Gone With the Wind – A Reading Journal, Part IV

This post comes to you as a series of thoughts by bullet point. Spoilers abound.

-Ashley actually does like her? I apparently misread things from the beginning. Even after that confrontation in the orchard, she is still so wild about him. I’ve been harboring that she didn’t truly love him, but now having thought of him above everyone else except herself for so many years now, maybe it is more than just infatuation. Is his side of things only lust? Or does he truly admire her? I may have to go back and reread some of their scenes at the beginning.

-I can’t believe she stole another husband out from under someone, and this time from her own sister! Scarlett is a heartless cutthroat bitch, let’s just be honest.

-Clearly Scarlett is breaking some huge stereotypes in this section by becoming a business owner as a woman. Although it is too bad that Scarlett let’s her keen business sense trump her morality. She understands the treatment of the convicts at her mills are wrong, and yet the bottom line is all she cares about at the end of the day.

-I love the term ‘scandalized’.

-I like how through most of this section Scarlett and Rhett are pretty well established friends. They are very clearly cut by the same cloth, and Rhett has known that all along. If only Scarlett had a brain! Their conversations are one of my favorite things to read. And my, Rhett has so much patience with her!

-This novel has me intrigued. I have been reading online about the civil war, and I am interested in finding some good, readable, non-fiction as well as more fiction about the American Civil War era. Anyone have suggestions on what I should add to my TBR?

-Some of these I wrote before finishing part four, but now that I have: 😱🤗😁 They’ve finally done it! And what a sweet moment the proposal was. Yes, Rhett is probably a horrible person, but he knew from the beginning that Scarlett married Frank for his money, out of necessity, for survival. With that in mind I don’t feel Rhett was a scoundrel for proposing only days after her husband’s death. I frigging love Rhett Butler. He reminds me of Mr. Rochester from my favorite classic (Jane Eyre) in many ways.

Not so many details this time, I can’t wait to finish so I can reflect on the book as a whole.

E.

Book Review:: Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights CoverWuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Classic Literature
Pages:: 337 Pages
Published:: December 1847
Goodreads Page
To By on Amazon

 

Summary::
Mr. Lockwood is the new tenant of a property that neighbors the landlord’s, Wuthering Heights. When he calls over to meet the man, who is known only as Heathcliff, he is astounded by how unapologetically abrupt he is, and by the strange ways about the three who live in the house. When a snow storm prevents Lockwood from going home, he is forced to stay at Wuthering Heights overnight. Convinced throughout the night that the house is haunted and that the occupants in the house are not quite sane, he leaves as soon as possible the next morning. Once home, Lockwood inquires about those who dwell at Wuthering Heights to his housekeeper, Nelly, who has been an occupant of the grounds since she was a little girl. And so, through the long winter nights, Nelly tends to Mr. Lockwood and weaves for him the story of Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights. Through these dual narrators, the story of Wuthering Heights is unveiled to us, from the moment Heathcliff was brought to live there as a young orphan by Mr. Earnshaw, through the present.
Review::
Wuthering Heights is the type of book you feel compelled to describe simply by the tone: sombre, eerie, foreboding, sinister. It is exactly the type of story to read on a gloomy overcast day, curled up with a blanket a hot cuppa.
As far as classics are concerned, I don’t feel that Wuthering Heights is a particularly hard one to swallow. I read it just after finishing Mansfield Park, and I must say, this book felt like a breeze compared to that one (not that MP was particularly difficult or intense, more like dry). Wuthering Heights has a much more modern feel to it than many classics, and I feel like it would appeal to a wider audience than, say, The Scarlet Letter, and you won’t need sparknotes or a teacher to decode it as you read, like Shakespeare, or…The Scarlet Letter ;-)
Recommendation::
I would recommend Wuthering Heights to people who are looking for a good gothic page-turner to read, as I mentioned above, on a gloomy, overcast, reading-in-bed kind of day. It reminds me most of The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, which I realize now draws heavily from this book. If you’ve read it and enjoyed how the story unfolds, you will definitely enjoy Wuthering Heights.

Jane Eyre -Thoughts Through the Ending

The story takes off at the start of Chapter ten. This is where Jane passes from childhood dependence to slowly attaining her adult independence. She realizes she has to take charge of her future, for she is in control of it, and prepares for a change.

But I want to step back for just a moment, and discuss a characteristic of Jane’s. She shows her passion in childhood. She cannot quite account for complete unreasonableness from others, and often outbursts with what she sees as the truth, or what might be fair. Often she is reprimanded for this, but it is what I think we, as readers, respect most about this young character, and what catches the attention of her future lovers’ eye. It this part of why I feel this novel is more modern than I’d expected?

Miss Temple is the one who really turns Jane’s life, I think. Having an adult to consider her story as she had to tell it, and not to only rely on the accounts of adults (who most always have motives of their own), who showed her kindness and fairness. She is the most kind adult Jane encounters in her childhood. Paired with Helen, they serve as her true hope for Jane, that her life would not be only misery for her entire life. I was so glad to hear that she and Jane had become such close friends.

I was genuinely interested in what would happen to Jane once she left Lowood: what type of situation this would be for her, and if it would last long. It’s where I realized that I was actually enjoying a 19th century character driven novel – a first for me. I loved how assertive Jane was becoming, and her little talk to herself about getting a new life. Her friend, Miss Temple, had just been married and left Lowood, and Jane had no more desire to stay. Struck by a sudden thought, she knows she must advertise herself as a governess and see if there are any replies.

I do wonder about one thing here. Jane advertised in the newspaper closest to Lowood, and yet the journey to Thornfield is quite long. Is it the same newspaper that is popular/available at Millcote AND Lowton? It must be, because Mrs. Fairfax found her through the ad (and the only one, in that great distance, who replied). Then, perhaps it isn’t quite as far as I’m thinking. Because it took her an entire day traveling in a carriage, which is quite longer than if a man was riding purposefully on horseback carrying information (though not bushels of newspapers). I’m not sure it’s quite so large a quarrel that research into 19th century newspaper practices will be necessary to ease my mind :-)

I loved the suspense of Jane’s entry to Thornfield. Her puzzlement caused by her assumption that the one who answered her advertisement was the head of the house was very charming. She assumed quite a lot from such a short answer. Since I read the synopsis on the back of the audiobook, it, of course, mentioned a Mr. Rochester, which caused me to itch for him to make his appearance. Because of this, I already suspected something, and knew instantly as a form came trotting over the hill – it was him.

Religion::
I have to say that as I read the theme of religion wasn’t really on my radar. I’m not interested in it, besides, but I thought of it more of characterization that religious commentary. I of course hated all religious alluding in the opening of the book, and especially Mr. Brocklehurst, but beyond that, I didn’t really pick up on much by way of religion. I really think of everyone in the book, my closest religious affiliation would be Edward Rochester. Not in his actions, of course, but they way he speaks of and references to God as ‘my maker’. I like this because it does not name one as such, and really, that’s where I am spiritually right now. Perhaps in another reading I would identify or at least notice more of the religious undertones in this novel. I will let them pass me by this time, happily.

Mrs. Reed::
I do not understand Mrs. Reed. I can see how her feeling toward Jane began and continued…but WHY did she have to just hate her on principal? Just because her husband loved his sister so dearly? It’s ridiculous, though it is a truism that women exist like this, in every generation. I hate that she tried to create such a harsh environment for Jane once she couldn’t stand to have her in her own house anymore…what reason could she have for telling Mr. Brocklehurst such hateful and untrue things except absolute hatred and spite?? It’s almost revolting to think of it.

