CSLJ Book Club Jane Eyre Discussion – Day 1

Hello everyone! Welcome to Day 1 of our discussion of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I hope you had fun reading Jane Eyre and are as excited as I am to be staring our discussion of the book! Today’s discussion questions are:

  1. What did you think of the book?
  2. Were there any specific parts / characters / quotes that you particularly liked or disliked? If so, why?
  3. For those of you who had read the book before, did your impression of it change since your last reading?

Leave a comment here with your thoughts about the book or head over to the CSLJ Facebook page and join in the discussion there!

And be sure to stop in tomorrow for part 2 of our discussion.

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25 Responses to CSLJ Book Club Jane Eyre Discussion – Day 1

  1. I joined this book club because I thought it was a great idea to have an online book club and I liked the choice of books being read. I love to read but I usually read true stories. However, I wanted to expand my reading to include books I might not otherwise read. I am ashamed to say that this was my first book by Charlotte Bronte.

    I loved the book and would like to read other books by Charlotte Bronte. Jane Erye is a character that draws you in and articulates her thoughts and feelings in the situations she is in to give insight to the reader as to her thought process and why she does what she does.

    I think the character I liked the least was St. John Rivers. I didn’t mind him in the beginning but when his true nature came out and he tried to talk Jane into marrying him to go be a missionary I was afraid she would relent and go! I believe she would have relented had it not been for Mr. Rochester in his moment of despair calling for her.
    I couldn’t wait to find out the secrets in the Thornfield house but I had no idea that Mr. Rochester was already married! And to a mad woman!? No wonder Grace Poole got paid all that money and kept to herself in the attic. It all made sense then. I loved the twists and turns this book took. I liked how Jane was independent, even to the men in her life who tried to take charge of her. However, I don’t understand how she almost relented to St. John Rivers. So glad she didn’t!

    • Hi Robin! I love your comments on Jane Eyre and I couldn’t agree with you more about Jane’s independence.

      It may be odd to compare these two books, but there were parts of Jane Eyre that reminded me of a line from Harry Potter where Dumbledore says that as hard as it is for someone to stand up to their enemies, it’s even harder to stand up to one’s friends. It was great to watch Jane stand up to people like Mrs. Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst, but what I really appreciated was watching her stand her own even against people she loved, like Mr. Rochester and to a lesser degree, St. John.

      Even before Jane finds out about the mad woman in the attic, she is still standing up to Mr. Rochester, refusing to let him change her into something she isn’t, buy her expensive things, or make decisions without her input. With St. John, I think part of the attraction was the novelty of travel and the challenge of the work he asked her to undertake. At several parts in the book, Jane speaks of being restless, looking for change and stimulation, and traveling to India would have certainly provided that. Had he been willing to have her go without marrying him, I think the book might have ended differently.

  2. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I have read Jane Eyre. It’s one of my favorites and I love picking it up for a quick re-read now and again. One of the things I loved about reading it for this book club was that knowing that I would be talking about it in detail with all of you guys made me slow down and take my time while reading it this time around.

    What I think I like the most about this novel is how complex the characters and their relationships are. We think of Rochester as big, bold, and virile but every time I read the book, I am struck how much hurt, distrust, and vulnerability is lurking under his gruff and sarcastic manner.

    I am also fascinated by a lot of what goes on between the lines of the story, like how could Mr. Rochester’s family have betrayed their own flesh and blood like they did or how much did Mrs. Fairfax know about the mad woman in the attic and why she didn’t do more to warn Jane.

    Jane Eyre is the only Charlotte Bronte novel I have read. I have a tendency to return to the comfortable and the familiar a lot more than I should, but after reading Jane Eyre this time around, I am beginning to feel like it might be time to broaden my Bronte horizons. I’ve had Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey on my to-read pile for a while now but now I am planning on adding Villette to the list as well.

    • *Agnes Grey* is a splendid case study of a woman forced to be a governess to the kind of brats poor Jane was being raised with! Haven’t read *Tenant* yet – on my list, definitely.

