Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book #33 - Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

I have blogged on whiskey before...both bourbon and rye. And in fact that's my normal blogging state. I've also blogged on rum, for "Treasure Island" and "Robinson Crusoe" in particular. And I seem to hazily remember blogging on absinthe as well (gee, why would that memory be hazy?). But tonight we're in unknown territory...I'm blogging on Vicodin! Woohoo! What's up with that? Well, I went to the dentist earlier this week because I needed a crown on one of my molars. So he put a temporary one on while I wait for the permanent crown to be made, and he said the tooth might hurt a bit. Well, that's the understatement of the frickin' year. The past few days it's been aching and throbbing worse and worse, which according to the dentist means I may have to get a root canal on the tooth. Oh yeah, that is so awesome. I've been taking Advil, which has so far warded off the pain for a few hours at a pop, but tonight the throbbing seems to have launched into a whole new order of magnitude. So I was faced with a choice...suffer, drink lots of booze, or take a Vicodin. I opted for the Vicodin. And guess what...this stuff works! An hour after taking it the pain has largely subsided. But of course, now I feel all lightheaded and a bit loopy, so I thought "Hey, it's the perfect time to blog!". Hopefully I won't lapse into gibberish...although come to think of it, that might make this blog a bit more interesting. Nah, but that won't happen, I'm fine. In fact I could blogsh miffleplix skjri theurkst, gs. zzzz

Woops. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, "Jane Eyre". I started this book last weekend, and I'm almost a third of the way into it. I read Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" in high school, and of course I've seen Monty Python's semaphore version of "Wuthering Heights". But that's been my only Bronte experience until I picked up "Jane Eyre" last week.

My immediate thought after just a few pages was that Charlotte Bronte is a really good writer. This book moves along snappily, and keeps me pulled in. I found when reading Dickens I would sometimes suddenly realize I had no idea what was happening, and I'd have to read over the last paragraph or page very carefully to try to parse out what the heck Dickens was talking about. There's something about the density of his wording and his use of colloquialisms that can make certain passages a bit rough going at first. But Bronte's writing just moves along, and I've had no such incidents of confusion.

And it's not just the writing style...I love the character of Jane. When we meet her, Jane is an orphan living with the Reed family. Mr. Reed had been Jane's uncle, and he took her in when her parents died of typhus. But then Mr. Reed died, and Mrs. Reed has no liking for Jane, to put it mildly. Neither do the three Reed children, who are all raving assholes. So Jane is miserable, and gets taunted and beaten by the children, and blamed for everything by Mrs. Reed. Yet Jane is not a passive victim. She's bold and assertive and independent. She's a survivor. And she can be fact, there's one scene where she confronts Mrs. Reed, standing up to her and calling her on her shit, and I immediately thought of Holden Caufield...Jane can pick out the phonies. But my favorite quote from Jane, at least so far, occurs when Mrs. Reed decides to ship Jane off to boarding school to get rid of her. The headmaster of the school comes to their home and is quizzing Jane. The conversation goes like this:

Headmaster: "No sight so sad as that of a naughty child...especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?"
Jane: "They go to hell."
Headmaster: "And what is hell? Can you tell me that?"
Jane: "A pit full of fire."
Headmaster: "And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?"
Jane: "No, sir."
Headmaster: "What must you do to avoid it?"
Jane: "I must keep in good health and not die."

God, that's funny. In that passage Jane reminds me a bit of Maggie in "The Mill on the Floss" (although Maggie was a bit crazier than Jane). These Victorian women writers can write some strong women characters, that's for sure.

Anyway, Jane goes to boarding school, where conditions are bad...Dickensian, in fact. That changes when typhus sweeps through the school, killing off many of the students, and the locals then realize how bad things are there, and thus they force improvements. So the school gets better, and Jane gets her education. She eventually becomes a teacher at the school, but soon gets bored and longs to see more of the world, so she gets a job as a governess to a girl living on an estate called Thornfield. The owner of the estate, Mr. Rochester (no, he's not from upstate New York) is rarely present. But as Jane gets settled in, Mr. Rochester suddenly makes an appearance. And that's as far as I've gotten. But I'm eagerly waiting to read soon as this Vicodin wears off and the toothache is resolved.


Anonymous said...

Hi there! I have kind of taken on a similar challenge, myself! I recently have become obsessed with Jane Eyre and now a friend and I have created a Bronte-Along to get a bunch of people to read the books, watch the movies and craft or make art related to them! I have watched the 2006 Masterpiece Theatre Jane Eyre about 25 times in the last month. AND IT'S 4 HOURS LONG. Did I say 'obsessed'?

After the Brontes we are going to have an Austen-Along and I'm sure it will just continue after that.

I had never read any of this stuff or had an interest in doing so. But now I am on a mission, like you!

I will have to check out your archives and add to my own list!

SocrMom78 said...

After you finish "Jane Eyre", you'll have to check out Jean Rhys' "Wide Sargasso Sea". It is supposed to be the 'prequel' to Jane Eyre, told from the point of view of Bertha Mason, the madwoman of the attic.

Eric said...


It's kind of a prequel, but in some ways it's also like an alternative history or version too because I think the time period in Wide Sargasso Sea is slightly later than the time period of the events in Jane Eyre.

I wrote my own thoughts on Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre on my blog. WARNING! Plenty of SPOILERS. Only read the posts if you don't mind spoilers and/or have already finished the books.

Anonymous said...

hi there....stumbled upon this blog. as a addicted, impatient(i often read the back page sometimes during the middle of a book, because i can't wait for the that bad?, and always optimistic reader, i am somehow thrilled and fascinated with Your project, You being a scientist and INTERESTING scientist even. ....anyway, i don't know how to contact You, sorry to use this thread to post this, but i was wondering if You'd heard of Madame Bovary...i really think You might consider adding it to Your list. :) - joni

Robby Virus said...

Hi Joni, Thanks for your input! I didn't include "Madame Bovary" on my list because I read it when I was in college. It is indeed a great book. I have another Flaubert book on my list: "A Sentimental Education".

Anonymous said...

I'll have to read that one! I just acquired Moll Flanders. I believe You gave it a favourable review, and yes, the title pulled me in, too! A more modern book, but one which blew me away is Michener's "The Source", which is an archeological journey through various eras in time. Very well written. Although I'm not a huge fan of Michener's work, I'd recommend this one. ~joni