almost manages to secure her through reasoning and emotional manipulation if it weren’t for Rochester’s lament.

Rochester’s affection and love grows depending on Jane’s activity too. He himself declares that he practically fell in love with her (was bewitched by her) from the moment he leans on her to get back to his horse. 

“When once I had pressed the frail shoulder, something new - a fresh sap and sense - stole into my frame. It was well I had learnt that this elf must return to me - that it belonged to my house down below - or I could not have felt it pass away from under my hand, and seen it vanish behind the dim hedge, without singular regret.” (Jane Eyre, penguin books, VIII Chapter I, p 351)

The point in time in the courthship where he accepts his own infatuation with her and forms serious marriage plans is after she saves him from the burning bed. Before that holding of her hand, he always calls her Miss Eyre. After that, no during, he starts to address her as Jane ever after. At least it shows he cannot but regard her in an intimate emotional state. That he contemplates marriage by then can be denoted from his leaving the next morning in order to get Blanche Ingram and co to Thornfield, and provoke Jane into jealousy by planting into her head the idea he courts Blanche and intends to marry her. 

And he reveals his emotions and intentions only truly after she declares herself his equal and persists in leaving Thornfield, despite the fact that, a long while before this declaration of equality, Jane has already been candid enough she considers her home to be the place where he is. 

Jane herself recognizes that she must prevent Rochester from being an active lover to her: no presents, no jewelry, no idling away their time in each other’s arms. Their official courtship benefits from her blocking any of his attempts to shower her with material and emotional evidence of his love (as he feels compelled to), and instead revert back to a game of provocations. 

Likewise she recognizes that the one thing that will assure him losing regard for her is to become his mistress in the French villa. Instead she must break his heart in order to have him love and respect her forever. 

Rochester finally surrenders to her completely, and not just physically by needing her to be his lead while he’s blind, when he says, “Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision.” Only after that does he regain enough action to ask her to marry him. The passivity of his courtship role is again reverberated in Jane’s active declaration, “Reader, I married him.

Loving him and marrying him has not just been her own choice and will, but also her own doing, except for the fact that he at least gets the honour of uttering the proposal. It seems but a meagre contribution that Rochester deserves Jane Eyre for his wife, just because he manages to pop the question. And yet, I never feel he’s undeserving of her. Jane voices the reason why he deserves her to StJohn: he was the first to love her as she is.

More, despite his scoundrel past, his boarish behaviour, his jealousy scheme, his lies about his marital status, I never feel he disrespects her, although there is always the danger lurking around the corner that he might come to disrespect her were it not for her pert replies, her defiance and her active exertion of her own will. Jane has self-respect and integrity (rather than morality and social confirmity), even as a child already. And Rochester is the instrument in which her self-respect and integrity is tested. Not just by him being the domineering, willfull brute she needs to stand up against, but by him being the man she loves passionately at the same time. 

Rochester seems to be aware of both Jane’s integrity and self-respect from the start of the acquaintance. His respect for her imo exists from the start, simply because it’s evoked by the self-respect she seems to have been born with, rather than taught by life eperience. But he acts contrary to his feelings because 
a) he does not actively know her well enough
b) he’s used to get his way because of his status and station in life
c) he’s used to get his way because of his domineering character
He even warns her of (b) and (c) early on already. Rochester wants to be sure she is what he thinks she is and acts from the first meeting until she runs away from Thornfield in every manner to provoke her into disrespecting herself: as a master, as an undeclared lover, as her courtier and husband to be. 

