CSLJ Book Club Jane Eyre Discussion – Day 2

We’re continuing our conversation about Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, Jane Eyre. Today’s discussion questions are:

  1. What do you think of the character of Jane Eyre? What makes her such an interesting and compelling heorine?
  2. How does Jane compare with other female characters in the book (Blanche, Bertha, Helen, etc.) and do you think that the differences and/or similarities have any significance?
  3. Do you think that Jane Eyre works as a modern or feminist character or is she limited by the culture and era she lived in?

Leave a comment to this post with your thoughts and opinions or visit this post on the  C. S. Literary Jewelry Facebook page and chat with your fellow Jane Eyre fans there!

You can also see the rest of our Jane Eyre Book Club posts and weigh in on the other discussion questions here.

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11 Responses to CSLJ Book Club Jane Eyre Discussion – Day 2

  1. Thank you for posting the link, “11 lessons.” Good article!

    This is the essence of feminism, don’t you think?

    “Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”

  2. Absolutely! I would also argue that the fact that she was willing to stand up to Mr. Rochester even though she loved him is also a major indication of an early feminist character.

    I mean, when she thinks he is going to marry Blanche Ingram but is still amusing himself with her, she calls him on it and when he asks her to run away with him and be his mistress, she resists the temptation. But what is really great in my opinion is when they are in love and engaged to be married, he’s trying to change the way she dresses, buy her expensive things, tells her to stop teaching Adele, and keeps trying to put her up on a pedestal and she just won’t have it. Although she loves him, she insists on keeping her own identity and occupation and won’t let him turn her into an unrealistic ideal.

    Jane’s efforts to love but not be swallowed up by that love is amazing and something that women are still trying to learn even today!

  3. I like Jane for her authenticity and lack of slyness. There are some characters I travel through a story with and some that I become as I read. Jane is one of the latter due to her honesty. It is not hard to feel her loves, disappointments and her instinctive trust. I am not sure the author had the same intention for the other female characters. They are perhaps not as fully flushed out as Jane, maybe written a little more one-sided so as to help us see Jane better.

    • That’s a great point Kirsten. I could definitely see how Blanche, the Reed sisters, Helen, and the Rivers all help develop Jane’s character – if only by contrasting her with what she is not. But I think the character of Bertha is something even more. I’ve read commentary that suggests that Bertha and Jane are linked – that Bertha is sort of a shadow figure to Jane or representation of Jane’s inner turmoil. Some critics think that it is interesting that every time Jane is upset or ueasy, Bertha usually acts out. For example, right after Mr. Rochester tells Jane about all his mistresses, Bertha escapes and sets fire to his bed. When Mr. Rochester tries to trick Jane with that old Gypsy woman thing, later that night Bertha attacks Mr. Mason. And only when Bertha – wild, angry, sexual, and uncontrollable Bertha – is killed, only then can Jane settle down into marriage and motherhood. I am not sure I agree with the theory but it is definitely an interesting one to consider.

  4. Agreed. Feminism is not new by any stretch of the imagination. I think its all in how one is brought up. Jane was brought up to be independent, whether or not that was the intention (as everyone seemed to ignore her unless they were torturing her). Once you develop such a strong identity as she did in order survive, no one is going to take that from you. And no way was Rochester going to take that from her.

    I believe that most women of that time, depending on how they were reared fell into one of these basic categories. 1) the well bred lady who would do anything to get a husband. 2) the well bred lady who had the support of a parental figure to push boundaries (I think of Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice here). 3) The not so well bred lady who forged her own way and became a spinster or governess to the end of her days or 4) In the case of Jane, forged her own path and found a man that she could stand up to or that could just accept her for who she is.

    • I am not sure I agree that Jane was brought up to be independent. Yes, she was expected to provide for herself because no one else would do it. But because she was not wealthy, attractive, or had any rank, the way she was expected to do that was to be subservient to her “betters” because if she displeased them, they could turn her out and she would be destitute.

      I think that makes her willingness to say what’s on her mind even more extraordinary. When she first meets Mr. Rochester and he asks her if he thinks he is handsome, I think he is kind of shocked (and intrigued) that she tells him right to his face that he is not, especially as she had no job security or safety net to fall back on if he was insulted enough to fire her.

  5. Sorry I am late in giving my opinion to the questions of day 2. Here they are. I just want to say though that everyone has really good points. Makes me want to read the book again now that I have more wonderful insights from everyone 🙂

    I like Jane. I like the way she is her own person. I like how she really knows herself on the inside and does not compromise with what she feels is right. I liked her conversations with Rochester when he would call her to the parlor at night to talk. He would say…bla bla bla and I pictured her rolling her eyes and thinking, well, I’m not gonna puff you up, I’m telling you how it is.

    I believe she is modern, feminist and also limited by her culture and era. She has a strong sense of justice. She is not willing to only do what is expected of her. For example, she loves Rochester but is willing to leave him and everything behind becasue she does not want to be his mistress. To walk out of a situation and leave everything behind that you know can be a frightful situation. She didn’t want to change and conform to Rochester when he tried to change the way she dressed.

    • I think their conversations are one of my favorite things about the book. My husband and I get into conversations like that where everyone around us is looking at us funny – like Mrs. Fairfax does to them – but we are totally getting what the other person is trying to say.

      I think Jane’s ability to hold her own in their conversations and not be intimidated by his manner or tempted to flatter him because of his wealth and position is one of the reasons Rochester fell in love with her. I know it is one of the reasons I did!

  6. I really adore Jane. I love her determination to not falter in her beliefs are great. I love everyone’s points on this discussion. I think that’s a very intriguing theory on Bertha being Jane’s inner turmoil. I don’t agree with it either. I do feel though that it makes me think that Jane is an even better person. Mr Rochester has just told her about all his mistresses (which of coarse would be upsetting if you had feelings for someone to hear about) and yet she still goes and checks on him thus saving him from the fire.

    • You know, that’s an interesting point. So often in books of this era, especially if there is a romance involved, the heroine inevitably gets into trouble and the hero has to rescue her. In Jane Eyre, Bronte reverses the old Damsel in Distress trope and has Jane rescue Rochester.

      Definitely one more reason Jane Eyre is rather bad-ass.

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