      I read *Villette* years ago, and I remember being surprised at the political and sociological nature. Issues are addressed more directly, as I recall, and I liked it a lot.

      • My cousin read Tenant and strongly recommended it to me so it is high on my to-read list – so many books, so little time.

        As for Agnes Grey, it really sounds interesting. I wonder how the children she had to teach compared to the brats that the Ingrams were to their governesses. The scene in Jane Eyre where they are bragging about how they tortured their teachers, like it was something to be proud of, always bothered me and proved that Blanche Ingram was not a nice person!

  3. This was my first time reading Jane Eyre and anything by Bronte. However, I feel like I had tried reading it before as the opening scene was exceedingly familiar.

    One of the best things about this book, that I need to point out right now, is how much I loved it and became invested in the characters. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so passionately about individual characters in a book.

    I absolutely love Jane. Her spunk and independence and she’s not afraid of anything or so it seems. Her vitality is something to behold. Especially at such a young age, and her humanity. Even after being cast out of her aunts house, and making her way in the world she goes back to care for her ailing aunt. Her aunts own children can’t do anything or don’t care to do anything as they are so wrapped up in their own selves and here is Jane as selfless as ever.

    I admire her greatly for taking to finding a position for herself when she realized that the Lowood School no longer held any sway over her. She just packed up her bags and went and made her way at Thornfield. Ever curious, and then Rochester. I…..personally I don’t like him, I didn’t from the moment he appeared on his horse. I can see what drew them together, but the lying, and hiding of the first Mrs. Rochester (yes I know she wasn’t his choice – but still). The way he always wanted Jane around when he had his company and Thornfield, but expected her to break with the societal standards, instead of just talking to her his dang self. St. John I do believe would of been much better if he wasn’t such a missionary at heart and could of let himself love and be loved in kind.

    Everyone in this book had secrets and all were secrets seemingly kept from Jane. The identity of her uncle, the knowledge of Mrs. Rochester, and everything nearly ends up in ruin because of them, though it does all work out for the best in the end.

    The vibrant colors which Bronte used to paint the scenes, was wonderful. I really felt like I was walking through the moors and standing with Jane when she came upon the burnt ruin on the house. She was a powerful writer and I know I look forward to re-reading the book over again.

    • It’s interesting that you don’t like Rochester – although I can definitely see your point – because he is considered one of the great romantic heroes in literature. Have you read Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights? If so, how do you think he stacks up against characters like Mr. Darcy or Heathcliff? If you were Bronte, would you still have had Jane end up with Mr. Rochester or would you have left her independent but unmarried?

      • Jane had to be married – she needed to be loved as much as she needed to love. I wish Bronte hadn’t needed to maim Rochester in order to give Jane the sense that she was as needed as she was needful, but –

        (I loathe Wuthering Heights; the only good thing about it is the song it inspired Kate Bush to write…)

        • I agree that Jane had a real need to love and be loved. I think you can see that when she inherits the money from her uncle and she is able to bring the River sisters home and fix up the house for them. Other than when she is reunited with Rochester at the end of the book, it is the happiest we ever see her.

  4. How on earth is he a romantic hero???? I guess I’d have to re-read to the book and maybe it will sink in. He is definitely not a man I would want to be involved with.

    It’s funny that you mention Darcy because I was comparing the two men a lot in my mind. Darcy is an arrogant pain in the bum. He is so stiff and formal, but with someone like Lizzie at his side I don’t see him getting away with it very often. I’m curious to know what happened after they get married. Also Darcy is honest and maybe more closed mouth because he doesn’t know how to express himself. Whereas Rochester expresses himself quite plainly and is deceitful by omission.

    I haven’t read Wuthering Heights since high school so I can’t compare him to Heathcliff.

    If I were Bronte, I would of either had Jane stay independent and unmarried or perhaps married at a later age with someone better suited for her. But the heart wants what the heart wants and her’s wanted Rochester.