The Romance::
I had a building feeling in my stomach (there is no other way to describe it) as I read Jane’s meeting of the stranger on the road and her return to Thornfield. When she saw the dog in Mrs. Fairfax’s room I had to smile to myself. Of course he was the master of the house. Was there anyone else who would be on that road who wasn’t coming to or leaving Thornfield? They both should have known each other on the road. Sweet Jane was frightened by childhood stories, and Mr. Rochester, obviously distracted by his injury. When I think of this first meeting, I smile::

“’I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your horse.’
He looked at me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in my direction before.
‘I should think you ought to be home yourself,’ said he,’ if you have a home in this neighborhood. Where do you come from?’
‘From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when it is moonlight. I will run over to Hay for you with pleasure, if you wish it: indeed, I am going there to post a letter.’
‘You live just below-do you mean at that house with the battlements?’

‘Yes, sir.’
‘Whose house is it?’
‘Mr. Rochester’s.’
‘Do you know Mr. Rochester?’
‘No, I have never seen him.’”

Sigh. One has to admit the trickery Mr. Rochester possesses. Did this man invent playing love games; he seems rather good at them. He claims later to have loved Jane from the beginning, and yet he is constantly trying to convince her he is to marry another. What evil tricks! Would I call him dishonest? I don’t think so. While he does eventually come right out and say he will marry Miss Ingram, I’m not quite sure he’s completely decided on the matter when he does so, and at the same time, I am. The emotions in this book are so complex!

The more time that has elapsed between my first reading of the story, the more I see of faults in Mr. Rochester. I’m not saying that my opinion of him is changing, just that I can see what others may find imperfect and unlikable about both him and the book in general (I’ve been searching for them). I will address all of them I’ve noticed before the end, and try my best to argue them (you skeptics!)– or at least explain why I, as a reader, am able to look past them.

At Thornfield, the tone of the book becomes more lighthearted, I’d say – Jane is no longer oppressed by anyone. The interactions between her and Mr. Rochester always, at the same time, make me laugh and pull at my heart-strings. His swearing (“What the deuce is to do now?”,”What the deuce have you done with yourself this last month”) never ceases to put a smile on my face. Perhaps at the time it would have been much more intimidating, but it makes me regard him more endearingly. I apologize, Reader, if I ramble on here forever never-ending about the exquisite love between this pair. I cannot help myself. As I read it now for the second time, I have decidedly paid quite closer attention to his and her early interactions, and I have to say, I love all of their exchanges.

When he first calls Jane to him to be introduced, I was a little surprised at how much he asked to know of her. He was very short, he wanted only the information as it was, and yet her answers were always clever. She always answered directly, but thoughtfully as well. He was immediately interested, I could see. While he asked her very general questions at first, he always seemed to take it just one step too far, and though Jane and Mrs. Fairfax may not have noticed it, I think he does (whether intended or not). He tests her frequently in their first few conversations. Why did she not demand a gift, as Adele did; What did she think of the man who ran her school; how did she come to be there, at Thornfield?; What were her accomplishments, did she take no pride in any of them? He is an interrogator, and she keeps right up with him. He is bold and straight-forward (today you may even call him rude, though we no longer have such a class system that then prevented him from being so), she confident and comfortable.

Because I am a very shy person myself, I can relate to many things regarding that issue with Jane. There are two examples here I think are responsible for sparking the romance between she and Mr. Rochester in the first place, because if Jane hadn’t been so inertly comfortable with him, I think the odds of Rochester noticing her in such a profound way would have been unlikely after these first impressions::

“I felt no fear of him, and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking young gentlemen, I should have not have dared to stand thus questioning him against his will, and offering my services unasked. I had hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one. I had a theoretical reverence and homage for beauty, elegance, gallantry, fascination; but had I met those qualities incarnate in masculine shape, I should have known instinctively that they neither had nor could have sympathy with anything in me, and should have shunned them as one would fire lightening or anything else that is bright but antipathetic.
If even this stranger had smiled or been good-humored when I had addressed him; if he had put off my offer of assistance gaily and with thanks, I should have gone on my way and not felt any vocation to renew inquiries: but the frown, the roughness of the traveler set me at my ease…”

“I sat down quite disembarrassed. A reception of finished politeness would probably have confused me: I could not have returned or repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part; but harsh caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage. Besides, the eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant: I felt interested to see how he would go on.”

This leads me to one ‘argument’, well perhaps two. Why does Rochester bother with Adele’s governess at all? He does not even like the child, on most days (who has got to remind him of his ‘stupidity’ in France, another ghost that follows him around). Thornfield is only one house, of presumably many (at least two), and he does not even delight in staying there because of the guilty curse he hides on the third story. I mean, it’s unheard of for a man of his status to marry anywhere below him, unless, of course, it secures him connections, more wealth, or some other benefit. Jane offers nothing, and she’s merely a child! Rochester is twice her age! Could this book be any more unlikely? Keep reading, Reader, to hear my defense of this troubled man.

To me it was apparent after the second meeting they were both falling in love. When he takes her out to explain his tryst with the French Oprah singer, Celine (Adele’s mother), it’s sealed. Why would a man of his stature feel remotely compelled to share any of his life at all with a governess? Perhaps because it is the story of how he has come to have Adele in his keeping, yes, but to tell her of that “green snake of jealousy”? How appropriate is it? Even Rochester remarks about it:

“Strange that I should choose you for the confidant of all this, young lady; passing strange that you should listen to me quietly, as if it were the most usual thing in the world for a man like me to tell stories of his opera-mistresses to a quaint, inexperienced girl like you!”

He is also bold in this meeting:

“You never felt jealousy, did you, Miss Eyre? Of course not: I need not ask you; because you never felt love. You have both sentiments yet to experience: your soul sleeps…”

He soon makes sure she’s felt it. He hopes, anyway, as I’m not sure how confident he is in her love for him even on the night he proposes, because he seems a little timid to ask her until she gives herself entirely away. In fact, I believe the real change starts to happen when Jane asks a leave of absence. It is then Rochester makes it obvious he needs her near him. What a clever mind Miss Bronte had, to invent this little scenario: first, to offer her entirely too much, then a fair amount, and then trying to take it away so she will not be able to stay gone long, it’s adorable, exactly like young love. While Jane was away, she sketched a portrait of him, impulsively – a perfect rendition- and another moment of pure romance, yet suspended, for that is the honest truth of courtship, is it not? The uncertainty of how the other feels, uncertainty of the ending.

This is the first time, I think, that the reader is really shown how much self-loathing Rochester has for himself, although we do not understand the half of it, yet. I saw an interview with Toby Stephens, who played Rochester in a 2006 adaptation of the book, and a few of his comments were at the same time odd, and a little off the mark, I think, but at the same time circle the truth.

Rochester is living with the past actions of having held these mistresses around Europe (he has an extensive sexual history). Toby wanted to bring that forward, his sexuality (as I said, circled the truth). I think Toby took this out of context a little bit, for his character: Mr. Rochester is not a static character in this book, he is as dynamic as they come. I think that at first, in his whirlwind through Europe and all his mistresses, he was driven by a physical need, at least in part, and a vengeful need to take what he thought was his (women, in short). I think by the time we meet him, he has come to realize that his actions of the last decade brought him no joy, didn’t fill the second half of his heart. He had given up finding peace, I think, and had come to bear his curse once more. I don’t understand why he was set on legally wedding another – especially if he was considering Blanche Ingram (so he didn’t die a bachelor in everyone’s eyes?). But was he?