To me the ultimate question the book asks is whether Jane will forget herself and disrespect herself? 
- as a dependent child in a well-enough gentry family for material needs without being loved
- as a dependent child in an austere environment
- as a dependent employee under the caprice of her moody employer 
- as a woman
- as a rejected family member even hated at her aunt’s deathbed
- as a woman passionately in love
- as a homeless destitute 
- as a cousin to family who love her and she owes her life

She proves throughout she does not lose her sense of self in any of the circumstances she ends up, not even the most alluring temptation of all: drunken, passionate love


  1. Oh wow, this is amazing! I wish we could find out who wrote it. Jane Eyre has never been my favourite classic novel, and Rochester has never been my favourite "hero", but this piece has made me look at both him and Jane (and their relationship) in a completely different light. I have so much more admiration for Jane than I already had. I haven't read Eyre in almost three years now, and I think a re-read is definitely in order. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  2. I'm glad you like it! When I read it, I was completely blown away by just how perfectly it captured the essence of the novel. Jane Eyre was supremely ahead of its time and still is today. There hasn't been a novel since that has really conquered the gender roles in literature. This analysis explained it so fully that I felt it had to be heard. For those who already love Jane Eyre, it would easily summarize what they love about it. For those who didn't quit comprehend it, it might make them understand it more.

  3. Great commentary! This especially is so very true:
    Likewise she recognizes that the one thing that will assure him losing regard for her is to become his mistress in the French villa. Instead she must break his heart in order to have him love and respect her forever.

    And I love the remark that he owes her 5. :)

    Where can I find you on Tumblr? I'm Robazizo over there.

  4. Have you seen this book, BTW? I loaded the sample onto my Kindle. It sounds interesting, but I don't think anything can top Tara Bradley's book.

  5. It's just crazy that I never thought about just how reversed the gender roles are in Jane Eyre. My tumblr is

    As for the Memoirs of Edward Rochester, yes I just got it and finished it a few days ago. And no, it didn't beat Bradley's book in the slightest. I was kind of disappointed, actually.

  6. It's just crazy that I never thought about just how reversed the gender roles are in Jane Eyre.

    I only realized it a couple of months ago when I was writing one of my days of the 30 day Jane Eyre meme. And to think I've been reading this book on and off for 22 years!

    I'm following you!

    That's a shame about The memoirs. What disappointed you?

  7. That's the great thing about the novel, though. You can always find something new in "Jane Eyre" that you didn't see before. That's why it never gets old and I can always reread it and each time my old copy gets more dog-eared, highlighted, and filled with margin notes. :)

    I love your Tumblr. There were a thousand things that I wanted to reblog. I've also decided to bring Lit Lovers & Corset Laces over to the Tumblr scene (just to see how it works out), so I made "Lit Lovers & Corset Laces (Tumblr Edition)" today and I'm going to work on getting it up to speed in the next few weeks.

    The memoirs weren't bad. I think that "Jane Eyre's Husband" just spoiled me because of the extent of detail. Tara Bradley put so much effort into making sure that every mental, emotional, and historical detail of Rochester and the world he lived in was included. It covered pretty much all the bases. The Memoirs was just very vague. I didn't feel like I got enough of what Rochester was feeling during his exchanges with Jane or in those moments behind the scenes when Jane wasn't with him. Perhaps I'm being too picky, though.

  8. I never make notes in my books, but it would actually be a good idea! I'm sure I can sacrifice one of my two dozen copies...

    I'm not really posting any new stuff on Tumblr, just reposting fun things I find. In fact I started my own Tumblr because I fell in love with all the pretty JE11 gifs.

    Do you think it was less successful because it was written by a man? Both the original books and JE's Husband were written by women after all.

  9. I can't really give an opinion on the male v. female writer. I think I'd have to see at least another spin-off written by a man to truly make that decision. The book wasn't bad though. There were moments of slight genius that I really enjoyed; romance in simplicity. But I just don't feel like there was enough substance and I know that there are various male writers who can easily achieve that...

  10. Oh. Wow. Words fail. This is brilliant! The gender-reversal thing -- whey did I never see that? Gender-role-reversal is one of my favorite themes, and I never realized this worked here at all? I would be feeling like an idiot if I wasn't basking in the glow of this revelation. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. I love getting comments or emails regarding this shared post because so many people never understand just how far ahead of its time Jane Eyre was. I myself thought I knew the gender reversal so well, but I had never taken my thought to this depth. It's quite interesting, and I ended up reading the novel again after studying this commentary and understanding even more.