Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

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The Bronte sisters, particularly Charlotte and Emily, rebelled against Jane Austen’s world of order and self-control.
Their novels are romantic in sprit, explore extremes of passion and violence
Charlotte is the more Victorian in sensibility. → Jane Eyre: the heroine in the end marries, so satisfying her female destiny as the good wife, while the mad, bad Bertha Mason dies in a fire.
The novel tells the story of an orphan, Jane Eyre, from her childhood to maturity and ends with typical recompense given to heroines of the novel of formation: marriage.
In Jane Eyre the heroine shows a courage and determination which contrast with Victorian ideas of female delicacy; such qualities were considered manly (masculine). Although her novels were not meant to be actual denouncement of social evil. The content inevitably highlighted injustices and social problems. All her heroines are women who have decided to act and chose to themselves. Her styles and characters are reminiscent of the Romantic more than the Victorian era: in Jane Eyre and in “Withering Heights” by Emily Bronte we are confronted in violent, passionate and sometimes devious main characters that recall the Byronic hero. Suffering, pain, and mental conflict dominate against a background of large, dark, mysterious halls or manners. They take up the theme, so dear to the romantic, of good and evil, the conflict between the tempest and charm, between the contrasting forces of nature in men. These elements along with those derived from the Gothic tradition and the cult of sublime, were used with grate originality and contributed to the creation of the intense emotional depth (= deepness, power, profundity…) of their works.
Romantic → gothic elements + dichotomy between good and bad
Victorian → showing the whole life of her characters, the realism awareness and not superficiality → she uses round figures and not a symbol of something else as Dickens.
She wants to show Jane’s self-control in using logic
Suspense to involved the reader
Gothic not used only to fraught the reader but has a deeper meaning
1. From what you know about gothic settings, what do you imagine Thornifield Hall to look like?
The gothic fictions have disquieting atmosphere (dark, mysterious elements and palaces, a sense of anxiety and suspense).
2. What does she say about her journey?
She says that atmosphere is quiet disquieting: the roads are heavy for the misty, is night and the place is dark. This is a gothic atmosphere.

3. Describe the room where Mrs Fairfax is sitting. In what way does it contrast with Jane’s journey?
Description of the room: “A snug (=comfortable) small room”
Description of the journey: “the roads were heavy, the night misty; my conductor let his horse walk all the way, and the hour and half extended, I verily believe, to two hours”.
The room seems to be very comfortable, secure, hot and welcoming on the other hand the journey seems to be cold, dangerous, hostile and mysterious.
4. What does Mrs Fairfax do to welcome Jane?
When Jane entered in the room immediately Mrs Fairfax got up and promptly and kindly came forward to meet Jane.
She conducts Jane to her chair and begins to remove her shawl and hat; then she orders the waitress to bring a glass of wine and some sandwich. She invites Jane to move nearer to the fire says that she will ask someone to carry her luggage into her room.
5. What is the impression that Jane has of this first meeting? Underline the words and expression that tell about her feelings.
The impression that Jane has of this first meeting is confusion and embarrass because she receives several attentions that she has never received before. But she is also happy and reassured by the comfortable atmosphere of that home.
1. “A snug small room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm chair high-backed and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatest imaginable little elderly lady”.
2. “Nothing in short was wanting to complete the beau ideal of domestic comfort. A more reassuring introduction for a new governess could scarcely be conceived; there was no grandeur to overwhelm, no stateliness to embarrass ”
3. “ - She treats me like a visitor – thought I”.
4. “ I felt rather confused at being the object of more attention than I had ever before received, and, that too, shown by my employer and superior; but has she did not herself seem to consider she was doing anything out of her place, I thought it better to take her civilities quietly”.

6. From what she says, what do you think the normal relationship between a governess and her employer was at the time?
It probably was a bad relationship because the governesses were treated as inferior and the employers had usually a pompous and arrogant attitude. The governess had a submissive role and the rapport with the employer were cold, unfriendly and impersonal.

