Jane Eyre ~ Chapters XIV, XV & XVI

Chapter XIV

At first Jane sees little of Rochester, except in passing, but learns not to be offended at his cool acknowledgements, as she is clever enough to realize these funks are independent of her.  One day, he summons her and Adèle, and while the child opens her cadeaux with Mrs. Fairfax, Rochester and Jane begin a deep conversation.  Rochester claims that he was once as good as Jane, but circumstance and fate worked together to corrupt his nature.  Since fate has denied him goodness, he will do what he can to seize any happiness available to him.  Concerned, Jane counsels repentance but her employer is only willing to concede that he might reform.  Surprisingly, he shows tremendous insight  into Jane’s character, and when Jane feels the hour late, Rochester wishes to continue the conversation.  It is an important and illuminating first extended meeting between the two, where they connect on more than just a superficial basis.

The Conversation Piece
Henry Tonks
source ArtUK

Jane and Rochester’s conversation is absolutely fascinating.  They both speak of entirely unconventional subjects —- in fact, very intimate subjects —- and while both sense the oddity of their conversation, each is comfortable with it.  In fact, Rochester admits that he has given up acting conventional with her.  Jane, for her part, does not let Rochester get away with avoiding facing his demons, and many times challenges him or puts him in his place with a quiet grace that is very effective.

“I don’t think, sir, you have a right to command me merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”

Chapter XV

One afternoon, Rochester meets Jane and Adèle on the grounds and confides in her his boyish infatuation with a French opera-singer, Celine Varens, Adèle’s mother, when he was a young man.  Finding her with her lover, he turned her out, put a bullet in the arm of her lover, and assumed responsibility for Adèle, when Celine abandoned her.  She had told Rochester that the child was his but he could see no resemblance.  This story of passionate love, jealousy and betrayal should have shocked Jane, but she listens with quiet composure, and afterwards feels an increased affection for her charge. Rochester begins to meet her more cordially and Jane is gratified at his trust in her.  As her knowledge of him broadens, so does her opinion of his character:

“And was Mr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes?  No, reader.  Gratitude, and many associations, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the object I best like to see ….. Yet I had not forgotten his faults — indeed, I could not, for he brought them frequently before me ….. But I believe that his moodiness, his harshness, and his former faults of morality (I say former, for now he seemed corrected of them) had their source in some cruel cross of fate. I believed he was naturally a man of better tendencies, higher principles, and purer tastes than such as circumstances had developed, education instilled, or destiny encouraged.  I thought there were excellent materials in him; though for the present they hung together somewhat spoiled and tangled ….”

One night, Jane wakes to a familiar demonic laugh and finds Mr. Rochester’s bed in flames.  In desperation, she flings a pitcher and bowl of water over him, and when she relates her story to him, he makes her wait until he returns.  As he shows a deep gratitude for the service she performed for him, Jane is slightly uncomfortable with their closeness.  When she returns to her room, sleep evades her for the rest of the night.

So, here is where I think the sketching of Mr. Rochester’s character becomes important for an understanding of him.  Many readers dislike his dark, fitful and coarse personality, but it’s necessary to understand its source.  In these last two chapters, we are told that Rochester would have been as pure as Jane, if circumstances had not worked against him.  How he chose to meet those circumstances have perhaps moulded a rougher character, but the goodness of his character is merely buried under these traits.  Jane is one person who cares enough to search for the pearls in amongst the swine.

A Walk (1901)
Victor Borisov-Musatov
source Wikiart

Chapter XVI

Jane discovers that Rochester’s explanation of the fire to the staff is curious: he fell asleep with a lighted candle which caught his curtains on fire.  Jane wonders at his reticence and questions Grace Poole about the laugh, whereupon the servant answers as if she is cautioning her curiosity.  Jane expects to see Rochester that evening, but learns that he is gone and perhaps not soon to return.  He is visiting some ladies on the other side of Millcote, in particular, a Miss Blanche Ingram.  Jane gathers all the lady’s particulars from Mrs. Fairfax and then reproaches herself with a vehemence for dreaming of preference and flattery from her employer, things that can never be.  She is merely “… a Governess, disconnected, poor, and plain,” and can have no hope where he is concerned.  She finally forces her feelings to submit to sense, and is calm.