He may not have felt guilty about the dalliance as a rich proper man of his time, and yet we find out that he’s married. He settled with himself in Spanish Town many years before, yes, but it does not change the fact. Every time the thought of his wife came into his head he must have felt intense guilt of himself, and therefore hatred of her. Is he a bad man for wanting – needing – companionship? You may think so. I, however, am an empathetic person, and can understand him, as a man, as a human being, as one who longs for a partner in the world. You must admit, then, even if you dislike the man, that the weight bearing down on him of his past actions, and current ones, was enormous. Have you started to understand him?

The next thing we know, Jane is rescuing the man from a fire set on him in the middle of the night.

Telling the story to Adele in the carriage – so cute that he made up a whole story about taking Jane to the moon…’Mademoiselle is a fairy’.
It was adorable to see Rochester’s love finally free to express. He automatically resorts to the type of adornment someone of his class would expect and adore, not realizing that Jane does not care about any of it. Money means nothing to her, jewels and materialistic things? Meaningless. She’d lived as such a simple girl for so long that she didn’t know how to react when he started to flatter her so completely, and he really didn’t understand where she was coming from, it was completely foreign to him.

Perhaps you thought Rochester was a pompous ass during this portion of the book, but he is just expressing his love in a very flamboyant way, as someone of his class would do. In fact, I was a little more annoyed with Jane just after the proposal. To refuse to eat with him, just because she never did before; to insist on staying Adele’s governess and even keeping her salary; come on Jane, be reasonable – you are marrying into the upper class. You are no longer a ‘servant’! I feel like these few pages sort of break up the intense romance – and it shows that they are both real characters who aren’t perfect.

Another of my favorite scenes in the book is where Jane is waiting in the rain for Rochester to return from business. The first thing he says is so terribly adorable::

“’There!’ he exclaimed, as he stretched out his hand and bent from the saddle: ‘You can’t do without me, that is evident. Step on my boot-toe; give me both hands: mount!’

‘This is you, who have been as slippery as an eel this last month, and as thorny as a briar-rose? I could not lay a finger anywhere last month, but I was pricked; and now I seem to have gathered up a stray lamb in my arms. You wandered out of the fold to seek your shepherd, did you, Jane?’”

Rochester just seems so gentle and protective here, the rush and show of love now gone – this quiet gentle love is what remains.

P.S. – I talk more about the romance in the ending section, don’t worry!

The Grace Poole Mystery::
I’d mentioned before that I’d had this book assigned to read in high school (senior year, in fact), and that I did not read it then. I did, however, sit in on a few in-class discussions of it. Of course I did not remember anything of what they were about, since I had no context to place them in, having not read the book myself (slacker, I know)…but when Grace Poole came into the story, it seemed familiar to me. I was actually fooled, as I was reading, to think that it was really Grace who was crazed, and that there was no other. When it was revealed he was married, I figured it was Grace Poole, not an additional person altogether. I’m still kind of amazed that the secret was kept so completely. Now on my second read through, I realized Mrs. Fairfax tells us a good chunk of Mr. Rochester’s history after Jane first meets him. If you’re watching closely, she nearly gives it away then (is she being honest when she says she doesn’t know the full story??).

I am a little confused, though, still. I seem to remember Mr. Rochester saying that Grace, and the surgeon were the only ones who knew about Bertha Mason, but then Mrs. Fairfax knows nearly the whole story, and Jane overhears other servants speaking about wages – and it’s alluded that they both know what Grace Poole is charged with doing. Can anyone clear this up for me? I’m genuinely curious.
If I may mention a point I brought up in my last post, that no part of this book is boring (to me), I am quite surprised now that I’m reading it another time at just how little else is discussed in the book besides in what the reader is keenly interested. Are we manipulated in that way, as readers? Is Jane retelling a biased story that makes us love Mr. Rochester as much as she does?
Although Jane has not much interaction with anyone, or has much else to occupy her time with, it seems as soon as Mr. Rochester is introduced, we hear little else than their interaction….and that’s not entirely true, Jane is very observant when the party arrives at Thornfield, albeit with a jealous eye that is naturally drawn to her love whenever he is present. Perhaps what I’m trying to express is that there is no filler here. Everything explained in the story is relevant, and I am very glad it doesn’t try to explain the events of every day that transpires, for that would have made a more boring book. I’m not sure how editing worked in the mid-1800s, and I’d be very interested to learn about it, but I think Charlotte must have been largely a great self-editor to her own work. Perhaps I keep mentioning this, because I don’t see it very often anymore. It seems nearly every book I’ve ever read has had at least a short portion that didn’t interest me at all.

The Masons/The Marriage::
Part of the reason I feel I can have sympathy for Mr. Rochester is the story he desperately tells Jane about his first marriage. This comes with age and maturity, I think. If I read this in high school, I would not have had as much empathy with him, because at 17 I already thought I was making the best decisions, and I didn’t see my own immaturity and mistakes. Now that I’m 24, I can already understand that late-teens/early- twenties are impulsive and reckless in many ways, even without meaning to be.

I am a little disgusted that Rochester assumes that Jane will take it all in stride, like nothing happened, and continue to live with him unchanged…but I also feel terribly sorry for him. Here is a man who trusted his father and his family, who basically set up the marriage for him. He didn’t realize that all his father was after was the fortune, that he didn’t know himself the extent of the family’s problems. Edward was young, and for those of us who are older than 20/21, we can understand what that means. Not only was he young himself, and trusted that his father was making him a good match, but he was being blatantly deceived as well, by the family he was to wed into. He was not really even allowed to converse with her alone, or even be anywhere near her. In my eyes, Rochester does redeem himself by taking the blame, at least in part, of marrying Bertha without really knowing her at all.

Does Rochester need a partner so desperately now because he was denied even the thought of one as a young man? If he had married Bertha and she turned into an indifferent wife, would he have been happy, would he have had the affairs? He said himself he did not know her at all before they were married, which is still his fault. But then would the family have kept her so distant besides? Would they have buttered him up so thoroughly to where Rochester was pressured to make the decision right away? All of the pieces fall together in a way that takes blame, at least partly, from him. He was the victim of a cheap trick, and a terrible one.

The entire scene, starting at the church, through to her finally recovering in the house of her cousins, puts me in a foul mood to read. I am just so emotionally invested in the characters and the love story that I am completely devastated to see them torn apart. The scene where Rochester waits outside her room is brutal, and yet hopelessly romantic. He waited for her! She thought he had given up on her, and would send her away to not remind himself of shame, and there he was – it was true love, no games, just raw, rough, and real. But that makes it all the more heart breaking.

“I fell, but not on to the ground: an outstretched arm caught me. I looked up- I was supported by Mr. Rochester, who sat in a chair across my chamber threshold.
‘You come out at last,’ he said. ‘Well, I have been waiting for you long, and listening: yet not one movement have I heard, nor one sob: five minutes more of that death-like hush, and I should have forced the lock like a burglar.’”

The distinct agony that must have been piercing his heart; the absolute petrifying fear that he must have had to have – at last – found exactly what he wanted only for it to be trampled and destroyed in front of him, and could do nothing but watch.

