Jane Eyre Chapters I-XI

As previously mentioned, I am participating in a Jane Eyre read-along this month, so for those of you who have not read at least the first 11 chapters of the novel, be prepared for some spoilers.

This is my first time reading Jane Eyre, and before I started I had absolutely no idea what it was about, and had only heard mixed reviews on whether I should like it or not. Typically I do enjoy Gothic literature, especially Gothic short stories (A Rose for EmilyThe Cask of Amontillado, and The Lottery are just a few of my favorites), but I had always assumed that Charlotte Brontë’s novel would be similar to her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights, which I have continued to like less and less since I read it almost 9 years ago, mainly because of how awful the characters are to one another.

And so when I finally started reading Jane Eyre last night, I was rather discouraged before I even reached the third chapter, and this can all be contributed to the horrid Reed family, who have probably succeeded in winning the “Quickest Character(s) to Earn My Undying Hatred” Award (move over, Dolores Umbridge).

But in all seriousness, John Reed MUST have been George R. R. Martin’s inspiration for Joffrey Baratheon. Consider this lovely (and somewhat lengthy) passage, which serves as our introduction to Jane’s malicious cousin:

     “What do you want?” I asked, with awkward diffidence.
“Say, ‘What do you want, Master Reed?'” was the answer. “I want you to come here;” and seating himself in an arm-chair, he intimated by a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.
[…]
Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could without damaging the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and while dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of him who would presently deal it. I wonder if he read that notion in my face; for, all at once, without speaking, he struck suddenly and strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back a step or two from his chair.
“That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since,” said he, “and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!”
Accustomed to John Reed’s abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow the insult.
“What were you doing behind the curtain?” he asked.
“I was reading.”
“Show the book.”
I returned to the window and fetched it thence.
“You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense. Now, I’ll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they ARE mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows.”
I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough, however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.
“Wicked and cruel boy!” I said. “You are like a murderer–you are like a slave-driver–you are like the Roman emperors!”
[…]
“What! what!” he cried. “Did she say that to me? Did you hear her, Eliza and Georgiana? Won’t I tell mama?[…]”

This.

Fortunately, after reading through Chapter 11 I can safely say that the book has greatly improved, although some of the chapters did seem to drag on a bit. I did however love the goodbye scene between Jane and Helen Burns. It was so beautiful and emotion-filled. I love heart-wrenching stories like that. I know it’s pathetic, but those types of emotions always have a greater impact on me. I am sad to lose Helen as a character, though…she was so good and kind-hearted. I admired her forgiving spirit, and the fact that she never held a grudge ever. I know that if I had to pick between which of these girls I am most inclined to be like, it would without a doubt have to be Jane. I was pretty convicted in that regard. But through Helen and Jane’s relationship I was able to relate to our heroine and find a connection with her, which is an essential factor in me being able to like the novel. This is also why I classify myself as being a part of the minority of Austenites who love Fanny Price/Mansfield Park.

So I can truthfully say I am now eagerly looking forward to the rest of Miss Eyre’s story, as long as there are no more appearances from the Victorian Joffrey (and if there are, all of you who have already read Jane Eyre are encouraged to laugh pitifully at me).

But I really do love modern-classic crossovers, so here are two more little funny gems for you all:

Joffrey

“How to be a Turd” written by John Reed

Hamlet

Unrelated, but still amazing.

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26 thoughts on “Jane Eyre Chapters I-XI

  1. Loved reading your thoughts on this first set of chapters. The initial chapters are pretty horrible for Jane, and I was thrilled when things started looking up. I’ve read a bit ahead, so I won’t say more. I hope you keep enjoying it! :) And I feel exactly the same way about Wuthering Heights. It took me four tries to read it all the way through and those characters were crazy.

    • I loved reading your thoughts too! And I’m so happy that there are other people who share my feelings on Wuthering Heights! It’s not easy disliking such an admired classic, but really what is there to like about Heathcliff and Catherine??

  2. I’ve never read Wuthering Heights, but I can’t say I’m particularly disappointed to be missing out on all the WH “fun,” based on what I’ve heard.

    And I love that your thoughts went straight to Joffrey – you are so right! John Reed is like the epitome of all the evil little boys with bad tempers and worse manners. I completely missed the Joffrey thought because, as you saw on my post, I kept thinking, “Dudley? Is that you!?”