Avenue of Trees in a Small Town (1866)
Alfred Sisley
source Wikiart

Why, can anyone tell me, did Rochester leave so quickly and then decide to visit a possible female admirer?  Is he, too, disconcerted by the connection that he feels to Jane and wishes to sever it, or at the very least, test it?  Strangely, he doesn’t seem like a man to be so disturbed by his feelings.  Or does he have plans to return with Miss Ingram to test Jane’s feelings for him?  I suppose the latter is more likely.

I thought it unusual for Jane to choose to sketch her own portrait, then that of Blanche Ingram and compare the two to control her feelings of partiality for Mr. Rochester.  She is comparing outward appearance only, whereas Jane is intelligent enough to know that should not be of importance where love and respect are concerned.  As composed as she claims she is at the end of the chapter, she does not appear to be thinking clearly.

We also learn in this chapter that Mr. Rochester is nearing 40 years old.

Henry V by William Shakespeare

“From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered –
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that shed his blood with me
Shall be my brother.”

Written in the Second Period of Shakespeare’s development, Henry V is the eighth of his dramas, and part of the Henriad, his historical tetralogy which also includes Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2.  The play is thought to be composed late in 1598, as it was produced between March 17 and September 28th of 1599.

The earliest known volume is the first Quarto printed in 1600, which was followed by Q2 and Q3, reprints of the first edition, published in 1602 and 1608 respectively.  The first Folio edition differs extensively from the Quartos, as it is twice the length of the latter, which omits the first scenes of Acts I and III, the second scene of Act IV, the choruses and the epilogue, as well as some of the characters.  Prose is also transformed into metrical form, it can only be supposed to effect an increased length of the play.

King Henry V
source Wikipedia

Set in 1415, immediately before and after the events at the Battle of Agincourt during the 100 years war, Shakespeare appears to have deviated from his promise at the end of the play, Henry IV, Part 2, where he assured a reappearance of the bumbling, comedic Falstaff.  Instead, the play echoes of tones of impressive military management versus French incompetence, and a king who is lauded as a hero.  The play shows technical weakness with an awkward chorus who speaks a prologue explaining the upcoming scenes in the drama, however with the sources drawn upon (Holinshed’s Chronicle and an old play, The Famous Victories of Henry V) and his own additions, Shakespeare has shown a legitimate constancy.

With very little constructive plot, the play ties in various episodes in Henry V’s leadership role before and after the Battle of Agincourt. As it begins, Henry appeals to the Archbishop of Cantebury as to whether he is justified in his claim of the French crown.  Supported by his conscience, he feels a duty towards his French subjects, but the French king has another view of the matter.  When the French ambassador turns up in the English court with an insulting gift of tennis balls from the king’s son, the Dauphin, Henry is incensed, but manages to keep control of his temper.

“We are glad the dauphin is so pleasant with us.
His present and your pains we thank you for:
When we have matched our rackets to these balls,
We will in France, by God’s grace, play a set
Shall strike his father’s crown into the hazard.  
Tell him he hath made a match with such a wrangler
That all the courts of France will be disturbed
With chaces ……”

Henry will:

“…….. dazzle all the eyes of France,
Yea strike the Dauphin blind to look on us,
But all this lies within the will of God,
To whom I do appeal.”

Yet soon after this honourable rhetoric is delivered, he learns that his friend, Lord Scroop and two lords, Cambridge and Grey, are plotting his demise and the king is forced to dispatch them in an execution.  The injection of this betrayal is quickly presented and appears awkward and unconnected with the whole, but it does afford us some insight into Henry’s character and the historical situation.

Henry V Discovering the Conspirators
Henry Fuseli
source ArtUK

The scenes move from England, to an English camp in Harfleur, to the French camp, contrasting English courage, fortitude and skill to the French forces and strength which threaten their much smaller contingent, but exemplify a bombastic and almost bumbling French confidence of an easy victory, that is obviously misplaced.  The eve before the battle, Henry is represented as not only a capable king, but as a man of the people, as he walks among them in disguise, learning of their thoughts and opinions of the coming war.  His responsibilities rest heavy on his shoulders and he asks God for strength in arms and His favour, in spite of the fault of his father’s taking of Richard II’s crown.  With the French more than confident in their strength of arms, and the English somewhat dismayed by their lack of soldiers in comparison, the battle begins.  With some of Shakespeare’s trademark humour, the fighting continues until the English, against the odds, claim victory and peace is negotiated.  Henry then woos Princess Katherine, daughter of the French king, bringing together the two countries with the bonds of love.