Am I covering his faults too fully, Reader? Have I read the words of his life and this profound love story, and fallen in love with it all? Perhaps. I do not deny his faults, and his atrocities, he has made very bad choices. But it is true love that drives this story, and that scarcely graces the pages of most. Wonder, lust, enamor-ment, and yes, even love fill most pages in the literary world. But true love? True love will conquer all. True love knows no bounds, and will shape the lives of those captured by it – instantly and completely. It is true love that allowed Jane to forgive him, through all::

“Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot…I forgave him all: yet not in words, not outwardly; only at my heart’s core.”

But she still left.

Jane’s Family::
Left in such desolation from the previous scene, I was only half listening to most of the narrative that followed. Jane was completely destitute. She did not want to beg, but eventually had to, and still, did not receive what she needed. It is made clear that if the Rivers family did not take her in that fateful rainy night, she would have surely died.

Comparing the length of this section and my thoughts about it, I don’t really have much to say. I think it would be better to take a break before continuing to read after they take her in. The story does a lot to interest you and get the tone back up to a normal plane…but I still felt heartbroken, and I think that’s okay, because Jane was too.

It is refreshing to see Jane find new friends, even before we find that she is related to them. It does seem a little bit strange that she stays with them so long, but I think that was largely due to the time period, and St. John (Sinjin) did say he was going to find some situation for her, which he eventually did, working for him in a school he was setting up. It was nice to see scholarly women, who loved to learn in their spare time for fun (although it is said that they’d make more money once they learned German…). Women after mine own heart. I also am teaching myself German from nothing but lexicon…quite a difficult task, I can assure you, and I don’t have nearly as much time to devote to is as they seem to.

That leads me to another thing. What a glorious time in history this must have been, where people really didn’t have jobs. Not any jobs like I have, anyway. If you were a servant, you had your responsibilities, your salary, and you got your room and board in your masters house (which I daresay were quite exquisite). Not too bad of a deal, really, and those were the lowest in the household. Apparently housekeepers and governess’ were quite more respected as well, and had a little less to do (mostly ordering the lowly servants around), and got paid more, stayed in a better part of the house, etc. At the end of the day though, all these women basically had nothing to do with their time. For example, Blanche Ingram. What had she to fill her time, besides masquerading with suitors and showing off her piano skills and bloated ego? No wonder she and her mother were so disagreeable, they had nothing substantial to do with their lives. It is nice though, to dream of having nothing to do all day for an extended amount of time. You could do something like teach yourself German. And it seems to me the men of the house are just always ‘handling accounts’ (in Anna K too!). Someone please tell me what this means. The rents from their lands? The buying and selling of property? I assume it’s somewhere along those lines.

I wonder at Jane’s happiness once she is settled in to teaching at the school for uneducated farm kids. The tone is a lot different now than it was earlier in the book. She is much more mature, but she is also unhappy. She seems to have completely dismissed happiness, which makes sense, since she knows she cannot go back to her true love, who is a married man, and therefore can never be happy as she once was. She is, in some ways, haunted by the ghost of him…the shadow, the idea, the memory. She is content, that much is sure. She likes her new friends, Diana, Mary, and Sinjin, and she likes teaching well enough and especially likes the marked improvement of her students. But not truly happy.

I was a little bit shocked that SInjin decided he wanted Jane for his wife, just so she could go to India ona mission trip with him. I still think it’s a little ridiculous that he so steadfastly held that belief, but then again, he was stubborn about many things. I noticed the commentary, or perhaps it wasn’t, about how Sinjin was in lust with the most beautiful girl in town though he was basically a priest. At least he didn’t act on it…and I did respect his speech about how she would not suit him as a wife, and neither him, her husband. He is a smart man, aside from the stubbornness. I’m not sure why Jane loves him though, even as a cousin/brother. He only seems very nice to her once or twice during the whole recounting of that period. I’m very glad she refused him, obviously. She knew in her heart that it was not a good match, because even though she had thought herself void of a future with love, she didn’t want one without it either – how very human of her.

Ending::
As the book nears the end, Jane, who is telling us this story of her life, more and more often addresses us as readers. I have to tell you I loved this. Each time I heard the word, said, of course, in an English accent (Ree-da), I was compelled – to her, to Jane. I’m scarcely sure I’ve ever been so close to another literary character in my entire literary life. I’m not sure if I’d have been as touched if I didn’t feel like it was Jane herself telling me her own tale (listening to it as an audiobook, that is), but as it is, Jane is now a friend of mine, which I will visit often enough in my life. And since, in this post I’ve obviously got spoilers abounding, I will say what touched my heart to the core on this point:

‘Reader, I married him.’

Now you, my Reader, I must tell you the fervor I felt as this story crept ever nearer to its resolution. On the last day of listening, I started at a place I’d already listened to, because I’d loved it so dearly: that moment where Jane Eyre returned from her stay at Gateshead Hall after Mrs. Reed had passed from the world. That moment where Jane stepped out for a walk in the garden, where she tried to conceal herself from the approaching Mr. Rochester in the hanging ivy, but who, of course, had been watching her and in fact sought her out to ask the single most influential question of a person’s life. Ah, love. I will never forget this everlasting moment. Perfect, exactly, for the two people it contained. Oh anyway! It translates to about 200 pages in my copy of the book to the end from there. I listened all day at work, with minimal pauses (don’t worry, I was still getting all my work done), I listened during my breaks, all through lunch, in the car ride home, and didn’t stop when I was there. I could not stop. I started tidying up laundry and organizing little areas about my room as Jane returned to Thornfield. I literally stopped everything I was doing in shock….several times, until Jane found herself seated again upon his knee in the parlor of Ferndean. It’s astounding to think how few words laid bare before you can bring a person to their knees. ‘Late Mr. Rochester’ nearly stopped my heart, I swear to you!

Was Jane able to stay and live with Rochester for the duration of her days just because she had proved to herself she was not one who lived guided by passion, would she still have done if she found Rochester in the same state as when she’d left him? With his wife still shut away and he, still married to another?

If ever a book has been worth the hours spent reading it, it is this one. Although there are quite a many tangents that don’t have to do with the romance this novel is greatly about, I was not bored exploring them. Once only did I have the urge to at least skip ahead (something I did not do, mostly because of the audio format), and that was continually during Jane’s stay with Diana, Mary, and St. John (Sinjin). I did not know how the novel would conclude at that point. I did not know if we would ever see Mr. Rochester again, or if this would turn out to be some sort of feminist independency preaching thing that would have an ending contrary to what it should have just to do it. I feared that happening, really, as I have no experience with other books of the time period, and I’ve read several bad ones which do that exact thing. I would have been devastated to have that happen, once I’d been so captured by its every move.

After all the suspense, mystery, and utter emotional distress the last pages of this story brought me, I could not have ever imagined a more perfect and resounding ending to such a tale. My heart is completely satisfied, if not more so. I feel privileged to have read this book, and I’m glad I waited until now, when I could properly appreciate it, to read it, instead of doing it as an obligation, where I probably would never have visited the pages again. Reading for school is a means to an end. Reading for pleasure is a true joy of life.