    I’m looking forward to moving further into the story and hope things keep looking up for Jane, but I’m worried because she doesn’t seem to have very good luck in these kinds of things.

  3. Loving everyone’s Reed family comparisons to Dudley and Joffrey! So very, very true. I, too, was supremely touched by Helen and her relationship with Jane. Very interested to see what you think going forward, particularly since you weren’t a fan of Wuthering Heights!

  4. “I had always assumed that Charlotte Brontë’s novel would be similar to her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights” – As a fellow NON-fan of Wuthering Heights, I had this fear as well, but only slightly; I felt too many people liked Jane Eyre for it to be as unlikable (to me) as WH.

    Please don’t get me started on John Reed (and his ‘delicate’ health *scoffs*)! I’m reading the ebook and after reading those two paragraphs about him, I made this note: “John Reed is a misogynistic bully and a budding sociopath”. Melodramatic maybe but quite cathartic ;-)

    • That last paragraph made me laugh :) he is a sociopath! And yes, there are a lot more people who like (LOVE, I should say) Jane Eyre than Wuthering Heights, and that is encouraging.

    • Ha! I love the ridiculous notes that anger-inducing characters can bring about. When re-reading Harry Potter last year, I wrote in one “Percy is a snot-nosed twit.” I don’t even know that I know what that means, but I know it wasn’t very nice. (He deserved it, though. The snot-nosed twit.)

  5. It’s interesting to hear that you like Wuthering Heights less now. It’s been a very long time since I read it, and I’m wondering if my reaction would be different now that I’m an adult.

    • It has been a very long time since I read it, too. And I think I may give it another chance to see if I like it any better now that I’m older as well. I don’t *want* to dislike it, and maybe I’ll just focus less on Heathcliff and Catherine and more on the other characters the second time around.

  6. Great post! Oh, my goodness… I can’t STAND Joffrey (“the Smackable” as we call him in our house). So glad to see that you’re enjoying Jane… this is my favorite book, and I also am not a fan of “Wuthering Heights” – too whiny. Hope you like the rest of the book as much! It just gets more Gothic, so I think you’ll enjoy it.

  7. Oh, hooray!!! I always feel like the odd man out and big meanie because I can’t stand Wuthering Heights. Jane Eyre is one of my absolute favorites but Wuthering Heights drives me insane. I’ve tried and tried to read it, the last time I resorted to an audiobook that I listened to in the car during my commute. I forced my way through it, but I refuse to go back. I think Heathcliff and Catherine are horrible human beings and I couldn’t like them, sympathize with them or for them. Grrrr. See? Now, I’m feeling all mean again.

    I just finished reading the first Game of Thrones and I can see the Joffrey/John Reed comparison. Except, doesn’t Joffrey somehow have some real power? John Reed’s doesn’t really go any further than the drawing room, does it?

    • I am so surprised to see how many people feel the same way I do about Wuthering Heights! Heathcliff and Catherine are awful, I agree. It’s really hard to enjoy a book when you can’t stand the main characters, but part of me wants to give it another chance sometime. It’s on my Classics Club list, so maybe I’ll get around to it eventually ;)

    • And about Joffrey, I guess he technically does have real power, but he’s constantly trying to prove to everyone that he has it, and even his grandfather says (at least in the TV show, I can’t remember if this happens in the novel) that real kings don’t have to say they’re king. So his power only goes so far. And also, he is governed by his advisers, his mother, and his grandfather, which further limits his position.

      • I was thinking about that, too. Joffrey was put on the throne as a puppet, definitely. But he does make impulsive decisions that his overseers wouldn’t agree with, and because he’s king when he blurts them out, they become reality. At least, that’s as far as I got in GOT (I only read book one so far) John Reed is manipulative and a whiny liar, qualities he absolutely shares with Joffrey, but other than being a tattle tale to a woman who already dislikes Jane, he’s not much of a threat. I don’t think I’d have been able to deal with a John Reed who could claim even a smidgen of Joffrey’s perceived power.

  8. I’m really missing out here by not having read or watched Game of Thrones! But I hope to at least read the books soon! I love that comic though – modern-classic crossovers are cool! I so agree with you on being more like Jane than Helen. I admire Helen for her goodness, but I really think sometimes you have to let people know when they are in the wrong! (*cough*Mrs. Reed*cough*) Great recap, and I’m glad you are finally giving this book a chance because it is really nothing like Wuthering Heights! :)

    • Well, I can assure you that Joffrey is a despicable character, much worse than John Reed (which might be hard to imagine haha!). I only read the first 3 novels in the series because after a while I just got tired of all the evil characters constantly prospering =P But yes! I am glad I’m finally reading Jane Eyre! I’m really enjoying it.

