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Reassessing Jane Eyre

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LoveHistory
Bibliomaniac
Location: Wisconsin, USA
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Postby LoveHistory » Fri September 3rd, 2010, 9:12 pm

MM, that sounds like an excellent instrument for those just learning to play. If only they made spinet fortetrumpets and forteviolins!

M.M. Bennetts

Postby M.M. Bennetts » Fri September 3rd, 2010, 10:56 pm

Do you know I thought nearly that very same thing after I added that. Ha ha ha. The sound of it is so quiet it barely travels through to the next room--a bonus if one lived next to someone who likes to practise late at night.

The larger fortepianos--the forerunner to the concert grand if you will--are of course louder.

Another thing of note--as was mentioned a bit earlier, the harpsichord plucks the strings, whereas the fortepiano uses hammers on strings. This is less true of a modern harpsichord, but on an older one, one cannot play with the same speed as on a fortepiano, because the plucking action of the instrument, that is in the playing of each individual note, takes more time than the hammer action of the fortepiano. So their harpsichord music was of necessity slower because of the technology.

From a performer's point of view, it can take a little getting used to.

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LoveHistory
Bibliomaniac
Location: Wisconsin, USA
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Postby LoveHistory » Sun September 5th, 2010, 2:35 am

Sounds like an older harpsichord would be perfect for me, as I take forever to get a new song up to the proper speed. ;)

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wendy
Compulsive Reader
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
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Postby wendy » Tue October 12th, 2010, 12:22 pm

What an interesting blog. It moves in a similar direction to my own thoughts as a modern reader. In a book on Emily Dickinson I conclude:
"One of the key ingredients of Brontë’s work that may have specifically
interested Emily Dickinson is the way that novels like Jane Eyre highlight the
plight of unprotected women at the mercy of powerful, predatory males. Many
of these men function as employers and father-substitutes, so when they
sexually exploit some of the most vulnerable members of their household they
are betraying the same trust bonds that are broken in cases of incest. Brontë
leaves the reader in little doubt that plain Jane’s appeal to Rochester stems from
his delight that “I am old enough to be your father” (112). He addresses her as
“little girl,” “little sunny-faced girl,” and “my good little girl”–and in
accordance with Victorian ‘defloration mania’ seems intent on being her first
lover: “I must have you for my own–entirely my own. Will you be mine? Say
yes, quickly” (218). Rochester knows it “does good to no woman to be flattered
by her superior, who cannot possibly intend to marry her . . . and, if discovered
and responded to, must lead . . . into miry wilds whence there is no extrication”
(136); nevertheless he proposes a sham, bigamous marriage to achieve sexual
possession of “Fairfax Rochester’s girl-bride” (221). When ultimately caught
out he realizes:
you must regard me as a plotting profligate–a base and low rake who has been
simulating disinterested love in order to draw you into a snare deliberately laid,
and strip you of honour, and rob you of self-respect. . . . you will say–‘That man
had nearly made me his mistress.’ (257-258)
And although the love-sick Jane Eyre later forgives him for this treachery, the
modern reader may not. Even when maimed and blinded at the end of the novel,
his obsession with Jane is still centered around her virginity–“Just one word,
Jane: were there only ladies in the house where you have been?” (380). For Jane
remains as unprotected as earlier in the novel when she told him she has no
kindred to interfere with his plans: “‘No–that is the best of it,’ he said. And if I
had loved him less I should have thought his accent and look of exultation
savage” (219).

These were my thoughts in 2006. Has anyone come across anything more recent?

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Tue October 12th, 2010, 3:12 pm

Interesting. Jane Eyre is one of my enduring favorites, I've read it several times, and yet I've never taken any of this away from it. I've never thought of Rochester's interest in Jane as being predatory or obsessed or anything like that; I've always thought her appeal for him was simply that she was pure (not just in the physical sense, but also in a moral sense) and unjaded -- a complete departure from the dissolute world he had lived in. She was simple and yet with enough intelligence and spunk to interest him. After being betrayed by Adele's mother, he was drawn to someone like Jane who was devoted and loyal.

As for why he would be willing to commit bigamy -- again, I never took it that his motive was to draw Jane into a salacious, depraved life. I think that he reached a point where he felt he couldn't live without Jane, and knew that marriage was the only way to have her. He knew she would never consent to become his mistress (and, indeed, she bore this out when she later did refuse to become his mistress). He truly thought he could keep Bertha hidden for the rest of her life and that no one would be the wiser. Grace Poole would know, of course, but he paid her handsomely and could therefore count on her silence.