Other books I read and feel quite completed, setting them in their place on a bookshelf to be recalled at some leisurely future date, but with this, I feel different. I feel I cannot close it up and keep it at any distance away from my reach. I have not finished with its pages, its characters, its story. I have begun to read it again, in my leather-bound copy. I’ve been sticky noting its pages in excess all the lines and passages that move me, words that I love, essential plot developments, and any other thing that takes my fancy. I love this book, as I’ve loved no other non-living thing. It’s part of me now; perhaps it’s changed my literary life, but how can I tell so soon? All I know is that I love it, and that I cannot think of putting it down. You’ve not heard the end of this yet :-)

-Emma

Jane Eyre, A Reading Journal – through Lowood School

Who knew? Who would have remotely guessed that I, a tomboy from childhood, only recently becoming feminine in the least, would find her absolute literary companion in a Romance novel from the 19th century in the form of Jane Eyre. Not I, I can assure you, but that is exactly what happened.

So far, I have been unable to wait to situate my thoughts into a focused and coherent blog entry, which I intend to do here. If you have not yet read this incredible novel, please, refrain from reading this until you do, as I mention and analyze many aspects of the plot, to the very ending, which will surely spoil the story for you. If you are a student, trying to find an adequate summary of the plot and characters, I urge you to look elsewhere, as what I write here is completely biased by my experiences and reflection. Sparknotes.com will contain any information you may require for your project (and in fact I encourage readers who’ve already read Jane Eyre to consult it as well, to catch some things you may not have, and get an impartial eye to events, though not as you read, because it is bound to spoil it for you as well), and yet I’ll urge you, student, to read the book yourself instead of idly searching the Internet for insight. What better place to gain it than from the source?

This post is going to be intolerably long and rambling, because when you love something, you never tire of talking about it. I wrestled with the thought of breaking this down into several posts, and after I began writing, I realized it was necessary…This first post outlines specifics of the book and the plot through Jane’s days at Lowood school (about page 78 of 418). I will try to keep my thoughts fairly organized for the outside reader::

Let me begin by amending the opening I’ve presented, this is not just a romance novel. Sparknotes calls this novel a hybrid of three genres: Gothic, Romance, and Bildungsroman (Yeah, I haven’t heard of it either).
Since I have little to no experience with these genres, I did a little bit of research, which I’ll share here (each source is linked to the title):

Gothic::
This type of category fiction dates back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Contemporary gothic novels are characterized by atmospheric, historical settings and feature young, beautiful women who win the favor of handsome, brooding heroes—simultaneously dealing successfully with some life-threatening menace, either natural or supernatural. Gothics rely on mystery, peril, romantic relationships and a sense of foreboding for their strong, emotional effect on the reader. A classic early gothic novel is Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The gothic writer builds a series of credible, emotional crises for his ultimately triumphant heroine. Sex between the woman and her lover is implied rather than graphically detailed; the writer’s descriptive talents are used instead to paint rich, desolate, gloomy settings in stark mansions and awesome castles. He composes slow-paced, intricate sketches that create a sense of impending evil on every page.

Romance::
Also known as the category romance, the romance novel is a type of category fiction in which the love relationship between a man and a woman pervades the plot. The story [is often] told from the viewpoint of the heroine, who meets a man (the hero), falls in love with him, encounters a conflict that hinders their relationship, then resolves the conflict. … Romance is the overriding element in this kind of story: The couple’s relationship determines the plot and tone of the book. The theme of the novel is the woman’s sexual awakening. Although she may not be a virgin, she has never before been so emotionally aroused. Despite all this emotion, however, characters and plot both must be well-developed and realistic: Contrived situations and flat characters are unacceptable. Throughout a romance novel, the reader senses the sexual and emotional attraction between the heroine and hero. Lovemaking scenes, though sometimes detailed, are not generally too graphic, because more emphasis is placed on the sensual element than on physical action.

Bildungroman::
Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister is the prototypical Bidungroman work, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is considered to be a direct descendant of that title, for points of reference.

1. A Bildungsroman is, most generally, the story of a single individual’s growth and development within the context of a defined social order. The growth process, at its roots a quest story, has been described as both “an apprenticeship to life” and a “search for meaningful existence within society.”

2. To spur the hero or heroine on to their journey, some form of loss or discontent must jar them at an early stage away from the home or family setting.

3. The process of maturity is long, arduous, and gradual, consisting of repeated clashes between the protagonist’s needs and desires and the views and judgments enforced by an unbending social order.

4. Eventually, the spirit and values of the social order become manifest in the protagonist, who is then accommodated into society. The novel ends with an assessment by the protagonist of himself and his new place in that society.

And here are the rest of the necessities::
Author: Charlotte Bronte – Originally published under Currer Bell, a pseudonym
First Published: 1847, London
Publisher: Smith, Elder, and Co.
Setting: Early 19th Century, Contemporary to the Author
My Edition: Barnes & Noble Leather-Bound Classics Edition, 2012 (includes works from Charlotte’s Sisters Emily & Anne, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, respectively)

What generally follows is a journal of my thoughts whilst reading, not a plot summary or review. I am no literary analyst, just a mildly inexperienced reader.

Reed Family – Jane’s Childhood at Gateshead::
The first thing that bothered me about John Reed wasn’t the bullying at first, but his remark about the house and all its possessions belonging to him. How old could this boy be? 10? 12? Older? It is astounding to me that a child so young is given to know his power and responsibility at such a young age – not only to know it, but to give him that power so young. Mrs. Reed, from what I can tell, lets the boy walk all over her – all of her children, in fact do. Does this contribute to her hatred of Jane? Does she need one to take out her exasperations on? Later in the story we learn of why Mrs. Reed was never able to stand Jane, but could that reason hold to her throughout her life, no matter her actions? Poor John Reed’s early power over the Reed estate obviously came too early to him. He was not able to handle such absolute freedom, and turned him to a bossy child, a bully, and eventually a poor, desolate, destitute man. One of the saddest people we come to know in the book, and I believe a large contributor to it is the way Mrs. Reed makes him out as a saint through his entire childhood.

The Red-Room incident was interesting to me. As a child, or anyone for that matter, forced to be left in a room you knew someone had died in against your will, all alone, at night…it would shake anyone’s nerves. I love the exact moment just as Jane is most frightened.

“Shaking my hair from my eyes, I lifted my head and tried to look boldly round the dark room: at this moment a light gleamed on the wall. Was it, I asked myself, a ray from the moon penetrating some aperture in the blind? No; moonlight was still, and this stirred; while I gazed, it glided up to the ceiling and quivered over my head. I can now conjecture readily that this streak of light was, in all likelihood, a gleam from a lantern carried by someone across the lawn: but then, prepared as my mind was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another world.” … “’Are you hurt? Have you seen something?’ again demanded Bessie. ‘Oh! I saw a light, and I thought a ghost would come.’”

First, I love Jane’s reply there at the end (of course, why it’s included). “I thought a ghost would come.” How innocent and truly terrifying for her, for some reason the phrase was very striking to me. Somehow it embodies the time period, Jane’s honesty, and her childlike endearment. I really like how the scene unfolded, that Jane was able to get out of her sentence in the Red-Room, although not without obvious consequence to her nerves all the same, and was almost pampered afterwards. That Jane is looked after by the Apothecary is significant as well (as it is said that apothecaries are sent for to tend to servants only, and real doctors or surgeons for the family). It’s easy to throw Jane in with the servants, isn’t it? But we forget that Jane is directly descended from the man of the house (through his sister), who just happened to die before being able to properly situate the young infant into the family. Jane is not destitute. She is not a beggar, or even deserved the life she was made to have by her vindictive and spiteful Aunt. It turned out, of course, that the visit by Mr. Lloyd (the apothecary) delivered Jane’s salvation in a way, and was critical to Jane’s life overall (who knows what would have happened to her if she was made to stay at Gateshead). It was Mr. Lloyd who planted the seed in both Jane’s and Mrs. Reed’s minds of sending the young one off to school, which was then done, promptly.