  9. I think liking Jane better than Helen is somewhat natural. Helen is not (in my opinion) a “REAL” character. I feel that she falls under the category of too good to be true. When I read her sections, I literally pictured her in my mind’s eye with a soft, white light glowing. I think her character’s purpose is to develop Jane’s. I think she is an ideal who is literally martyred but who taught Jane important values and ways to deal with injustice and cruelty.

    I’m sorry you didn’t like Wuthering Heights. I LOVE that book. Yes, the characters are deplorable which is usually a huge turn-off for me. I think I was just mostly blown away by the beauty of the book and the writing itself (I’m also kinda a sucker for multi-generational sagas). I remember reading it at my house. In the section I was reading Heathcliff was doing something horrible. I realized I was running late for a meeting so I had to put my book down and dash out the door. I was angry…not about having to put the book down, but just angry. I had some road rage, and probably snapped at my husband. I realized after about 10 minutes that I was still angry at Heathcliff! I hadn’t turned by brain off the story yet and it was literally affecting me in my real life. That is a mark of a well written story, there :)

    • I love your analysis of her being a martyr and someone needed to teach Jane how better to deal with the harsh ways of the world. She does seem a bit “too good to be true,” but I loved her all the same :)

      And I am SO happy to hear from someone who loves Wuthering Heights! It is very well written, I cannot deny that. And it’s for that reason that I want to reread it. Now that I know what to expect from Heathcliff and Catherine, I can just focus on the other parts of the novel instead, and hopefully I will enjoy it better the second time around.

  10. Hallo Maggie!

    I’m ducking in late to the party!! I am starting to think that I am perhaps one of the few who is reading each set of chapters per week, rather than darting off ahead!? Hmm,… I lack the pre-knowledge of your references, although I appreciate them, as it shows that your ruminatively expressing your own set of cross-references, which is something that I can relate too! I do this rather oft myself! I did have a disagreement with you on one accord, as I did not notice the length Ms. Bronte went to describe the narratives to be at fault, but rather, there are a few places I would have been keen to see her explore the scenes a bit more intensely, and fill them with a bit more details therein!

    I went into a bit more observations on my blog, as I am enjoying keeping a record of the read-a-long and the commentaries that follow it, but what I wanted to say is that although I have not yet read Wuthering Heights, I did catch the last sequences of a classic film of it! I am still attempting to track down which version it is, and for the life of me, at this moment, I am forgetting of whom asked me to tell them of my findings!? Laughs. I can reply to you on your earlier question: yes, it was I who has been embattled with tech issues + errors!! Woe is me!! I am therefore, curious about WH, and will not say one way or the other, until I had read it! When I do, I’ll get back with you, but it will most likely be in 2014! As its included on my tCC Master List!

    • Well, I would have loved to try to follow the reading plan each week, but I am far too engrossed in the novel to not be reading it every chance I get! But no worries, I’ve just been writing my future blog posts as I go, that way there won’t be any spoilers along the way. And yes! I do love referencing all my literature and entertainment loves, it’s a geeky passion of mine, so you can expect more of those later this month :) I loved your Ever After reference in your own post! It is one of my favorite films, and since it was filmed here in France, maybe four hours away from my current region, I hope to go visit the filming locations sometime.

      And Wuthering Heights is on my Classics Club list as well, so perhaps somewhere down the road we can discuss our thoughts on the novel together?

      • Hallo again, Maggie!

        I was most esteemed by the lovely note you left for me earlier on my blog! THANK YOU! Oh, I can sort of understand where you are coming from on that, (about reading ahead?), even though, as much as I love Eyre, I decided to hold back, because I wasn’t sure if I read ahead I could write the intense posts that I am dedicated to doing right now! Ooh, now that is good news!! You spread out your recollections! Your just as geeky as I am then, truly, as I am always making references to motion pictures or books!!

        If/when you get to visit the region where Ever After was filmed, could you fill me in on your experiences!? I adore that film!! So much in fact, that when Prince Harry moved into other roles afterwards, he started to take on villains, which did not sit well with me! :(

        Would you like me to read Wuthering Heights in January!? I wouldn’t mind making that my first selection if you would like to read-a-long together!?

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