Lewis Waller as Henry V
Arthur Hacker
source ArtUK

As for characters in this drama, the principle one is certainly Henry V.  Henry’s motivations for ruling France do not lie in personal, monetary or territorial gain, but in a sacred trust for which he feels responsible.  He shows a marked similarity to his father, Henry IV, both sewing their wild oats when young, but extirpating their follies and irresponsibilities in time of need of their country.  Both become strong, forceful kings with a material sense of duty, to both God and their kingdom, and who successfully protect English identity and sovereignty.  Even in presenting the English forces, there is a unity in their soldiers as we are introduced to Captain Jamy, a Scot, Captain Macmorris, an Irishman, and Fluellen, a Welshman.

My enjoyment of the play somewhat fluctuated throughout my reading.  While it has a simple charm about it and Shakespeare’s heroic rhetoric draws the reader in, it is obviously not as clever, or elaborately structured as many of his other plays.  The reader can admire and rejoice in the honourable and admirable traits of the English king, the incarnation of England itself, but there is a definite lack of density and richness that imbues his other plays.  Nevertheless, it is enjoyable in its own right and a fine ending to the Henriad.

Further reading:

Jane Eyre ~ Chapters XI, XII & XIII

Chapter XI

Brontë begins this chapter by likening the novel to a play and encourages the reader to not only read the story, but “see” it in their mind’s eye, as if it is being acted out on stage. It is a chilly October day as she waits for someone to meet her, feeling small and forgotten.  But soon a conveyance arrives and she is taken the six miles to Thornfield at a frustratingly slow pace.  Taken inside, she makes the acquaintance of Mrs. Fairfax and clears up her mistaken assumption that her pupil is Mrs. Fairfax’s daughter, instead learning the lady is only a servant, and Miss Adèle Varens is the ward of the owner of Thornfield, Mr. Edward Rochester.  As Jane wakes the following morning with risen spirits, the reader finally gets a description of Thornfield, not overly grand, but picturesque in its location.  Jane meets her student, Adèle, finding her pleasing, yet undisciplined towards work.  As to Thornfield’s owner, Mr. Rochester, she is told that he is frequently absent and is “peculiar”, but is unable to discover his peculiarities.  And near the end of the chapter while she is being given a tour of the house, Jane hears a loud laugh that chills her to the bone.  Mrs. Fairfax claims it is the laugh of a servant, Grace Pool, but those who have read Jane Eyre before know better, don’t we?

A Manor House in Autumn
John Atkinson Grimshaw
source Wikiart

Brontë emphasizes Jane’s isolation, as she is now like a ship “cut adrift from every connection, uncertain whether the port of which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted.”  

Strangely we get no description of Thornfield upon Jane’s first site of it, only the mention of gates, a house, and the front door opened by a maidservant.

After chill, and cold, and mist and generally a gloomy description of Jane’s setting throughout the book so far, I wonder if the scene of her waking at Thornfield is a sign of improved circumstance:

“…… The chamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shone in between the gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered walls and a carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained plaster of Lowood that my spirits rose at the view.  Externals have a great effect on the young: I thought that a fairer era of life was beginning for me, one that was to have its flowers and pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils.”

Chapter XII

Jane takes quickly to her new situation and while she appears content with her work, it is apparent that she longs for experience outside of her comfortable life:

“Anybody may blame me who likes when I add further that now and then, when I took a walk by myself in the grounds, when I went down to the gates and looked through them along the road, or when, while Adèle played with her nurse, and Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in the storeroom, I climbed the three staircases, raised the trap-door of the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over sequestered field and hill, and long dim sky-line —- that then I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen: that then I desired more of practical experience than I possessed, more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach …….. Who blames me?  Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented.  I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes …….  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 but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efrorts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, 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.”

And thus, remembering the thrill at Grace Pool’s first laugh, she becomes interested in the servant, as her behaviour is something out of the ordinary.

Three months passes and out of a chilly January afternoon walk, Jane encounters the foreboding sight of a dark rider on a tall horse which, after passing her by, slips on the ice on the causeway, causing a fall.  Summoned by the rider’s huge dog, Jane offers her assistance, only to find that her new acquaintance is rough, ill-humoured, cross and demanding.  Jane employs her usual quiet tact, get him seated again and on his way. While the encounter could not be considered pleasant, there was something exciting in the meeting and Jane is reluctant to return to Thornfield and its stagnant predictability. Eventually she enters, only to discover that the man she’d asssisted was in fact Mr. Rochester, her employer.

