Friday, May 14, 2010
Reading the Classics with Paul- Jane Eyre- The Conclusion
Let me take another moment to point out that we have passed the halfway mark in our list of 10 Essential Classics.
The descent into darkness comes this week with a rather innocent seeming invitation by St. John for Jane to learn Hindustani with him. I thought this quickly and startlingly snowballed into St. John's proposing marriage to Jane with the pretense of the necessity for missionary women to be married, specifically her to him for her to join him in India. She, of course, refuses and we finally come to what I puzzled over long ago.
I'd mentioned an article I'd read in which the author claimed Charlotte Bronte had a very negative view of religion, specifically Christianity. Up until this point I thought the argument was at best a reach and at worst baseless. Now I think I see the source of that claim. St. John behaves beastly and I'm afraid we don't really have full resolution to this when we finally lay down our text aside from the wrap up letter (which seemed a bit little and late to me.) The worst, for me, was the implication by St. John that if Jane does not marry him, it is a sign of a reprobate soul. A shocking bit of spiritual manipulation (one that I wish I could say had no basis in reality of the behavior of members of the Church at certain points in history.) His argument, by the way, is a manifestation of the darker side of Puritanism, to judge the state of souls on the basis of actions.
Luckily, the sisters side with Jane and I certainly wasn't sorry to see St. John leave the story except that he had to end so ugly. Pride does wretched things to people.
But, before he does, we finally get our moment of breaking down the wall of the supernatural. We'd wondered if the story was going to outright allow for the supernatural. While one might argue for a shared unconscious impulse manifesting in similar ways by coincidence at the same time, I think it's clear that the link between Jane and Rochester is meant to be interpreted as extrasensory perception (or something of that sort of phenomenon. We are nearly a century before Jung at this point.)
Speaking of religion, there is the almost Catholic retribution that befell Rochester in our time away from him, but now he is as humbled as Jane is elevated. It was a beautiful ending and I did actually choke up a bit at the end. Again, what a wonderful book. I hope that all of you enjoyed it.
We've finally arrived at an exciting moment for me. Our next text is Shakespeare's masterpiece Hamlet. Next week, as usual, I will post a reminder to anyone who wants to read along where we will be reading. Until then, secure a copy of Hamlet for yourself. You'll be glad you did.