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Thursday, 16 January 2014

The uncle in "Jane Eyre", and other issues

As if it's not enough, this morning I found another problem with "Jane Eyre":
Why does John Eyre leave money for his niece Jane Eyre, whom he doesn't know, and who is told to be dead already? 
Suppose that Jane, after seeing Mrs Reed the last time and knowing about the letter, or later, when preparing to get married to Rochester, sends him a letter, I don't remember any correspondence between the 2 nor anything about the uncle, who is not mentioned until a long time later when he comes up in the conversations at St John Rivers's place. So what happens? Or perhaps there's some correspondence between the uncle and the niece but it's treated as insignificant and thus left out?

I reckon, Charlotte Bronte's life is both a good and a bad thing for her career as an author. Her greatest strength, as well as Emily's, is imagination. Her biggest fault, or, no, the biggest fault of "Jane Eyre" is that, for lack of experience and perhaps chance for observation, Charlotte doesn't let things take their course. Very often, one sees the author's hand move around, touch things, direct her characters. Many things in the plot become artificial, forced, unnatural, unconvincing, many of which I've mentioned before, such as that Jane runs away from Rochester to end up at the most impossible place, her cousins' home, and when the relationship between her and St John Rivers becomes difficult and suffocating, she comes back to Rochester to find him liberated from the mad wife, liberated from the horrible secret, whilst she inherits a fortune from an uncle she hasn't met, an uncle who is informed that she has died- in short, she comes back to find everything conveniently solved and all hindrances removed.
Also due to lack of experience, Charlotte cherishes the image of the Byronic hero and depicts as wonderful and happy a marriage which, perhaps not disturbing and unhealthy as some people have said, still makes one feel quite uneasy or at least unsatisfied with what is meant as a happy ending. One should not forget that Rochester lies to her many times, conceals from her the fact about his living wife, plays games with her feelings, flirts with Blanche Ingram to make her jealous, disguises as a fortune-teller to make her speak out her feelings, pretends to ask her to become a governess elsewhere, makes her suffer... (by the way, doesn't this make you think of Frank Churchill?) One should remember as well that Rochester can be dominating sometimes and insensitive to the way she feels ("He smiled; and I thought his smile was such as a sultan might, in a blissful and fond moment, bestow on a slave his gold and gems had enriched." See that?).
Furthermore, though her characters are not always her mouthpieces, because of lack of chance for observation perhaps, they don't have their own voices, and once in a while they say things that seem unauthentic, unnatural, unlike what such people may say. 

At the same time, there are some problems with views. Last time, on 22/12/2013, I mentioned her feminist orientalism. "Jane Eyre" has some lines such as: 
"Now, King Ahasuerus! What do I want with half your estate? Do you think I am a Jew-usurer, seeking good investment in land? I would much rather have all your confidence." 
"... Her mother, the Creole, was both a madwoman and a drunkard!..." 
"... I sought my ideal of a woman amongst English ladies, French countesses, Italian signoras, and German gräfinnenI could not find her.  Sometimes, for a fleeting moment, I thought I caught a glance, heard a tone, beheld a form, which announced the realisation of my dream: but I was presently undeserved.  You are not to suppose that I desired perfection, either of mind or person.  I longed only for what suited me—for the antipodes of the Creole: and I longed vainly. [...] The first I chose was Céline Varens—another of those steps which make a man spurn himself when he recalls them.  You already know what she was, and how my liaison with her terminated.  She had two successors: an Italian, Giacinta, and a German, Clara; both considered singularly handsome.  What was their beauty to me in a few weeks?  Giacinta was unprincipled and violent: I tired of her in three months.  Clara was honest and quiet; but heavy, mindless, and unimpressible: not one whit to my taste.  I was glad to give her a sufficient sum to set her up in a good line of business, and so get decently rid of her. [...] After a youth and manhood passed half in unutterable misery and half in dreary solitude, I have for the first time found what I can truly love—I have found you.  You are my sympathy—my better self—my good angel.  I am bound to you with a strong attachment.  I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one..."
And more: "... As she grew up, a sound English education corrected in a great measure her French defects; and when she left school, I found in her a pleasing and obliging companion: docile, good-tempered, and well-principled..." Oh horror! 
I'm aware that an author is a human being and a product of their time and place, but as I can't stand the sexism in August Strindberg's "Miss Julie" and can't forgive the stereotype of Asian women in Giacomo Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" and etc, I can't help noticing and feeling some kind of uneasiness at these lines in "Jane Eyre".

Guess I should stop here. In spite of all above, I'm not going to give up on Charlotte Bronte. Must give "Villette" a try.

5 comments:

  1. Villette is Charlotte's masterpiece - far superior to Jane Eyre. The heroine reminds me of a more passionate Fanny Price, and more realistic than Jane EYre

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    1. Humph, I still haven't read it. I tried once, then something happened.
      Thank you though.
      Does your name Caroline Helstone come from Villette?

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    2. Actually my pseudonym comes from "Shirley." It's not so good as Villette and lacks the power of Jane Eyre, but is far deeper and more realistic than Jane Eyre.

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    3. Right, right.
      Odd, I've read all 6 novels by Jane Austen, plus "Lady Susan", but haven't read anything by Charlotte Bronte except "Jane Eyre". Generally prefer Emily to Charlotte, but I guess it's too early to say.

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    4. Hey, I've just finished reading Villette!

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