Chapter 8 (Pages 68-75)

Jane undergoes major changes and learns necessary lessons under the influence of Helen Burns and, to a lesser degree, of Miss Temple.

Released from her public punishment, Jane is overcome by humiliation and despair; she "ardently" wants to die (p. 68). The conversation between Jane and Helen (pp. 69-70) has a life-long effect on Jane's values and guides her behavior as an adult. Helen advocates living according to one's own conscience, i.e., according to an absolute set of principles:

       If all the world hated you, and believe you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends (p. 69).
The truth of Helen's words will be proven when the greatest crisis in Jane's life arises; the only guide and support she has is her own belief system and her sense of her own self-worth. Jane, ruled by her emotions, cries:
       No; I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough: if others don't love me, I would rather die than live--I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen. Look here; to gain some real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or 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 (pp. 69-70).
The intensity of her emotion rises to near-hysteria. Helen warns Jane, "you think too much of the love of human beings" (p. 70) and urges her to rely on God and talks of the spiritual world all around them. The spiritual world and God's love are far more important in Helen's scale of values than this material world and human love. Helen is guided by reason and religious belief, not ruled by passion like Jane. Is Helen a spokesperson for Bronte, i.e., is she expressing Bronte's values and views? You may not be prepared to answer the last question yet.

For the first time in her life, Jane is given a chance to defend herself against unjust treatment and accusations. Emotionally worn by her earlier outburst and warned by Helen against denouncing Mrs. Reed, she decides to tell her story in a "most moderate--most correct" manner (p. 71). This decision is significant in terms of Jane's learning to guide emotion with reason. Miss Temple promises to investigate; Jane's reasonable speech and behavior immediately elicit a positive response from an adult in authority. At Lowood, Jane will learn that she can succeed through her own efforts and win acceptance. At the Reed residence, Gateshead Hall, her behavior had no effect on the way she was treated; no matter what she did or how hard she tried, she was rejected and abused.

A week later, Miss Temple clears publicly Jane of Mr. Brockelhurst's charges. How does being publicly exonerated affect Jane? Is learning that she has the ability to affect her own life an important lesson? She becomes an excellent student, is proud of her accomplishments, and wins the approval of her teachers. As a result of these successes, Jane says, "I would not now have changed Lowood with all its privations for Gateshead and its daily luxuries" (p. 75).

Chapter 9 (Pages 76-83)

With the coming of spring and typhus, Jane thinks seriously about dying "to go who knows where" and makes her "first earnest effort to comprehend...heaven and hell" (p. 80). Helen, with her dying words, provides an answer to Jane's questioning. Helen's faith in God sustains her and she looks forward to being in His presence, "I rely implicitly on his power and confide wholly in his goodness; I count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore me to him, reveal him to me" (p. 82). Helen assures her that they will see each other in heaven. Jane, as an adult, has an unwavering faith in God, but Jane the child lying in Helen's death bed still has doubts. Is it likely that watching Helen die firmly believing in a loving God will have a powerful effect on Jane?

How important is Helen to Jane? Jane raises a tombstone on her grave fifteen years later; remember that Jane is only ten years old when Helen dies. Also Jane refers a number of times in this novel to Helen. "Resurgam" means "I shall rise again." Does Jane's choosing this epitaph indicate anything about her own faith or have any connection with Helen's deathbed conversation?

One last question about Helen's death: Helen says that she is happy to be dying because she doesn't have the "qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world" (p. 82). Is this an accurate statement? Why or why not? Is the same thing true of Jane?

Chapter 10 (Pages 84-94)

What Jane learns from Helen she internalizes, i.e., it becomes a part of her value system and affects her emotional responses, behavior, and decisions. Miss Temple, on the other hand, serves as a model of behavior only so long as she is present. Consider her description of Miss Temple:
            Miss Temple had always something of serenity in her air, of state in her mien, of refined propriety in her language, which precluded deviation into the ardent, the excited, the eager; something which chastened the pleasure of those who looked on her and listened to her, by a controlling sense of awe (p. 73).
So long as Miss Temple serves as Jane's "mother, governess, and, latterly, companion" (p. 85), Jane is contented at Lowood. But when Miss Temple marries and leaves, Jane becomes discontented with the inactivity and confinement of Lowood. Her own nature or essential self reasserts itself,
I had undergone a transforming process; that my mind that put off all it had borrowed of Miss Temple--or rather that she had taken with her the serene atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity--and that now I was left in my natural element, and beginning to feel the stirring of old emotions. It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn, but rather as if a motive were gone; it was not the power to be tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was no more (pp. 85-6).
Alone, she goes to the window and looks at the road and horizon. Is there a symbolic significance to Jane's looking out the window? Is it a symbolic barrier between her and the wide world that she yearns to be involved in? Jane describes this turning point in her life,
I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: "Then, " I cried, half desperate, "grant me at least a new servitude!" (p. 86).
Even in the midst of intense emotion, Jane is aware of her financial constraints and social limitations and accommodates herself to them.

The eighteen year old Jane has lived a sheltered life, first at Gateshead, then at Lowood. What traits does her placing a personal ad and finding employment reveal about her? Would Hedda Gabler, say, be capable of such an action?

