Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jane Eyre Part One: A How-To Guide for Awful Parenting

Told you I'd be back! It's finally time to start our new reading material: Jane Eyre. This classic novel by Charlotte Bronte (still have no idea how to do the double dot over the e thingy, sorry) was published in 1847 under Charlotte's male pseudonym, Currer Bell. She had to pretend to be a man to get published. What utter bullshit. Anyway, let's get to it.

Chapters 1-3

It's important to note that this book is being told as an autobiography. An older Jane is looking back
Book selfie!
and narrating her life. I'll refer to older Jane as Narrator Jane when it is necessary.

Young Jane is sitting inside on a blustery, stormy day. She is glad of the weather, as she doesn't like to take walks. I can relate. Very slowly, she starts to release information about her life to the reader. There are three other children in the house, to whom she feels inferior. There is Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed. She lives with them and their mother, Mrs. Reed, who is Jane's aunt.

The other three children are currently seated with their mother, excluding Jane. Mrs. Reed keeps Jane at a distance because she is a sullen child. Mrs Reed wants her to, "acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner," and until she had done so, "she really must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children." How, exactly is Jane supposed to cheer up if she is excluded? How the fuck is that supposed to work? When Jane asks what she has done to deserve this treatment, Mrs. Reed tells her she doesn't like people who ask questions, especially children who ask questions. She basically tells this little girl to shut up and go away. This is her caretaker, mind you. Also, Jane is 10 and both her parents are dead. Fuck you, lady.

Jane goes to a different room to read a book about birds. She sits in a window seat and pulls the curtains around her to read Bewicks's History of British Birds. She doesn't really care for reading it, she enjoys the pictures of the birds. The illustrations are all of exotic birds in far away places. She first mentions the sea-fowl on their "'solitary rocks and promontories' by them only inhabited." This is a direct reference to Jane herself, who is alone. She is abandoned in a desolate place. Sure there are people around, but they are actively cruel to her, as you will soon see.

She reads for a while before John Reed comes in. He calls her Madame Mope. What a fucker. This kid is a real piece of work. He's basically every spoiled rich white boy cliche rolled into one awful person. He can't see her because she's behind the curtain, so he calls out to his sisters that she is gone. They came and tell him where she is, because all these kids are the worst. Jane leaves her hiding place and asks what he wants. He commands her to call him Master Reed and tells her to come over to where he is seated like the fucking king shit he is. We get a bit of background on John. He's 14, large, fat, and currently home from school because his mother thinks he is homesick. John is pretty much a rude piece of shit to everyone, but especially to Jane, whom he hits and abuses  every chance he gets. He does this in front of people and is never reprimanded. His mother basically worships the
Seriously, what an evil little bastard.
ground he walks on.

Jane is standing in front of John when he suddenly hits her, but she doesn't fall. He says he did so because she didn't answer when Mrs. Reed called, because she was hiding, and "for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!" What an awful person. No wonder poor Jane is always sullen. He asks Jane why she was behind the curtain and she tells him the truth. He tells her that she has no business reading his books, because she is a dependent has nothing of her own. He tells her that she aught to be a beggar and not be brought up like a lady. He says he's going to teach her a lesson and says to go stand in a corner. When she does so, he hurls a book at her, hitting her in the head. Her head starts to bleed and she yells at John that he is a, "Wicked and cruel boy," and compares him to a slave-driver. He says he's going to tell his mother because he is a less interesting Draco Malfoy, but first, he wants to finish beating all holy hell out of Jane. He pulls her hair and calls her rat again. They are separated by some servants, Bessie and Abbot, who blame the whole thing on, you guessed it, Jane. Mrs. Reed comes and tells the servants to take Jane to the red-room and lock her in.

The red-room is an old, unused room in the house. In this room, Mrs. Reed's husband died nine years previous. Master Reed was Jane's mother's brother, so he was the only one she was really related to. Someone is systematically wiping out Jane's entire family and she is going to get to the bottom of it. This is really a detective novel. Not really, but someone should write an AU about that. Get on it, squad! Anyway, Jane is locked in this eerie room, still bleeding from the head, where her last family member died. He was the one who took her in and made his wife promise to care for her after he died. Great fucking job she's doing, huh?  The servants tell her that she is wicked and that Mrs. Reed might send her away and she would be justified in doing so. They tell her that she needs to be humble and agreeable or God may punish her. Wonderful thing to tell small orphaned child who is being horribly abused by everyone around her. Just, really A+ parenting there.

