Septemb-Eyre: Post #1 (Chps 1-11)

“Holy deep thinking/philosophizing, Batman!” I had forgotten how deep and in-depth a lot of the thoughts that young Jane had. Her conversations with her friend Helen Burns were pretty deep too.

Jane begins life with the Reeds who are begrudgingly caring for her. There is mental and physical abuse. The first touch of the gothic comes into the story at the Reed’s house too. When Jane is locked in the RED ROOM (where her uncle died), she may or may not have seen a ghost and has an episode that involves swooning/fainting (how gothic!). She eventually gets sent to a school for “delinquent” girls. There she meets dear, sweet Helen.

Helen’s views often conflict with Jane’s. Her opinions on justice and self-worth are those of a much older, wiser individual, and she often challenges Jane’s own comments (often made in the heat of the moment). Jane seems to take a lot of what Helen says to heart. While she still is more fiery than Helen ever is, she seems to begin to become more content in her situation rather than plot ways to lash out or focus on the injustice of her life. I think she finds a happy medium for sure. Is it blasphemous to say Helen seems a bit too soft and submissive? Perhaps a bit too perfect? Too much of a martyr? SPOILER! SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH!!!! I suppose that’s kind of the point. Helen is the angel who is perfect yet readily accepts others’ unjust criticisms. She literally becomes a martyr whose life changes Jane and whose death truly becomes a turning point in Jane’s life.

As I alluded to in my first Septemb-Eyre post, I kind of want to focus on my read with the end in mind. Having said that, I will remember a lot of what Jane learns during her time at school in order to see how it fits in with the end. After all, not only does Jane develop intellectually at school, she also develops emotionally and (dare I say) spiritually.

Helen: “I hold another creed…it extends hope to all; it makes Eternity a rest–a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his crime; I can sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last: with this creed revenge never worries my heart, degradation never too deeply disgusts me, injustice never curses me too low; I live in calm, looking to the end.” Chapter 6

Jane: “You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so; and you have no pity.” Chapter 4

Jane: “…to gain some real affection from…any other whom I truly love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest.” Chapter 8

I’m going to keep these in mind as I read to see how they come back. It seems like these are beginnings of philosophies that will affect how adult Jane handles life and its struggles.

Also…anyone else so appalled by the young Misses Brocklehursts?? Mr. Brocklehurst said that they were always so impressed by the humility of the girls at Lowood because they all seemed in awe of their clothing as if they’d never seen anything so fine. Well of course not! Your uncle degrades them to the lowest possible state! Then when they showed up at the school all fancy with bouncy, fancy hair and clothes and Mr. Brocklehurst (in their presence) tells the teachers to cut all the girls’ hair because it is too fancy and not plain enough for  good Christian girls!?! Grrr…. If I were at Lowood I too would need a friend like Helen to keep me in check and keep me from doing something to get me expelled…

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8 thoughts on “Septemb-Eyre: Post #1 (Chps 1-11)

  1. “Is it blasphemous to say Helen seems a bit too soft and submissive?” – I loved Helen but I had thoughts along these lines as well. I totally agreed with her when she told Jane: “By dying young I shall escape great sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world; I shall have been continually at fault.” I would be a lot more anxious for an adult Helen than for the now-adult Jane.

    • I agree with you on that quote. Helen probably actually benefited from dying young. As you point out, she might not do as well in the hard world as an adult as Jane will. It’s quotes like this one from chapter 6 that bug me: “Cruel? Not at all! She [Miss Scatcherd] is severe; she dislikes my faults.” and “I am, as Miss Scatcherd said, slatternly…This is all very provoking to Miss Scatcherd who is naturally neat, punctual, and particular.” These quotes are basically in defense of very unfair and border-line cruel punishment that is doled out to Helen. It is one thing to have a philosophy that compels you to submit in even unfair circumstances (which Helen eloquently lays out in chapter 6), a philosophy that causes you to look past yourself and see how actions you might take against injustice will affect those you love or your future. It is another thing to deny that the injustice has occurred. I suppose that Helen’s greater point is even if an injustice has occurred there is nothing that can be done about it so why worry. She is just soooo perfect!

  2. Helen was too sweet to last. I can’t imagine what life would have done to her had she survived. She and Brocklehurst are polar opposites, considering she wants and believes only in the cool relief of Heaven and he believes he knows who is bound for the fiery pits of hell. The contrast helps Jane find her place in the morality scale. She is the broken but unbowed type, and thank goodness for that. She see the hypocrisy and loathes it and she keeps just enough fire over the injustice of it all, to keep her striving.

    • I love your idea of Helen and Brocklehurst as foils of each other (I believe that’s the right literary term…)! It had never occurred to me. On one hand you have someone so perfect, so angelic that every time I pictured her in my mind’s eye, there was literally soft, white lighting hitting her and radiating off of her. Meanwhile you have judgmental, arrogant Brocklehurst. Both are battling for Jane’s very soul. It’s a very great comparison!

  3. The Miss Brocklehursts (or Brocklefarts as Andi called them) reminded me somewhat of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, they take so much joy in the pitiful state of those other little girls.

    Also, I love that quote you highlighted from Chapter 8. I hadn’t paid particular attention to that one, but agree that it could prove of the important sort.

  4. Hallo Alison,

    Earlier today, I couldn’t sort out where you were coming from with a comment on Maggie’s blog, but now that I have read your take on these chapters, and read through the comment thread, I am starting to pin together a bigger picture! I am still not in total agreement, which is alright, as I think reading lends itself to be objective and subjective to each reader’s collective experiences, both in life and literature. We pull together our impressions, opinions, and musings of what we read by the whole of which makes us view them at the time we pick up the book!

    I do agree with Joanne above who brings up the theory of Burns + Brocklehurst to be the perfect foes to empathsis the war for Eyre’s soul and heart. I also feel they were either going to spoil or preserve her heart, as one so fiery as Eyre, their heart is usually at risk for being too cold or hard lateron in life, if they do not overcome their circumstances in a way that allows a measure of understanding to take root. To transition through adversity rather than to beheld to it!

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