Bessie's visit serves several functions: it establishes Jane's credentials as a lady (social status is very important to Jane) and her superiority to her cousins, Georgiana and Eliza; it confirms Jane's plain looks (she isn't being modest when she refers to them); and it prepares for later action with the reference to an uncle. After living at Lowood for eight years (stasis), Jane journeys to new life, new experience.

Chapter 11 (Pages 94-109)

Jane is pleased with but wary of Mrs. Fairfax's welcome and feels relief at learning she is the housekeeper, not the mistress of the house, "The equality between her and me was real; not the mere result of condescension on her part; so much the better--my position was all the freer" (p. 102)? As a housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax is an upper servant; her social status is higher than that of the maids, cook, butler, etc. Her higher status keeps her from socializing with the lower servants, so she is delighted at the arrival of a governess, who is also an upper servant. They are social equals.

A discordant note is introduced and dismissed with the reference to Bluebeard's castle and to a strange laugh (pp. 108-9). The laugh comes from a common-looking servant. Does Jane give in to imagination, or has there been some growth since her Red Room experience?

Chapter 12 (Pages 110-120)

After a few months of the uneventful, limited life at Thornfield, Jane becomes restless again. She wants "more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach" (p. 111). Jane spends time on the roof, looking at the countryside and horizon. Her imagination is stimulated by visions of the "incident, life, fire, feeling, that I desired" (p. 111). Jane is aware that many people would disapprove of her discontent and desire for a more active life, and she defends her discontent,
            It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility; they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. 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 constraint, too 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 (pp. 111-12).
Richard Chase calls Jane Eyre "a feminist tract" and refers to this passage. Is it a feminist statement? As you read the novel, think about whether Jane Eyre is a feminist novel. You might want to define "feminist."

In her restlessness at the confinement of Thornfield, Jane walks to town. Jane offers to help a man whose horse has fallen. Based on his description, do you expect him to be the hero, the villain, someone unimportant? Jane briefly describes Rochester's appearance on page 115. On page 118 she reflects on his unfamiliar appearance; his face "was masculine; and, secondly, because it was dark, strong, and stern." The next description is considerably longer,

I knew my traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw--yes, all three were very grim and no mistake. His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy; I suppose it was a good figure in the athletic sense of the term--broad chested and thin flanked, though neither tall nor graceful (p. 122).
Rochester is presented as intensely masculine, with an emphasis on his power, energy, and forcefulness. With the repeated descriptions is there a suggestion of physical or sexual attraction on Jane's part? Do any qualities in Rochester's description suggest sexuality?

Jane says she wouldn't have insisted on helping if he had been "a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman" (p. 115). Why does she feel this way? Does she feel that an attractive man would not be interested in an unattractive woman? She explains, "I should have known instinctively that they neither had nor could have sympathy with anything in me, and should have shunned them as one would fire, lightning, or anything else that is bright but antipathetic" (p. 116). This is Jane's first explicit reference to people having an affinity because they are of the same kind or nature. This affinity will be an important element in Jane and Rochester's relationship.

Rochester's abruptness puts her at ease. Why? Is Jane comfortable with rude behavior because of the abuse she suffered as a child? Does she accept it because it is familiar to her?

After the horseman leaves, she feels invigorated (p. 118). She feels that, however briefly, she was active and that she was involved in a new experience, however unimportant. She says she "did not like re-entering Thornfield" (p. 118), which she refers to as "stagnant." What causes her reluctance?

Chapter 13 (Pages 120-130)

Jane is pleased that the owner of Thornfield has returned, "a rill from the outer world was flowing through it; it had a master; for my part, I liked it better" (p. 120). People are coming and going; there is activity; Thornfield has become exciting. Jane's desire for activity and involvement in the world is being fulfilled by Rochester's return.

In their conversations, she is put at ease by his "harsh caprice" (p. 122); is she possibly used to being abused? is she comfortable with harsh treatment? She explains that his rudeness gives her the advantage and "Besides, the eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant: I felt interested to see how he would go on" (p. 122). Rochester is an unknown type to Jane (think of how few men she has had contact with in her restricted life at Gateshead and Lowood). Is he interesting to her because his behavior and conversation are unlike any she has experienced?

How would you characterize their conversation? Is it conventional, trivial, challenging, for instance? Does Jane hold her in the conversation? You may find these questions easier to answer after reading the next few chapters. Keep in mind that Rochester is a man of the world, almost twice Jane's age, which is only eighteen.

She shows him her paintings. Without trying to assign a symbolic reading to them, what would you say they reveal about Jane's nature and emotional state when she painted them? Why does Rochester ask if she was happy when she painted them?

Bronte Syllabus

Day 1
Bronte, Online overview
Jane Eyre, pp. 6-68
**Supplemental Reading**
      The Novel
Day 2
Jane Eyre, pp. 68-130
Day 3
Jane Eyre, pp. 130-184
Day 4
Jane Eyre, pp. 184-244
Day 5
Jane Eyre, pp. 244-302
Day 6
Jane Eyre, pp. 302-355
Day 7
Jane Eyre, pp. 355-417
Day 8
Jane Eyre, pp. 417-461
**Supplemental Reading**
      Jane Eyre as the Other

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