The servants leave Jane alone in the room. Jane's anger stews, which is understandable. She realizes that she isn't wanted in the house, that she is a monkey wrench in Mrs. Reed's perfect family. She blames herself for not being able to be what the family wants. Again, she's 10 and her whole family is dead. I perma-hate these people for treating her like this and it's been two chapters. Motherfuckers.

The sun starts to set and Jane is getting scared. She thinks that Master Reed's ghost may come to her because she is being mistreated. She recalls ghost stories where just that thing happened. She suddenly sees light on one wall that wasn't there previously. Narrator Jane assumes that it must have been light from someone walking by with a lantern, but young Jane panics and starts banging on the door, asking to be let out. The servants come and tell her that she is bad. Mrs. Reed comes and tells her that she is a liar and just pretending so that she will be released. She demands the servants put Jane back in the room. They do so and Jane faints.

Jane wakes up in her bedroom. She is confused and starts thinking she is in a hell-like place. She soon realizes that she's in bed and a fire is burning to keep her warm. So, she's not entirely wrong. One of the servants, Bessie, is there with her and another man. The man, Mr. Lloyd, is an apothecary who is sometimes called when one of the servants is ill. The Reeds see a physician, of course. Mr. Lloyd is very kind and caring with Jane and she is relived to see him. He tells her that she will recover and leaves, saying he'll be back again the next day.

Bessie asks Jane if she needs anything and Jane says no. Bessie leaves Jane to sleep and walks into her apartment. She tells another maid to come sleep in Jane's room together with her, saying totally within Jane's earshot, that Jane may die that night. Lovely. Jane goes to sleep after hearing them talk for a little while.

The next day, Jane is not physically sick, but just feeling melancholy. She doesn't have any interest in the
Just wanted to lighten the mood.
things she typically likes. She doesn't eat or drink, just sits by the fire. She tries to read Gulliver's Travels, which is her favorite book, but she suddenly find the illustrations, which she once found wonderful, to be unsettling and desolate. Bessie sings a song about a poor orphaned child (which is really a poem by Charlotte Bronte). This makes Jane cry, because she is a poor, orphaned child. Bessie really should have thought of that before.

Mr. Lloyd comes to see Jane again. They talk for a bit. Mr. Lloyd asks Jane why she's crying and Bessie says that it's because she didn't get to go in the carriage with the others. Bessie really doesn't get it. Nobody really understands Jane AT ALL. Jane asserts that that's not why she was crying, she's crying because she's miserable. They talk about what happened the day before, about Jane getting knocked down and being ill. Bessie leaves for dinner, leaving Jane with Mr. Lloyd. They talk about what happened in the red-room, about the ghost, and Mr. Lloyd starts asking Jane if she wants to leave the Reed's house. She says that if she had anywhere else to go, she would go. He asks if she would want to go live with other family members if they were poor. Jane, being a child, says no. She doesn't want to be a beggar. Mr. Lloyd then asks the magical question, "would you like to go to school?" Jane gives an enthusiastic yes.

Just then, Mrs. Reed arrives back home. Mr. Lloyd goes to talk with her about Jane and recommends that she be sent to school. Mrs. Reed agrees. The servants, again within earshot of Jane, talk about how Mrs. Reed will be glad to be rid of Jane and her scheming. Jane says that the servant thought of her as a "infantine Guy Fawks," which is a pretty awesome image. Someone should draw that for me. I'll put in the next post!

Jane overhears the servants say that  Jane's father was a poor clergyman. Jane's mother had married him against her father's wishes and been disowned. They both caught typhus and died within a month of one another. The servants talk about how a different child would be more pitiable in the same situation. If Jane were more attractive, they would feel bad for her, but since she isn't they don't really care. Assholes. These are some really awful people. They then talk about food and leave.


Now the title of this post makes sense, doesn't it? Everyone goes out of their way to make Jane's life a living hell. She isn't liked by anyone, she's tormented and excluded by people who are supposed to be her family, and she is told that she is ugly and bad all the damn time. I have never felt quite so bad for a literary character. This girl has had a rough ten years and she's only been alive for ten years. Holy shit, that's awful. However, the fact that this is the way the book begins is genius. This immediately makes you root for Jane. We are aligned with her from the get-go because she is so down-trodden. It's really very effective.

I'm really looking forward to reading this book, so I might actually finish it in a timely manner. Hopefully. Maybe.

Until Next Time, Happy Reading.

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