    • I guess it depends on your definition of “romance,” and what attracts you. Jane must have been entranced by him as the first truly intellectual man she’d met, especially as she realized early on that he enjoyed sparring with her and provoking her to think and respond to questions she’d never had a chance to discuss. Also, he’s described as ugly, but very powerful – again, something new, coming from a world of women, with her only real exposure to men being her the hideous Master John and Brocklehurst. I image there was some sexual component to her attraction to him.

  5. I think that there is a lot more in common between Darcy and Rochester than you are giving them credit for. With Darcy, it’s hard to see that he is a kind and nurturing man who is trying to look out for his friends and family’s best interests because of a social awkwardness that makes him uncomfortable around people he doesn’t know and a certain amount of class superiority and snobbishness that Elizabeth helps him recognize and get over. The change in Darcy isn’t so much that Elizabeth will keep him in line but that she helped him become self-aware enough to recognize that there were some things he needed to change.

    With Rochester, he’s very gruff, sarcastic, secretive, and holds people at arms length but I think that might be a defense mechanism against being hurt or betrayed again. But I think that if you look past his attitude, his actual actions are very kind. For example – even though he had a more remote property where he would never have to encounter Bertha again – he refused to send her there because the surrounding environment was unhealthy and there were breakouts of disease there – not unlike the school where Jane was sent- and he says that he couldn’t cause Bertha’s death – even indirectly – despite the fact that it would free him. And he tries to save Bertha from the fire – maiming himself in the process – when no one could blame him for letting her perish in a fire she set. He takes Adele in – even believing that she wasn’t his. So often, his actions are of a caretaker, even if his manner of doing things contradicts that.

    As for Bertha, institutionalized care was even more inhumane at the time than being locked in an attic with a private caretaker and clearly she couldn’t be left to her own devices if she was setting fires and attacking people. From a modern perspective, with advances in medication and treatments for mental illness, we can look at the madwoman in the attic and think “how awful!” but in the context of the times, it might have been one of the kinder things he could do for the woman.

    But, even as he cares for Bertha in the best way he can, I could definitely see his logic about why he wasn’t really married and was free morally – if not legally – to find what happiness he could find with Jane. Of course the deception was wrong but without access to a divorce or annulment, he didn’t seem to have many options and was a bit desperate.

    When Jane comes back into his life – financially independent with a home and family – but still chooses to stay with him despite him loosing his sight, his hand, and his mansion, I think he can allow himself to trust more and show more of his kinder self.

    Just my thoughts.

  6. I’m enjoying the conversation and reading your rebuttals I absolutely see your point. He is humane, taking Adele as a ward, keeping Bertha locked away in the attic rather than a lunatic asylum (where I wouldn’t want keep a rat let alone a human being in those days). I have been short sighted in that respect and I will admit I am definitely looking at it through the lens of a modern day woman, who has worked with people in domestic violence situations and his attitude to me is trigger-y. I sometimes need to stop myself and remember that the behaviors were different.

    I’m going to actually watch a version of Jane Eyre, is there one that you would recommend? I want to watch the characters interact and get a broader perspective that way as well. =)

    • I agree that his attitude needed some major adjustment before he could be in a healthy relationship. The guy had major trust and control issues – issues he came by honestly but still issues that needed to be addressed – and in some ways, it was almost a good thing that the wedding was forcibly delayed so that both Jane and Rochester could work out their own issues before attempting a real relationship.

      But where I give Rochester credit – as opposed to Wuthering Heights’ Healthcliff who was violent, brutish, and abusive, is how often his demeanor and his actual actions contradict each other in a good way. Too often a character – like a Wickham or Willoughby from Jane Austen – will say all the right things and then their actions prove them to be hypocrites and liars but with Rochester, it’s actually the direct opposite, where his actions prove him to be a kinder man that he would admit to being.