As to why he wanted to know if there had been any men in the Rivers' household where Jane had lived -- again, I never interpreted this as him being obsessed with her virginity. He was simply trying to find out, without asking outright, if there had been any men that Jane might have fallen in love with. He wanted to know what her motive was for coming back to him.

I've never thought Jane was attracted to Rochester because he was a substitute father figure, but simply because he took a genuine interest in her. Having been starved for love and affection all her life, he was the first person who genuinely loved her and took more than a cursory interest in her. Others had cared for her -- Betsy, Helen Burns, the principal of Lowood (her name escapes me) -- but they were inevitably preoccupied with their own lives and eventually moved on (or died, as in the case of Helen). Rochester's affection for Jane was deep and sustained. Jane wasn't love-sick; hers was a deep but healthy love, demonstrated by the fact that she was able to leave him rather than stay with him on terms anything less than what she considered morally suitable (marriage). By contrast, Jane rejected St. John because, although he was more suitable (to outward appearances, at least) she knew he didn't really love her but simply wanted to use her to advance his own ambitions. Although she and Rochester were widely different in background, life experiences and age, they were true soulmates.

That's my take on Jane Eyre -- I obviously take the book more at face value. Too bad Charlotte isn't here so we could ask her!
Last edited by Michy on Tue October 12th, 2010, 7:45 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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LoveHistory
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Postby LoveHistory » Tue October 12th, 2010, 5:11 pm

I agree with Michy's interpretation.

And anyway the book is dark enough without adding depraved undertones.

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wendy
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Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
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Postby wendy » Tue October 12th, 2010, 7:41 pm

I believe we are meant to detect the "depraved undertones" because Bronte deliberately draws our attention to them in the Preface to the 1847 edition.
“Currer Bell” states her intentions quite clearly:
"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 whitewashed walls vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who
dares to scrutinize 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." (xx)
Perhaps Charlotte Brontë set out to expose her own observations on the hidden exploitation of women in the home–the widespread sexual abuse of governesses that she may have experienced herself?

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Tue October 12th, 2010, 7:59 pm

Sorry, I still don't agree with your interpretation. :) How does the book reveal the sexual abuse and exploitation of governesses, when Jane was neither sexually abused nor exploited by Rochester in her post as governess in his home? He never tried to force her into anything, she left him of her own free will, and returned to him later of her own free will. If he had abused and exploited her why would she go back to him, especially when she had a pleasant enough living arrangement where she was? Bronte makes it unequivocally clear that Jane was very happy in her marriage to Rochester at the end. I think in the relationship of Jane and Rochester she was illustrating a healthy love between two people who were true soulmates, despite their outward disparities.

Where Jane was absolutely mistreated and exploited was by her own family (her aunt and cousins) and later at the Lowood School.

No doubt the original audience was shocked by the concept of bigamy and the lunatic wife hidden in the attic. That's become somewhat cliche now, but I think it was a revolutionary plot at the time the book was published. And they may also have been shocked by the horrendous depiction of the girls' school, with the deprivation and neglect that went on behind its whitewashed facade, and with its hypocritical director. In fact, Bronte's remarks that you included above could just as easily be interpreted to mean that she was talking about revealing the horrible truths and hidden exploitation of children that went on in many orphanages and schools, rather than about revealing the exploitation and abuse of governesses.
Last edited by Michy on Tue October 12th, 2010, 8:40 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue October 12th, 2010, 9:24 pm

I always thought her remarks were directed at the attitude of St. John-- the 'perfect match' with every good intention in the world but without love.

Back to the original thread, I just re-read Pride and Prejudice, and I was astonished that in my relatively impatient youth I had sat through a novel crammed with such wordy verbiage! All I could think of this round was, "My God, she needs an editor! How can people still read this?"

So I asked my daughter (who admittedly is no longer YA, being 30) and she just shrugged and said, "It's the language. It's subtle."

Goes to show that tastes (at least mine) do change.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Tue October 12th, 2010, 9:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Tue October 12th, 2010, 9:36 pm

"MLE" wrote:Back to the original thread, I just re-read Pride and Prejudice, and I was astonished that in my relatively impatient youth I had sat through a novel crammed with such wordy verbiage! All I could think of this round was, "My God, she needs an editor! How can people still read this?"



I recently tried to re-read P&P, and had the same reaction. It was an audio version, actually, but my eyes were glazing over and I just could not finish. No offense to the legions of Austen fans; I have just come to the conclusion once and for all that I am not a Jane-ite! :)


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