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lördag 23 juli 2016

Some reflections on Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre

Q: Pride and Prejudice can be said to represent Neo-Classicism and the Age of Reason, whereas Jane Eyre is is a novel of the Romantic era. How are the two periods reflected in the novels? Consider the heroines and their situations in life, the heroes, the kind of events that make up the plots, the role of Nature, the tone of the narrative.

PP Neo-classicism Age of Reason

female protagonists Elizabeth Bennet is educated and intelligent. She says “He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal." This is a rational argument why they should be considered equal. She has reflected on why they are equal. She is not just upset lady Catherine implies they are not.
male protagonists Fitzwilliam Darcy is a thinking man. Even though feelings influence his thinking and acting too (of course, otherwise he wouldn’t be human). When he decides to marry Elizabeth he thinks of how inappropriate it would be.
events Charlotte marries Mr. Collins for his money
nature Pope, who is considered Neo-Classical, thinks nature is the ultimate authority ( In Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth walks in mud (and nature is what makes mud). Therefore she is dirty when she arrives at Bingley’s, which makes Ms Bingley look down on her, so nature inflicted on their relationship.
tone The narrator is a non-limited third party narrator and therefore sees things objectively without having feelings of his/her own.

JE Romantic

female protagonists The whole novel focuses on Jane’s feelings and her inner development. Jane is passionate and believes in God. 
male protagonists Edward Rochester is a passionate man, even though it leads him astray and cause him to flirt with Jane when he is married to someone else. Also Edward develops in the sense that he regrets his lustfulness.
events Jane wants to have made a fortune on her own before she marries Edward. When she has done so, Edward has lost his fortune and Jane still considers them equal since they now are morally equal, which they weren’t when he didn’t tell her he was already married.
nature “Have I not described a pleasant site for a dwelling, when I speak of it as bosomed in hill and wood, and rising from the verge of a stream? Assuredly, pleasant enough: but whether healthy or not is another question.
That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of fog and fog-bred pestilence; which, quickening with the quickening spring, crept into the Orphan Asylum, breathed typhus through its crowded schoolroom and dormitory, and, ere May arrived, transformed the seminary into an hospital.” According to Alfred J Drake ( nature in Romanticism is a vehicle for self-consciousness, which I think that quote describes. It is also a source of happy feelings.
tone The protagonist is the narrator and therefore subjective, focusing on her own feelings.

Q: Read through the article on “Types of Novels” enclosed in this compendium. Which of the different genres would you be able to fit these novels into?


Picaresque No, it is colourful, but that’s not sufficient to call it picaresque.
Epistolary No
Three-decker Yes
Historical No (Well, now it is)
Regional Yes
Satirical Yes
Bildungsroman No
Roman à clef No
Thesis Yes, equality and marriage for love
Roman/gothic No
Roman-Fleuve No
Roman feuilleton No
Science fiction No
New novel No
Metafiction No
Fantastic No
Fabulation Certainly not. Definitely talks to the reader.
Magic realism No
Faction No


Picaresque No, it is colourful, but that’s not sufficient to call it picaresque.
Epistolary No
Three-decker Yes
Historical No
Regional No, since it has five different locations
Satirical No
Bildungsroman Yes, since it describes Jane’s development
Roman à clef No
Thesis Female strength
Roman/gothic Yes, since the ghost of uncle Reed appears, Jane and Rochester communicates supernaturally and Jane mistakes Pilot for a gytrash.
Roman-Fleuve No
Roman feuilleton No
Science fiction No
New novel No
Metafiction No
Fantastic Most certainly not. One could of course interpret Rochester’s talk to Jane as something she imagines and that the appearance of ghosts is just in her head. The Gytrash is of course “fantastic”. However, one should probably read it as Jane actually encounters ghosts.
Fabulation No, she has an agenda (feminism).
Magic realism Partly. It is supposed to be realistic psychologically.
Faction No

Q: The famous first sentence of Pride and Prejudice brings up the theme of marriage and money, which seems to involve all the characters of the novel in some respect. This sentence also sets the tone of irony, which pervades the novel. Which characters are the main targets of Austen’s irony and what are their positions on the question of marriage? What factors would you say emerge as truly essential in Austen’s view on marriage?