Lowood School::
Jane’s time at Lowood school opened my eyes to a lot of things about her era. The subjects studied by girls of the time, the boarding school type education received by them, the nature of teachers vs pupils that I’m sure was fairly accurate, at least for the most part. At Jane’s school, there was one man who presided over the rules and practices of the institution (for it was a school for orphan girls), Mr. Brocklehurst, who was a very religious, proper man who did not let earthly feelings of sympathy or kindness concern him. One passage in the book was especially chilling::

“My dear children,” pursued the black marble clergyman with pathos, “this is a sad, a melancholy occasion; for it becomes my duty to warn you that this girl, who might be one of God’s own lambs, is a little castaway- not a member of the true flock, but evidently an interloper and an alien. You must be on your guard against her; you must shun her example-if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse. Teachers, you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her words, scrutinize her actions, punish her body to save her soul-if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for (my tongue falters while I tell it) this girl, this child, the native of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut-this girl is-a liar!”…”This I learned from her benefactress-from the pious and charitable lady who adopted her in her orphan state, reared her as her own daughter, and whose kindness, whose generosity the unhappy girl repaid by an ingratitude so bad, so dreadful, that at last her excellent patroness was obliged to separate her from her own young ones, fearful lest her vicious example should contaminate their purity.”

I was utterly outraged by the end of this scene. What on earth would have possessed him to spread such a terrible, possibly life altering rumor? He interviewed young Jane himself previously at Gateshead and her answers were nothing but honest (I have to say I chuckled when she answered she was to keep in good health as not to die and go to hell). How were her answers then to show she was such an evil spirit, because she didn’t like the psalms? Ridiculous! If anyone should have been made to burn in the fiery depths of hell, I should think it far more likely him than Jane, personally.

As I read through the cruelties enumerated in the beginning of this book, I could not help but wonder how children survived in times such as these. How terrible we were to our own race! Did no one have sympathy on children? When Helen came and spoke to Jane after the declaration of her wickedness, I was so relieved. It meant to me that this book would not just be terrible to be terrible (as many contemporary copy-cats tend to be, I will leave that topic for another post), that there were good people in the world being woven through these pages. I have no interest reading a book that will do nothing but depress me. Who wants to read a book that has no satisfactory resolution, a story that leaves a feeling of sickness at the pit of your stomach whenever you think of it? Not I. I’ve done it before, and have no wish to repeat the experience.
Now we are brought to Helen Burns, who shines like a light to young Miss Eyre. Helen encapsulates a new way of considering things to Jane, a fresh perspective. To every negative unendurable thing Jane can think of, Helen transforms it to nothing with only a few words. Jane is acting childish (but also understandably), and Helen stands as the epitome of wisdom, by contrast.

“’Helen, why do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be a liar?’
‘Everybody, Jane? Why, there are only eighty people who have heard you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions.’
‘But what have I to do with millions? The eighty I know despise me.’
‘Jane, you are mistaken: probably not one in the school either despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you much.
How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst said? ‘
‘Mr. Brocklehurst is not a god: nor is he even a great and admired man: he is little liked here; he never took steps to make himself liked. Had he treated you as an especial favorite, you would have found enemies, declared or covert, all around you; as it is, the greater number would offer you sympathy if they dared.’”

Helen was Jane’s first friend in the world, and it is cruel to be removed from one under such circumstances, but at least her ending was as beautiful as she was. I hope that heaven exists for angels such as Helen Burns.

Perhaps what really made me invest my interest in this book, at first, is Jane’s sensibility in the face of the absurd practices of her time, which came apparent to me at her time at Lowood. She was so honest and spoke her heart (couldn’t help to), and it made her a ‘wicked child’ because of the position she was in. I noticed though (recollecting Gateshead), all the other children were able to pursue whatever they liked…John, a bossy jerk and Eliza, with her juvenile marketing and money obsession – her mother even ordered the gardener (and other servants?) to buy anything she offered to sell to them. She then had her mother be her own banker, to the extent of charging her interest! I wonder how long that was allowed to go on…

I have to say that I’m glad Charlotte skipped Jane’s remaining years at Lowood School. As she states quite clearly at the close, “a few lines only are necessary to keep up the links of connection.” This, I think is a good time to mention one reason I love this book over all others: Not one bit of it is boring. Everything recounted in the story Jane tells us is integral to its conclusion, I believe. If the book had not opened so early in Jane’s life, we would not have been able to see the hardships she had to endure to get where she is by the conclusion. This book, if you’ve read the genre’s descriptors, and if not I’m telling you now, is a tale of coming-of-age more than romance, although (in this case, and I truly believe in all others) one cannot completely have one without the other. How is that for a long sentence? I cannot think of one single scene that I’d have omitted (well, perhaps one of the multiple times St. John urged Jane to marry him I could do without). All characters and scenes are interesting and relevant. It is masterful storytelling, and to say anything else would not compare it to the vast landscape of written word.

I was glad to hear that Jane and Miss Temple became good friends, and when Mr. Rochester remarks later on that she had stayed at Lowood an entire 8 years in aghast, I know it was because of her. Jane of course knew nothing else in the world. The only other place she could remember was much more horrible than that place, so it’s completely understandable that she didn’t wish to leave without the catalyst of her friend’s departing. I was very happy for her, to have found someone in this world who brightened it for her. I do wonder though, why there was never mention of her ever keeping correspondence with anyone, though letters are mentioned throughout the book. Perhaps it was too expensive to send regular correspondence? I wonder at that.

A word on the writing, before this post concludes: This, probably, is what swept me away so fully, and yet it is what deterred me so greatly for so long, away from this story. To me, this book (and others of its time) completely breaks all of the conventional rules. In school, we are taught to write as sparingly as possible. Countless times I’d receive papers and essays back with words deliberately crossed out with none to replace them. Over time, I learned that the words were not necessary for what I was trying to accomplish. This, then, is what is being taught to the children of our day. Less is more. Get to the point. Perhaps, once I got past my first reservations concerning this point, the contrast created the beauty; but I don’t think so. The sentences are beautiful in and of themselves.

I am one who adores language, and English being mine, I appreciate entirely the beauty in which Charlotte created such long and flowing sentences. It’s astonishing to see the length of some of them in these pages, and that they make perfect sense? It’s incredible to me. Why has modern writing, and speaking for that matter, steadily gotten more precise and less beautiful?

A sign we’ve gone too far: we have a dictionary to understand text messages now. LOL (laughing out loud), JK (Just Kidding), NM (Never Mind), TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday), TY (Thank You)…is it really too much effort to type out your objective? I’ve been rebelling against this phenomenon since I got my own cell phone to participate in such practices.

Some phrasing in this book did seem a little over the top: ‘Installed his person in the armchair’ seemed a little too much for me when I stumbled upon it. Why not just say ‘took a seat’ or ‘sat down’ instead, saving descriptors for something else. At other times, I thought the choice of using the more elaborate phrasing made an action infinitely more beautiful, such as the phrase, ‘The door unclosed’, which is used several times throughout the novel. In fact, I’m unsure that any doors actually ‘opened’, as I never noticed those occurrences. Ah, perhaps exactly the point.