Jane Eyre is really an alternative role model: she is nothing like a good looking, smiling, nice upper middle class young and sophisticated lady, but still she gets through all the pain life had given her and manages to realise herself not just as a woman, but first of all as a person and a human being.
Jane is not particularly beautiful, but Mr Rochester finds pleasure in her company because she is learned and acculturated so their meetings become frequent.
When the people living in the house know that Mr Rochester wants to marry Jane the obviously reaction is of astonishment because at the time the relationship between master and servants are not very close.
Mr Rochester is a handsome, mysterious man, he feels very often depressed, in a bad mood.
One day Jane hears something like a scream and asks Mr Rochester about it. He doesn’t make a real explanation and Mrs Fairfax blames Leah, a servant, but this is not possible because the scream seems an animal one.
The scream owns to Bertha, Mr Rochester’s wife. Her description reminds the novel of Frankenstein.
1. What is the room like? What does it tell us about what is going to happen?
In the room there isn’t a window, but it is not completely dark: there are a fire and a lamp suspended from the ceiling by a chain. This disquieting atmosphere produces suspense and anxiety about something bad that will happen.
2. Let us now look at the physical description of Bertha. Underline all the words that are used to describe her.
3. Do you think Jane is afraid of Bertha? Why/Why not? Reflect on the language used in her narration.
Maybe Jane is afraid of Bertha because she had frightened her in a previous moment. Jane describes the scene with a language rich in strong, impression and horrible imagines but she doesn’t talk about her reaction, she is controlled, certainly she is sorry about her marriage.
4. At the end of the passage, Rochester compares his wife Bertha to Jane in what way, according to him, are they different?
“ That is my wife – said him – such is the sole conjugal embrace I am ever to know – such are the endearments which are to solace my leisure hours! And this is what I whished to have: this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon. I wanted her just as a change after that fierce ragout. Wood and Briggs, look at the difference! Compare these clear eyes with the red balls yonder – this face with that mask – this form with that bulk”.
a. Underline the personal pronouns and possessive adjective used to refer to it. Are they consistent? Can you find a reason for their choice?
The personal pronouns and possessive adjective are not consistent. The author uses the neutral pronoun it to describe Jane’s apparition to underline her uncertainty about it.
b. Note down all the adjective and phrases used to describe the apparition. Can you detect any recurrent pattern?
- Line 17 – 19: “ A woman tall and large, with thick and dark hair hanging long down her back. I know not what dress she had on; it was white and straight; but whether gown, sheet, or shroud, I cannot tell”.
- Line 21 – 22: “ She took my veil from its place; she held it up, gazed at it long, and then she threw it over her own head, and turned to the mirror.”
- Line 26 – 28: “ Fearful and ghastly to me – oh sir, I never saw a face like it! It was a discoloured face – it was a savage face. I wish I could forget the roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments!”
- Line 30 - 31: “ This sir, was purple: the lips were swelled and dark; the brow furrowed; the black eye – brows wildly raised over the bloodshot eyes”.
- Line 34: “Of the foul German spectre – the Vampire”.
- Line 39 – 43 : “ It drew aside the window – curtain and looked out: perhaps it saw dawn approaching, for, taking the candle; it retreated to the door. Just at my beside, the figure stopped: the fiery – eye glared upon me – she thrust up her candle close to my face, and extinguished it under my eyes. I was aware her lurid visage flamed over mine, and I lost consciousness”.
There are frequent repetitions of the neutral pronoun it. The possessive adjective her at line 41 identifies the figure as a female one.
c. What point of view do you as a reader share?
I share Jane’s point of view.
d. What kind of feelings does the description arouse? Substantiate bearing in mind you answers to exercises a) ^ b).
The description of events from Jane's point of view arouses a sense of fear and horror because of the creature’s horrible features that the author presents. It provokes also a sense of anxiety and suspense because the 1st narrator’s description seems to be real and the reader is guided by the author.
e. Can you detect any similarities with passages from previous novelist?
This passage reminds the Gothic novel because of the fearful atmosphere and the mysterious and horrible description. It clearly can be seen in several similarities between Bertha and the monster in “Frankenstein” novel: they are both two horrible creatures which recall a sense of horror and disgust. To conclude the two characters are similar in their aspect.