Jane Eyre Chapters XII-XXI

Here is my post for Part II of the Jane Eyre read-along I’m participating in. Prepare yourselves for a longer than usual post, because I have many Jane Eyr-ie things to discuss today (and also, my husband loves to purposefully call the novel Jane Eyrie and play it off with the “I’m French” card)! I’ve actually had to write this post early (it is currently Thursday) since I can’t seem to put this book down, and I want only to talk about chapters 12-21 without interference from future plot happenings (especially because things are really starting to get good!). →So, from this point on, take caution if you have not read up until Chapter 21 of Jane Eyre. I would hate to have anything spoiled for you!←

As you can tell, I am loving Jane Eyre. I did not think it possible at first, so I would like to make an addendum to the old saying and propose instead to say: “Never judge a book by its beginning chapters.” Okay, that can’t quite be applied to every novel, but I will apply it to my first impressions of Jane Eyre, and I think it is rather fitting, since I have heard of the novel being compared to Pride and Prejudice, which was almost titled First Impressions. The shared theme runs deeper than that, but I will elaborate further on that next week.

Last week (I smile at that, knowing I will most likely already be finished with the novel by the time I publish this post) we left our beloved Jane–yes, I have come to adore our intriguing heroine!–in unusually hopeful circumstances. Dun, dun, dun! Obviously this is foreshadowing. Jane herself says that “happiness is irrevocably denied” to her (chapter 14). BUT I am in simultaneous hope and fear as I continue reading. This is why I love Gothic lit, you’re always kept on the edge!

I love how this novel is narrated by Jane herself. It gives us appreciative insight into the workings of her mind. One of my favorite instances of this is actually two separate yet intertwined passages. When Jane first confesses that she is developing feelings towards Mr. Rochester, she attempts to subdue them by focusing on her employer’s romantic opportunities. Jane then uses a portrait she sketched of Blanche Ingram in order to point out her own shortcomings, essentially to remind herself of her place and her own meager opportunities. In this chapter Jane views herself inferior and beneath Blanche and Mr. Rochester (whom she also feels unworthy of). However, and I loved this part, two chapters later, once Jane has met and observed the accomplished Miss Ingram, her attitude towards her has changed drastically.

“There was nothing to cool or banish love in these circumstances, though much to create despair. Much too, you will think, reader, to engender jealousy: if a woman, in my position, could presume to be jealous of a woman in Miss Ingram’s. But I was not jealous: or very rarely;–the nature of the pain I suffered could not be explained by that word. Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy: she was too inferior to excite the feeling. Pardon the seeming paradox; I mean what I say.”

BAM! And this is when I came to really admire Jane. She sees people solely for their inward qualities, their actions, their treatment of others. Appearances no longer matter to her, and conventionalities are beginning to lose their influence as well. And yes, we could also state that Jane, although she denies it, does exhibit feelings of jealousy. After all, they do desire the same man’s affections, right? But no, Jane is not jealous (or as she says, “very rarely”); if anything she is disturbed by the idea of Mr. Rochester marrying anyone undeserving of his affections. How beautiful a reaction is that! It doesn’t ring of jealousy; it displays a mark of true love.

And what of the compelling Mr. Rochester? I have come to like him a great deal, as well, yet there is something I’ve been having a difficult time understanding: can anyone please explain to me why Rochester did not reveal to Jane who he was during their meeting on the road? I believe it ties in with the gypsy scene; clearly he has a thing for disguises and secrets, but I could not help but think how awkward I would have felt in Jane’s place, yet she doesn’t even question his beguilement…why? Does he act this way simply because of his standoffish persona, or is it because of his troubled history, which Mrs. Fairfax briefly explains to us?

I had also wanted to discuss Jane’s visit to Gateshead, but I would be more interested in reading YOUR thoughts instead. How did you react to that chapter? What observations did you make about Jane’s aunt and cousins, or even about Jane herself? Tell me in the comments or in your own post!

Last week I left you readers with some crossover memes. This week I will be signing off with a humorous little ghost story that happened to me the other night. Like the typical bookworm that I am, I was awake until nearly two in the morning reading Jane Eyre. It happened to be the chapter when Mr. Rochester’s room is arsoned, so already I was in a heightened state. I should mention here that the weather in my corner of France has been beautifully autumnescent (I do not believe that is a real word, but feel free to add it to your vocabulary nonetheless) as of late, which goes hand in hand with a story like Charlotte Brontë’s:

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Ahh…I wish half the year was spent in fallen leaves and the other half in fields of wildflowers.