      As for a movie version of the book, I’ve never really seen a Jane Eyre film or adaptation that I loved so I am not sure I can make a good recommendation. However some of the ladies who visit my Facebook page are much more knowledgeable about such things so if you asked around there, you would probably find some good information. If you find one you love, let me know. I would love to check it out!!

  7. I had read Jane Eyre many years ago; however, I love rereading all of my books again, again, and again.

    While this is not my favorite of this genre, I do like Jane. She’s strong, independent, and knows in her heart what’s right (even though she’s not sure why at first). I really feel for Jane as an orphan at a time when events are not in her control. But she doesn’t see herself as a leaf in the wind, and that’s what I really enjoy about her!

    This book needed the other good and bad characters to show the complexity of Jane’s character, like Mrs. Reed’s meanness against Helen’s calmness. I like that Jane is able to see through Rochester’s harsh and brutish personality when he seems like we (the readers) do not want to find anything good in him. I think it’s difficult for the reader to understand how Rochester’s entire household can keep Bertha a secret from Jane, but maybe that’s how this society was at that time.

    One of my favorite scenes in this book is when Jane learns that she’s inherited money that could mean so much to her, if she were of a different personality. However, she doesn’t see it as the end of her suffering. St John’s character seems more suited to Jane, and I think she believes this, too (for a while); however, Jane eventually listens to her heart AND her mind.

    • I always thought that it was a shame that Helen Burns died so early. She and St. John would have been very suited to each other. They both represented one end of a spectrum that Jane struggles to find her place on. On one end, you have the self-denying, repressed personal passions and emotions being sublimated for duty and religion and on the other end of things you have fiery, passionate, personal wants and desires trumping social laws, customs, and rules as represented by Mr. Rochester to some degree, and in its extreme form by the mad woman in the attic.

      Jane seems to be move along this spectrum. As a child she had fits of passion – speaking out against Mrs. Reed, her fit in the red room, protesting her treatment at Lowood. But counseled by Helen and Mrs. Temple, she masters her emotions and grows to be a much more contained person but even then, she still bursts out against Mr. Rochester when she thinks he will marry Blanche (the famous “I am no bird” speech) and refuses to allow St. John to bully her into a passionless life.

      It’s only when Jane (and to some degree, Rochester) learn how to reconcile passion and society that they can be happy.

        • Oh my! Poor St. John doesn’t seem to have many fans around here! I am definitely with you that he wasn’t the right guy for our Jane and she made the right choice by not going with him but is he really that bad?

          and I think it’s really funny how we all think he’s so selfish and self-absorbed but the character – and a lot of the original readers of the book – would have seen him as selfless and self-sacrificing.

          • St. John was a bully, as much as Master John Reed was a bully, although less of a liar. His religion had nothing beautiful about it – no love, no joy, no heart – and he wanted Jane to emulate that arid version of God’s creation. Some people, even now, would think that he was a good, Godly man – but I disagree. He wanted to use Jane as surely as any master uses his slaves or serfs.

            I didn’t get a sense that he had any love for the people he was to minister to — what kind of (ahem) missionary position is that? (ahem)

  8. Like others have said, I can’t count the number of times I’ve read this book. It was the first classic book I bought myself (I blogged about it recently), and it’s been a joy since I was very young. Each time I read it, I seem to focus on something different.

    My favorite quote changes, too. A few years ago, I treated myself to a silver necklace with a quote from the book engraved on it: “surround us with a ring of golden peace.” It’s from the end of chapter 22, after Jane has returned from visiting her dying Aunt Reed at Gateshead. I love it. I also love Jane’s indignant “I am no bird” speech, avowing that she has as much soul and heart as anyone.

    I do love Jane’s realization that Miss Temple’s departure takes from her the serenity she had achieved at Lowood, allowing her own inclinations to manifest again. She has more self-knowledge than many who have had the time and encouragement to examine her soul!