The First Meeting of Jane Eyre & Mr. Rochester (1914)
Thomas Davidson
source ArtUK

There is such a resonance of Jane’s searching for a meaning to life outside of social expectations, that is almost a physical desire within her.  One wonders if her attractions to Mr. Rochester will come, not because of his traits, but more because those traits also strain against those standards.   While in many ways, they are very different, Jane’s ready discernment recognizes a kindred spirit.

Chapter XIII

Jane and Adèle are summoned to tea with Mr. Rochester.  Let’s pause a moment and examine his description:

“…… I traced the general points of middle height, and considerable breadth of chest.  He had a dark face, with stern features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked ireful and thwarted just now; he was past youth, but had not reached middle age; perhaps thirty-five (from Chapter XII) ……. 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.”

And so through their tea-time conversation, Rochester learns that Jane is not a creature of convention, her conversation being at once meek yet pointed, quiet, yet stimulating, and her character respectable and admirable.  He inquires as to her history, examines her sketches, of which the reader is given a detailed description and questions her mood at their composition.  Abruptly he ends their tête-a-tête, and Jane finds out through Mrs. Fairfax that Rochester had an older brother now dead, Rowland Rochester, who conspired with their father to make Rochester’s life difficult in that the younger brother was never supported in a living.  It is wondered if this is the reason that Rochester is rarely at Thornfield.

Cloud over the calm sea (1877)
Ivan Aivazovsky
source Wikiart

I wondered at the extensive description of Jane’s watercolour sketches.  There is always something disquieting in them, such as a shipwreck, a corpse, twilight, dishevelled hair, a cold iceberg, a giant head and black drapery.  And always there is a suggestion of a woman, whether it be a bracelet, a fair arm, a woman’s bust, a bloodless brow, a ring …….  A woman and doom …. hmmm ……..

In the last chapter, while we saw Jane engaging easily with Rochester because of his unconventionality, in this chapter we experience the reverse.  He is becoming fascinated with her because of her sincerity, conviction, insight and her willingness to be herself in spite of conventionality.  The story is becoming even more interesting!

The Runaway by Anton Chekhov

I’m trying to get back on track with my Deal-Me-In Challenge, and I finally drew the first short story of the year, The Runaway by Anton Chekhov.

Science and Charity (1897)
Pablo Picasso
source Wikiart

After a long journey, young Pashka and his mother wait at the hospital to see the doctor. Pashka has a boil on his elbow, but the mother has waited too long and the doctor scolds her, declaring that the wound is infected and the boy may lose his arm.  A stay is required, about which Pashka is not thrilled but he is lured by the doctor’s promises of seeing a live fox and eating sugar-candy.  After a sumptuous dinner of soup, roast beef and bread, the boy awaits the doctor to honour his commitment but when he doesn’t come, he explores the wards, finally returning to his own where he hears the patient, Mikhailo, coughing and wheezing.  When he wakes late in the night, he finds three people at the dead Mikhailo’s bed, yet when they leave, the old man’s chest wheezes again.  Terrified, Pashka screams for his mother, leaps out of bed and tears through the wards and into the yard, intending to run home but a graveyard looms ahead, and Pashka is intensely relieve to spot the kind doctor through a window in a building.  When he burst inside the doctor’s words echo:  “You’re a donkey, Pashka!  Now aren’t you a donkey?  You ought to be whipped ….”

The Runaway (1958)
Norman Rockwell
source Wikiart

Well, what to make of that?  There is the danger of infection, the tension of being separated from his mother, the doctor’s promises that manipulate (for good or ill, who knows) yet come to nought, the wards of sick people and the boy’s terror, perhaps at hearing a dead man who appears to still live.  It’s curious, especially since Pashka’s condition appears serious, yet the reader never has a whisper as to its outcome.  Chekhov himself spent most of his life in the medical profession, so one wonders if he is also exploring the psychological methods physicians might use on their patients.  Through the boy’s eyes the doctor is “kind” but is he really?  The boy has a serious medical condition yet no one seems to be rushing him to surgery, and the doctor has promised many delights for Pashka and is delivering none of them.  What is behind Chekhov’s tale?  Is it a simple tale or a story with a deeper meaning?

Birthhouse of Anton Chekhov
source Wikipedia

Deal Me In Challenge #11