Fitzwilliam Darcy – impolite, for example not asking girls to dance with him since he looks down on them
Mr. Bennet – Sarcastic "Already arisen?" repeated Mr. Bennet. "What, has she frightened away some of your lovers? Poor little Lizzy! But do not be cast down. Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to be connected with a little absurdity are not worth a regret. Come, let me see the list of pitiful fellows who have been kept aloof by Lydia's folly."
Mrs. Bennet – She lives just for getting her daughters married, and still repels the men they could have got otherwise.
George Wickham – a bad person, who takes money for not becoming a priest, lies about planning on becoming a lawyer and wants to marry for money (which was not necessay for a man).
Lydia Bennet – shallow, thinks she will be chosen because she is the tallest one of the sisters. Only looking for partners att the ball. Chooses wickham in spite of his wretchness.
Mr. Collins – pompous ”give me leave to observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in point of dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom”
Miss Bingley – rude and snobbish "For my own part," she rejoined, "I must confess that I never could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin; her complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all handsome. Her nose wants character—there is nothing marked in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine, I could never see anything extraordinary in them. They have a sharp, shrewish look, which I do not like at all; and in her air altogether there is a self-sufficiency without fashion, which is intolerable."
Lady Catherine de Bourgh – Snobby and rude. The whole start of chapter 56 is an example of that, when she says ”that” instead of ”she”.
Charlotte Lucas – Marries for comfort "It may perhaps be pleasant," replied Charlotte, "to be able to impose on the public in such a case; but it is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded. If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark. There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. We can all begin freely—a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten a women had better show more affection than she feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on."
Catherine Bennet – Only wants partners at the ball and is flirting with the soldiers.

Jane’s view: “Your plan is a good one," replied Elizabeth, "where nothing is in question but the desire of being well married, and if I were determined to get a rich husband, or any husband, I dare say I should adopt it. But these are not Jane's feelings; she is not acting by design. As yet, she cannot even be certain of the degree of her own regard nor of its reasonableness.”

Q: In our century Jane Eyre has been acclaimed as an early feminist novel. Find passages that you feel support this claim.

1 “It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: 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 restraint, to 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.”

2 Again the surprised expression crossed his face. He had not imagined that a woman would dare to speak so to a man. For me, I felt at home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve, and crossed the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their heart’s very hearthstone.

3 [“But I apprised you that I was a hard man,” said he, “difficult to persuade.”
“And I am a hard woman,—impossible to put off.”]

4 “It would do,” I affirmed with some disdain, “perfectly well. I have a woman’s heart, but not where you are concerned; for you I have only a comrade’s constancy; a fellow-soldier’s frankness, fidelity, fraternity, if you like; a neophyte’s respect and submission to his hierophant: nothing more—don’t fear.”

5 “Keep to common sense, St. John: you are verging on nonsense. You pretend to be shocked by what I have said. You are not really shocked: for, with your superior mind, you cannot be either so dull or so conceited as to misunderstand my meaning. I say again, I will be your curate, if you like, but never your wife.”
6 [“It is you—is it, Jane? You are come back to me then?”
“I am.”
“And you do not lie dead in some ditch under some stream? And you are not a pining outcast amongst strangers?”
“No, sir! I am an independent woman now.”
“Independent! What do you mean, Jane?”
“My uncle in Madeira is dead, and he left me five thousand pounds.”
“Ah! this is practical—this is real!” he cried: “I should never dream that. Besides, there is that peculiar voice of hers, so animating and piquant, as well as soft: it cheers my withered heart; it puts life into it.—What, Janet! Are you an independent woman? A rich woman?”
“If you won’t let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an evening.”
“But as you are rich, Jane, you have now, no doubt, friends who will look after you, and not suffer you to devote yourself to a blind lameter like me?”
“I told you I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress.”
“And you will stay with me?”
“Certainly—unless you object. I will be your neighbour, your nurse, your housekeeper. I find you lonely: I will be your companion—to read to you, to walk with you, to sit with you, to wait on you, to be eyes and hands to you. Cease to look so melancholy, my dear master; you shall not be left desolate, so long as I live.”]
7 "“How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth. 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. I shall remember how you thrust me back—roughly and violently thrust me back—into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day; though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with distress, ‘Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!’ And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me—knocked me down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard-hearted. You are deceitful!”"
8 [“Well,” I asked impatiently, “is not Mrs. Reed a hard-hearted, bad woman?”
“She has been unkind to you, no doubt; because you see, she dislikes your cast of character] (That she is a strong woman, I take it.)
9 "Mrs. Harden, be it observed, was the housekeeper: a woman after Mr. Brocklehurst’s own heart, made up of equal parts of whalebone and iron." (Strong)
10 "He said something in praise of your eyes, did he? Blind puppy! Open their bleared lids and look on your own accursed senselessness! It does good to no woman to be flattered by her superior, who cannot possibly intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded to, must lead, ignis-fatus-like, into miry wilds whence there is no extrication." (The marriage-part takes away a bit of the feminism, but she has to be realistic as well. At least she does not think it is necessary to get approval.)

Q: In both novels there is a turning-point somewhere around the middle. What are these turning-points and how do they affect the heroines?

Jane Eyre: When St John asks her to move with him to India. This is when she realises she has to go back to Rochester.

Pride and Prejudice: The turning point is when Mr. Darcy sends her the letter, explaining why he telling Bingley to leave Jane alone and tells the truth about Wickham.

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