That is where I’ll cut myself off for today, if only for the sake of length.
It may be good or bad news to you, Reader, to know that several more of this length and longer, will soon follow.

Until then,
Emma

Jane Eyre VS Rebecca – A Comparative Review

Today is the day, after reading two excellent books, that I bend my brain comparing the two to see what sort of connections I can draw between them. I should be honest and say that I haven’t read or heard really anything comparing the two, except simply that they often are. I’ve never done something like this, really, so I’m not sure where I’ll end up by the end of this…but hopefully for those of you who’ve read them both will find this interesting, and perhaps have some further insight on some points.

Jane Eyre VS Rebecca

Published 91 years apart, both are told through the eyes of a young and inexperienced woman in the first person. Although both novels are both technically ‘Gothic’, Rebecca had a much darker tone throughout. Because of the bleak opening describing an abandoned and desolate mansion, the tone was bleak straight away. Although many of the first events should have been happy, exciting moments, they were overshadowed by a future gloom. In Jane Eyre there is no such foreshadowing; we start in her childhood and only later find out she’s telling the story after the fact. Although Jane is faced with much cruelty and hardship in her young years, it is nothing compared to the looming shadow over the beginning of Rebecca.

To me, there are more differences than similarities between these two novels – the only major similarities I noticed on my first reading of Rebecca, is between Rochester and Maxim de Winter:

1) They both married the wrong woman first.

2) They both own glorious estates which they cherish, and then lose.

Rochester and de Winter have very different circumstances in their young adulthood::
Both are filthy rich; Rochester has to marry in order to maintain his status, because he has an older brother who inherits all the family fortune. His father finds a suitable woman for him to marry in the West Indies, and Rochester is sent off straight away. Wooed mostly by the woman’s family, not getting much alone time with the wife-to-be, he hastily proposes and the consequences soon become apparent.

de Winter is an only son in his family, and always knew he would inherit the family fortune and estate, and is only expected to marry a woman of high stature, is not in need of the match. Rebecca is incredibly popular and well loved by all who she meets, but after Maxim marries her, she shows him her true sinister qualities, and he is instantly and forever horrified by his mistake.

Edward was betrayed by his own family to marry someone they knew was insane, while Maxim came to Rebecca on his own with the support of his family, throughout his lifetime. With these things in mind, it is easy to see how the men end up when met by their new love interests; Rochester incredibly moody and grim when he meets Jane, and de Winter distracted and seemingly indifferent when he meets the unnamed narrator.

Jane and Rebecca’s narrator are also differ greatly::
Jane knows her own mind, she discovered her spirit when she was 10 years old, and never lost the confidence it gave her. Though she knew her place in the world and acted accordingly, she never let anyone push her around, nor anyone she loved.

Rebecca’s narrator had no backbone whatsoever. She, also coming from very bleak prospects, she has no self-confidence whatsoever, and is constantly pushed around and bullied by those around her.

The courtships themselves are vastly different as well::
When Rochester returns home, he finds that Jane is now a resident in his household, as the tutor to the child who has become his responsibility, Adele. Their relationship starts out conventionally, as a master and governess should be aquatinted, and then it grows in their hearts, slowly and torturously until neither one can deny it from themselves any longer. Although Rochester is a very confident fellow, he plays love games with his dear Jane, testing her admiration and quite how far she will go for his love without outright declaring it (as she could never do). As no one knows Rochester is married (besides perhaps a select few in his own house), there is nothing, memory or guilty conscience, to plague her mind – although if it was widely known that he was married and his wife yet alive, I’m sure Jane would not have fallen in love with him, at least not to the full extent she ends up doing. As in Rebecca, the proposal happens much earlier in the book as you might expect, although Jane Eyre is not quite as early as Rebecca. The proposal also doesn’t go quite as you’d expect – on Rochester’s part, he is entirely romantic – swoon worthy, really – and yet Jane can’t get out of her mind the other woman he tricked her into thinking he would marry. Some of my favorite lines in the book come from that scene :-)

The narrator and Maxim de Winter’s courtship wasn’t much of one, in my opinion. Basically they meet by chance because of the manipulation of the narrator’s employer for her own benefit. It is awkward then, as it was awkward on nearly every car ride we’re able to ‘see’ in the pages, and the proposal comes only because the shortness of time makes it necessary. Honestly I thought he did more to save the girl from an undesirable fate, as she would have had if she’d stayed with her employer, and it isn’t until nearly the end of the book that we find out that he really did love her. He makes almost no sign of it whatsoever – he is distracted and a little bit rude for most of the book, and although that is explained later on, it still doesn’t fully make up for it in my opinion. The innocence of the narrator alone would have let her love him despite himself.

Antagonists::
While Jane Eyre has several antagonists, non are quite so terrible as Mrs. Danvers, who is an absolutely wicked and haunting character in Rebecca. Jane Eyre faced a lot of hardships and social blockades (Mr. Brocklehurst, Aunt Reed, Blanch Ingram), but the narrator in Rebecca had someone who was really out to get her in revenge of her former mistress in Mrs. Danvers. Really, that book is quite dramatic – a perfect spooky read for October.

I absolutely loved both novels in different ways, and continue recommending them to everyone in sight, and although they’re not very similar at all, they’re both worth their weight in gold. If you’ve not read either or neither, then I suggest you get reading ;-)

Emma

Sense & Sensibility, an Austen in August Read

Of all of Jane Austen’s novels, I was most eager to read Sense & Sensibility. Something about the title itself appealed to me – the sounds it makes when I say it aloud, the connotation, the feeling I got when thinking about those words together…all somehow contributed the this feeling that this would be the book that I connected with the most.

Alas, just as you cannot judge a book by its ugly cover (I’m looking at you Rebecca), you cannot judge it by its title alone.
20130807-130948.jpg Although it’s only the second of Austen’s works that I’ve read, it’s already not my favorite of the two; I enjoyed Pride & Prejudice quite a bit more. Even as I write this, I’m not sure I’m being fair about this pronouncement, but as this is my literary journal, I feel free to record it as I see it as of this moment, just after finishing it.

Comparatively, I saw a movie version of Pride & Prejudice before I read the book, and therefore knew the story and that I already adored it; with Sense & Sensibility, I only knew that Kate Winslet (who I adore) plays Marianne in a movie production of it, but knew nothing whatsoever about the story – so perhaps this had something to do with it.

As I read, I found myself impatient with several parts; wanting to know who would end up where and which of the acquaintances I should be ‘watching’ as the story progressed. I knew of course that Willoughby was too good to be true and that Marianne was acting incredibly unabashedly, surely shamefully for her time, but I assumed that Willoughby’s eventual revelation would have been what turned out to be Edward’s (the previous engagement). I cannot believe that none of the ‘issues’ were resolved with either of the sisters, even in part, until the last two chapters of the book!

For me, the pacing was off a little bit in this one, at least as the first read through was concerned; although there were plenty of ‘action’ scenes, there seemed to be a lot more assumptions in this book, which led to much of the dramatic issues. For example, I was starting to get mad at Elinor for ‘assuming’ that Marianne and Willoughby were engaged when she really had no reason to assume it besides that her sister was completely smitten – I mean, they’re sisters – was Elinor’s concern not enough for her to ask her own sister if she was engaged??

I did like Elinor, but now that I’m thinking about it, although she is the main heroine in this novel she doesn’t really do much, does she? She is somewhat like Jane Bennet in that she is severely reserved, Elinor is very contemplative, and never answers a question before considering everyone’s feeling towards her potential remarks first. Someone needs to tell this girl to relax a little bit! Did she have a moment’s fun in the entire length of the novel?