So, while reading late at night with the window ajar and the fresh air flowing my bedroom, I was just passing the part when Jane has to wait alone in Mr. Rochester’s smoke-filled, water-drenched chamber when I started to faintly hear the eery soundtrack of an old black-and-white film being played somewhere in our apartment building. Now, in most cases, classic film music is lively, joyful, and nostalgic. For me, it was certainly recalling old memories…but memories of watching “The Twilight Zone” or passing through scare zones and haunted houses at Halloween Horror Nights. Needless to say I quickly shut the window, finished my chapter, and buried myself in the comforts of my covers before any chainsaw wielding maniac could seek me out. Nothing like a gothic ghost story to send you off to dreamland… (I also just realized how fittingly this story coincides with Anne Shirley’s Haunted Wood mishap in Anne of Green Gables: I’m letting my overactive imagination run away with me!).

Happy Reading everyone!

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15 thoughts on “Jane Eyre Chapters XII-XXI

  1. I’m so glad that you are loving this book! Often classic novels take time to grow on me, so where I wouldn’t give much of a chance to YA books today for instance if I didn’t like the beginning chapters, I put more effort into the classics.

    I love that you pointed out Jane’s feelings about Blanche – I think that Jane disliking the idea that Blanche is not worthy of Mr. Rochester more than the idea that Mr. Rochester and Blanche are going to be marry is so selfless of Jane. She cares more about Mr. R finding someone to make him happy.

    And I’m not sure really why Mr. Rochester so immediately decides to ‘mess’ with Jane. At least with him not telling her who he is when he sprained his ankle, it’s a little odd, but maybe Charlotte did that to establish something about Mr. Rochester and prepare the reader of what he does in the Gypsy scene as you mentioned. I never really thought of it that way. It might just be important narratively as a way to show character.

    Ah, Mrs. Reed and Gateshead – they are so annoying really. I think it’s great for Jane to close that chapter on her life as I mentioned in another comment on someone’s recap post. I like seeing the difference between Georgiana and Eliza as well. And I was not at all saddened by John Reed’s end! :) It’s sad but fitting what happened to Mrs. Reed though – she didn’t really know how to love her children I think since she spoiled them so, but it’s sad that at the end no one really cared about her.

    • I am completely in love with this book! Two weeks ago I was like, “Ehh…I probably won’t like it but at least I’m reading it with other people,” and now I’m like, “OH MY GOSH THIS BOOK IS AMAZING I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME!” And I do. My husband and best friend can vouch for that ;)

      Ok, I’m glad that I’m not the only one who didn’t fully understand that scene. Mr. Rochester is definitely odd, and that’s ok. He wouldn’t be as interesting if he wasn’t odd.

      I was happy that Jane finally ended her time at Gateshead…even if it didn’t go so well, I loved how she was so forgiving yet confident about herself as well. Her skin has thickened, and she no longer lives in fear or disappointment. I loved the contrast between her character and those of her relatives: hers has greatly improved while her relatives’ continue to decline.

  2. Such a great post!

    “And this is when I came to really admire Jane. She sees people solely for their inward qualities, their actions, their treatment of others.”

    This is really my favorite thing about Jane…her judge of character and her appreciation of goodness to others. But without being cheesy.

  3. P.S. I have already finished the book, and I wish I’d written my check in posts before finishing everything. I did mark the sections so I won’t overstep and provide spoilers, but with a hindsight view of EVERYTHING it does make commentary more difficult. lol

    • It does! I have not finished my next post, but I wrote down lots of notes and commentaries along the way, so I’m hoping that I can try to remember how I felt at that time while reading instead of thinking about how the book ends. I may just have to skim through those chapters before next week.

  4. I love this wonderful post which really focuses on Jane. She is such a wonderful character but, like Andi said, without being cheesy. After the way she handled her return to Gateshead, I feel like Jane can handle anything. And this brings to mind a line from the first part, when Jane talks of Miss Temple’s husband as “an excellent man, almost worthy of such a wife.” While there is yet more to learn about Rochester, I’m wondering if we’ll be able to say the same of him when it comes to Jane? And speaking about Rochester, I was wondering myself why he didn’t reveal himself when they first met. I get the feeling he actually likes making people uncomfortable and having them at a disadvantage. He’s strange, LOL.

  5. Great post, Maggie. I’m so glad I stopped over to read your thoughts this week. And, I’m always thrilled to find someone else who loves Jane Eyre. You know, it never struck me as strange that Rochester didn’t reveal himself to Jane. She found him on the ground, after having fallen from his horse. He had injured his leg and his pride. I can’t imagine that he was in any state to properly introduce himself, or deal with the conversation which would ensue. Sure, it gives him the upper hand, but at that point, he’s the master of the manor and she’s a lowly employee. The teensy weensy lowly employee who has to help him to his feet and his horse after slipping on the ice in an accident that could practically be considered slapstick, had it happened on any day after that one.

  6. I think Jane’s attitude toward Miss Ingram and the others – her observations that, while their social stature may be higher than hers, they are no more intelligent or deserving – is one of the things that is so subversive about this book! I love that about Jane, too.

    And brrrrr – I shivered at the end of your post. That would scare me too!

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