Today’s art find: two beautiful pieces from Al Columbia! And for cheap! (at C2E2 2013)
New! It’s the thirteenth episode of Ben and Zack’s podcast: The Quad. And you’re listening to it! Hip-hop-hooray! We’re talkin’ about nineteenth century detective fiction, Ben’s journey intoooooo SPPPPPPAAAAAACCCCEEEE, Satanic superheroes, Marvel’s archer, and other neat stuff.
1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
2. The Adventure of Ben in SPACE
3. Satan’s Soldier (Tom Scioli)
4. Hawkeye (Marvel)
Twitter: @BenTiede, @ZackKruse
George Baker Selection - Little Green Bag
I am currently on a quest to read seven classic nineteenth century British novels over a fifteen week period. After completing each book, I will very briefly post my thoughts here.
Book 2: Charlotte Brontë’s JANE EYRE
Jane, Rochester, and Forgiveness
It is a tremendous understatement to say that the romance between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester is a complicated one. Both figures enter the relationship as damaged goods: Jane is haunted by feelings of isolation, stagnation, and the abusive relationship she endured with the Reeds, and Rochester is a man with a checkered past that includes being a philanderer of some note, bearing an illegitimate daughter, and having a mad wife who has been secreted away at Thornfield. While Rochester’s past, lack of good looks, and general lack of charm would have sent any other middle class woman rushing into the arms of someone like St. John, Jane is drawn to him. Jane does not ignore Rochester’s faults in character, but she does forgive them.
To Jane, Rochester offers freedom from stagnation, an intellectual equal, and an escape from her status as an outsider—Rochester would accept her for who she was. Forgiving Rochester’s sins allowed him to remain “communicative” with her, opening her mind to a world with which she was previously unacquainted (Brontë 128). Rochester took a flattering and sincere intellectual interest Jane, and she was suddenly allowed to gain all of the things that she had been denied at Gateshead and Lowood. In exchange for the emotional rewards Jane gained from being in Rochester’s presence, Jane’s forgiveness became almost necessary for her to return the favor and accept Rochester for who he was. Furthermore, Jane’s acceptance was made even easier by Rochester’s dark, mysterious, Byronic personality and the fact that she has had no prior experience with romantic relationships. In fact, she had only two healthy relationships in the eighteen years before she met Rochester: Helen Burns and Miss Temple. Because Rochester appears to offer Jane all of the intellectual indulgences she had been denied before, Jane’s love for Rochester transcends the romantic and becomes worshipful. Rochester stood in for God, and Jane confessed that she had made “an idol” of him (242).
Jane’s point of view is not entirely unsurprising when viewed in light of her favorite Biblical texts as a child. Jane told Mr. Brocklehurst that she enjoyed Revelations, Daniel, Genesis, Samuel, bits of Exodus, Kings, Chronicles, Job and Jonah (26). What is interesting here is that each of the texts Jane claims to love are thematically linked in two significant ways: each text offers bizarre, commonly undeserved, punishments doled out by Yahweh or his prophets (just like Jane suffered) and each text also offers a tale of redemption for a character stained by intemperate, often sexual, behavior (just like Rochester’s checkered past). The correlation between these myths and the characters of Jane and Rochester informs not only an understanding of the text over all, but it provides a root cause for Jane’s affections.
Leading a sheltered life, uninfected by any significant literature outside of the Christian Bible, Jane’s understanding of an ideal man or romance may reasonably be considered skewed. Jane highlights this issue after the fire at Thornfield when she likens Rochester to Samson, the most prominent figure in the Book of Samuel (one of Jane’s favorites). The reference to Samson is no coincidence and goes beyond the strength Jane sees in him and his actual blindness. Just like Samson, Rochester’s greatest downfall came as a result of sexual impropriety and falling victim to the “wrong kind” of women, until he met his one great love. Moreover, the atonement for his sins came in the form blindness and a collapsing building, and most importantly, like Samson, Rochester is redeemable in Jane’s eyes. In literary terms, Rochester is a manifestation of the Byronic hero; to Jane, he is the manifestation of a Biblical one, and as such, he is a suitable replacement for God as an object of worship.
As a liberating force and an object of worship, Jane forgives Rochester for his cruel and sometimes threatening words against her. It is not as though Rochester’s actions are necessarily excused by Jane; it is that they are endured. This endurance marks a significant shift in character for Jane, as she would not have tolerated such behavior at Gateshead, and she would have resented it, even if quietly, at Lowood. Jane endures and worship Rochester because he offered her something she had never known before: intellectual equality. She was no longer an outsider, she was accepted and even useful, as is noted by the numerous times that she must rescue Rochester. Indeed, Jane’s appreciation and love for Rochester is atypical for what one may expect for an ordinary middle class Victorian woman, but Jane is no ordinary woman. She is a woman who had suffered greatly in her young life, and the relief from her mental anguish had to come in the form of an intellectual escape. She could not remain stagnant. In his callous and often abusive way, Edward Rochester offered Jane what she had been searching for since she was a child, and she submitted to him and embraced the freedom that he offered her.
UP NEXT: NORTH AND SOUTH!