While Pride & Prejudice was chalk full of dialogue, Sense & Sensibility was a much more internal novel, covering the thoughts and feelings of the characters much less openly than her sister novel. I suppose I was less interested in the motivations of the characters because in one case, I knew they were acting childishly and therefore that there was no happy ending for the pair of them, and in the other, that there wasn’t enough of anything to base any feeling whatever on besides what our character felt. Almost every time Edward spoke it was ‘unintelligible’, or ‘didn’t reach their ears’ (paraphrasing here) – all of the ‘action’ in that relationship took place before the start of the novel, and what we know of that the family assumed something was going on as well. Again, it’s not until chapter 49 of 50 that we get any sort of clue as to what was really happening, because lord knows Elinor didn’t.

Sigh.

I think it is time for me to read a few non-Austen novels before reading the one I have planned next:: Persuasion. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Sense & Sensibility, it was still written with skill by the author, but it was decidedly less happy than Pride & Prejudice, and it’s made me long for a real romance or something unrelated to romance altogether – something with anything else to grab onto besides people in hopeless love.
I hope to watch a movie production of Sense & Sensibility, which I already suspect I’ll enjoy a great deal more than the novel, only because of faster gratification – I’ve spent three whole days in the sorrow that is disappointed love, for only a few brief pages of delight, whereas a movie will move through the sorrow more quickly and presumably have a brighter pay-off in the end.

I will perhaps write on this novel again in the future, and I’ll surely read it again someday, but for now, these are my feelings, and I’ll leave it at that.

To read more of Austen in August, visit the host Roof Beam Reader’s Blog.

Pride & Prejudice, My First Jane Austen

And the list of prolific authors I’ve not read has been shortened by one – I’ve finally read a Jane Austen novel!!
I chose Pride & Prejudice to start with for several reasons:

1) It’s the volume of hers I’ve owned the longest (going on ten years…it’s about time I cracked it!)
2) It’s the volume everyone seems to prefer, or at least mention most often.
3) I’ve seen the movie (Keira Knightley version), and knew I liked the story already – is that cheating?

I started reading it right now, because I’ve been craving some more Victorian/Romantic Classic lit since I read Rebecca and absolutely loved it (my review is here). One day I almost started reading Wuthering Heights, but the copy I have is in this beautiful bind up edition and I ended up reading my favorite parts of Jane Eyre again instead…insert sheepish look :-) ALSO, I’ve been seeing something called ‘Austen in August’ pop up everywhere and decided to jump in on Roof Beam Reader’s blog – the master post of which you can find here.

Again, I’m surprised by this novel, as the good classics always do to me. The more time it’s been since I read it, the more it’s growing on me – and it’s only been one day since I finished reading!

Probably the most surprising aspect is simply how good it was. I don’t just mean the story, I mean the writing technique and characters and settings and pacing and depth and a dozen other things – this girl is good. All these years I was sure her work was completely overrated – some kind of 19th century forerunner for the modern Danielle Steele’s and Nicholas Sparks’ of today (which frankly I haven’t read either, so that’s admittedly unfair of me).

The strange part is how the great qualities sneak up on you. It’s elegantly worded, as you’d expect work from that time period, but it’s quite easy to follow; there aren’t paragraphs of needless words you have to wade through to get to what is happening. The edition I read (not the one pictured, I couldn’t find a picture of it) was even more helpful with small definitions of common words we still use that had different meanings back then.

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It would seem that I’m turning into quite a sucker for a good romance. It started just this year when I read Jane Eyre. That book broke my heart and put it back together three sizes bigger. Then the next biggun to strike my fancy was Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier – a book I now strongly recommend to anyone who likes romance, the gothic style, or classic literature at all; something about the creepiness, suspense, and absolute twist of fate just hooked me indubitably. And now, Pride & Prejudice.

While this book didn’t have a specific noticeable element to peak my interest, I found I couldn’t put it down. There is a balance in literature, between ‘action’ and ‘other’ that sometimes teeters way too far in one direction, but I feel like Austen handled it beautifully in this case. Although, by action I don’t mean ‘Mission: Impossible’-esque – more like characters chancing to meet, intense dialogue, and marriages, plans to marry, or the breaking of marriage plans. There are enough characters for there to always be something happening, and yet there aren’t too many of them to keep track of either.

To me, it seems Austen was able to capture an image of real life in this novel. The connections, the personalities and motivations, the chance happenings and unexpectedness of everyday life, were all incredibly realistic. The family dynamic of the Bennets itself was perfect. The separation of the two eldest and most sensible daughters, the awkward artfulness of the middle, and the exuberance of inexperience of the two youngest seemed incredibly likely. When I first began reading it made me homesick for the days I spent under my parent’s roof with my two brothers, and made me long for a large family of my own (but only for a moment! Five daughters!). Now that I think about it, it seems very rare for large families to be the focus of novels, though that could just be my under-read-ed-ness…

Can I just mention really quickly how surprised I am that I’m gushing over Jane Austen? If you told me this in 2012 I would have laughed heartily in your face.

This is where I must mention that I am incredibly fond of Darcy, and what a first name: Fitzwilliam :-)

Darcy is a man who, above all, and often to his dismay, is very shy (Jane, by the way, is the most exquisite representation of an actual shy person EVER. I would know, I’m painfully shy myself). He is also, at the beginning of the book, a pompous ass. Raised a high class gentleman and only ever exposed to those of his rank or very near below, going to the country with his friend, Mr. Bingley, and meeting a mother dying to marry off her daughters to the highest bidder, was not exactly what he was used to; the dances less sophisticated, the people far under-dressed, and seemingly much more simple minded, besides the fact that he knew no one present outside of who he came with. When confronted with the impression he made to others by Lizzie, he worked quickly to correct himself in all manor of ways; both in small details and grand gestures. The transformation of this man throughout the novel is so wonderful to read. I got to the point of giddy excitedness when Lizzy met him at Pemberley, and pretty much every time they met after that. Austen makes it impossible not to love him, but maybe I just have a thing for shy guys ;-)

Elizabeth Bennet is quite a character herself. She is outspoken and very sensible. She does and says what she thinks is right, which sometimes goes beyond her manners, though never too remarkably. She is one who isn’t afraid to point out faults of others when they affect her or her family, which is why Darcy is so taken aback by her; no one in his life has ever stood up to him the way that she does. She is her father’s favorite, and loves her family dearly. I’m sure that young spunky women were not prevalent in times such as these, but Austen captured one beautifully in Lizzie Bennet.

This book is not called Pride & Prejudice for nothing; Elizabeth and Darcy are both incredibly proud and prejudiced in their own ways; he against the lower class and she against the upper (although it’s not quite as simple as that). Since I did see the movie first, I never quite understood the title, but now after reading it’s perfectly clear. I’m actually really impressed with how well the book explains itself and the character motivations – the movie moves so quickly in parts that it is hard to understand why something happens, but the book almost spreads it out more, so things not only make much more sense, but seem much more likely.

I can’t express enough how glad I am that I read this book, especially because I did enjoy the movie so much. I encourage you, if you haven’t yet read it, to stop holding back! This book is so popular for a reason! I will also be writing a review of the Keira Knightley version of the movie this month, so if you’re interested in that, stop back by!

Until Next Time,
Emma