    St. John is one of the most monstrous characters **EVER** – don’t you think? Selfish, priggish, cold, all head/no heart. I doubt that he even has a soul to save.

    • That’s a very good point about how Jane is very self aware of her need for challenge, stimulation, society, and variety. I will also add that she was extremely brave to strike out on her own like she did. She could have easily lived her life as a teacher a Lowood – trading a life of monotony but security for an uncertain life that at least has the possibility of finding fulfillment in it.

  9. I don’t see St. John as monstrous. I think he was trying to live up to an concept that is very alien to us and not tempered by the love and compassion that we (hope to) see in men of faith but again, I think it’s a matter of culture and context.

    The stern, mortify your body and desires and take up your cross sort of servant of God was considered an ideal to aspire to – and while St. John had no pity or tenderness to show towards Jane and he certainly felt he was in his rights to pressure and bully her to do what he thought was right – at least he wasn’t expecting her to live up to a standard that he, himself, wasn’t trying to meet. Unlike almost any other religious figure in the book – *cough Mr Brocklehurst* he wasn’t a hypocrite and I do think that should count for something.

  10. Sorry this is so late to the conversation but I’ve been so very busy at work. This was my first time reading Jane Eyre or any Bronte books. I will definitely be checking more out in the future though. I absolutely LOVED this book. It has become a favorite of mine and I can not wait to read again. I got so very interested in all the characters and even knowing what was going to happen, from having seen the Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska movie, I still got very into all the twists. I really love Jane’s character. I like that no matter who it is trying to get her to change whether it be friend, foe, or lover she just doesn’t falter on knowing who she is and standing up for herself. I really wish that I had had this book in my life much sooner I think maybe I could have learned a lot from her character earlier in my life but I’m going to think more like her on the future. I found it great how Jane not only goes to take care of her Aunt but also stays to be with her cousins. They aren’t even that nice to her now and she still just makes sure they are ok and get to their destinations. My favorite quote is Mr. Rochester’s rib speech. I think the book is so great in pointing out the secrets that everyone keeps and how it can hurt someone’s life whether it be your own or someone else’s (been trying to get myself to type that sentence for fifteen minutes I kept typing lyrics from the romantics “secrets that you keep” song, got it stuck in my head). I found all your conversations about Mr Rochester so interesting. I can see why someone wouldn’t find him very romantic especially since he keeps saying things that sound terrible. I think all his actions though definitely do speak for themselves though. I wanted to cry when he was so hurt by he fact that Jane wasn’t crying after their failed marriage attempt. I could just feel his heartbreak in his words. This book is full of so many people for you to dislike it’s so very hard to pick just one. I totally agree with everyone trapping Mr Rochester in to such a marriage with Bertha was the worst offense but while I was reading it the strongest dislike I felt was for St John.

    I would really love to thank you Kerry. I really enjoyed this book and I’m very excited to read the next days of discussions. I’m loving everyone’s feedback it’s so amazing to hear everyone’s differing opinions.

    • Hi Leslie! I am so glad that you could join us. I was looking forward to hearing what you thought of the book because you had mentioned that it was your first time reading it.

      I really enjoyed reading your comments about the book, especially when you said:

      “I wanted to cry when he was so hurt by he fact that Jane wasn’t crying after their failed marriage attempt. I could just feel his heartbreak in his words.”

      I keep thinking about how after his family lied to him and both Bertha and Celene flattered him at first and then turned around and cheated on him and revealed how little they thought of him, that he must have had a lot of trust issues and that Jane’s habit of speaking her mind to him without sugar-coating it must have been part of the reason why he fell in love with her. But this moment and when she first comes back to him after living with the Rivers, you can really see how he never quite trusts someone to really love him.

      • Yes totally. He is so gruff with everyone because everyone hurts him. Everyone wants something from him, except for Jane. If I were him I’d be very untrusting as well. I’m so glad they were married in the end but I do wish that Charolette hadn’t mammed him so much, but at least he was regaining some sight in the end.

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