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One does not suffer Jane Eyre fools gladly

We interrupt the regular broadcast of FanstRAvaganza 2 in order to have a rant about some mucking fuppets I just came across online and want to scream about for a bit. If you’re the sort of person whose religious prejudices get in the way of, oh I dunno, education, you should really give this post a miss, or you’re likely to be tremendously offended. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The first one, Jane Eyre: Oblivious or Needy? tries to make some kind of point of Jane being oblivious for not realising there was something shady going on at Thornefield. “No one can be that oblivious” it says, and also goes on to claim that Jane was needy for … St. John wanting to marry her? Does not compute? How can Jane be blamed for being needy when it’s not as if she encouraged St. John’s attentions and in fact, when he asked her to marry him, she flat out refused? If she was needy, surely she would have accepted his proposal and ignored his jibe about her being made for work instead of love? (*gag*)

Also, the article is factually incorrect:

He had several ladies vying for his attentions while he was trying to lure Jane to his side

Blanche Ingram counts as “several” now, does she? There was never a question of Mary Ingram or indeed either of the Eshton girls trying to snag him, or he flirting with any of them. It was Blanche. I’m not disputing the claim that he’s a liar, but I do protest to him being a womaniser. If he was a womaniser, wouldn’t he have jumped on everything in a skirt?

“When she arrives at Whitcross, she stops at an inn”

No. Whitcross is a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, where all the money she had could take her when she fled Thornfield. Whitcross is close to Morton where she ended up, having walked across the moors for a bit. Whitcross is about three days away from Thornfield, so no one nearby would’ve had a clue about what happened there. It might have been on the other side of the world for all they cared. The inn (The Rochester Arms) is “two miles across the fields” from Thornfield, not three days worth of coach travel away.

Interesting post, but it kind of falls on the point of getting some facts wrong and failing to make the actual point set out in the headline. It irks me, but it doesn’t make me angry enough to write a whole post about. I just happened to include it because the SECOND post is what’s making me see red.

The long and short of it: pious Christian teenager reads Jane Eyre, loves it, but half-way down the line she decides that oh noes, she’s going to stop reading it. Not because she gets bored by all those long, rambling descriptions. No, because her faith feels threatened. WHAT THE PROVERBIAL HELL?! Then, to add insult to injury, she puts the two copies she has in the trash.

I’m sorry, I might be able to overlook your ludicrous decision to stop reading because to continue would be an affront to God (*facepalm*), but YOU DON’T PUT BOOKS IN THE TRASH CAN! There are two things you DO NOT do to books: a) bin them or b) burn them. If a book has been so severely battered that it’s falling apart and no amount of sticky-tape or glue can fix it, okay, maybe then you respectfully PUT IT IN THE PAPER RECYCLING, not the bloody trash can! Books might be classed as trash, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat them with a bit of respect!

Even books I abhor won’t be binned, because you DON’T THROW BOOKS AWAY. Mrs. Rochester? French Dancer’s Bastard? Both are still in the bookshelf, even though I loathe them. If I really get pissed off over a book, sure, I might introduce it to flying into walls (careful not to throw it too hard, of course), but throwing it away? Inexcusable! Burning books (yes, including the Twilight saga) is even more offensive – and I don’t even mean because of the carbon emissions it’ll give out – not only because it signifies a lack of education, but because it signifies a lack of WANTING to be educated. By burning a book, to me, you essentially say “I’m an ignorant and stupid fool who shouldn’t be allowed to breed.” Luckily, she “only” binned the books.

For that matter, why were the books binned? If I want to de-clutter and have some books I no longer want or need, I’d either try my luck on eBay or Amazon Marketplace, sell them to a second-hand book shop, or – most likely – donate them to a charity shop. By taking them to a charity shop, it means that the books might still come in useful to someone else while at the same time, support a good cause. I love going to charity shops. You can find some really great things there, and normally for a very reasonable price, and the best thing of all, you know that what you pay for it is going to help support organisations like Cancer Research, the British Heart Foundation, PDSA, RSPCA, YMCA, Barnados or Oxfam, to name but a few. Surely the Christian thing is to be charitable? So why bin the books instead of giving them to charity?

If it’s an “OMG I have to stop other Christians from being tainted by this work of Satan”, then I’m sorry, anyone believing that is a fucking idiot.

The same blogger later made a post explaining exactly why she did what she did, and that’s the post that makes me want to bang my head repeatedly against the keyboard.

The first thing she objects to is the relationship between Jane and Edward. He’s not virtuous, wants to get his wicked way with Jane (well … yes? And? Not like she’d ever let him!) and she can’t “justify this area of this story” (the whole Bertha thing). Oh, and it’s “slightly insane” that a man in his “mid thirties” [sic] would want to marry someone of the blogger’s own age. Claptrap, if you ask me, and girl, you seriously need to get a dose of Real Life. Or, actually, she should read the Bible more, it’s full of the most gruesome, explicit, debauched and horrific things. Funny how its followers tend to forget that.

Secondly, I kid you not, is “the vampire influence”. Can I have an “err, come again? o.O” here? This is the primary reason for her not wanting to finish the book. Vampire influence. She admits (rightly so) that there are no actual vampires in the book, but “the influence is there”. Oh my gods. “Sucking blood or attempting to do so is not something I am comfortable reading about.” Right, so Richard Mason having a short line about what his mad sister did to him (“She sucked the blood: she said she’d drain my heart,” said Mason. / Chapter 20) is too strong? Should she really be reading any books at all, if that puny line scares her?

The best line of the whole post has to be this one: “that probably demon-possessed woman” (Bertha). Or, reality check, she has an inherited mental illness, probably schizophrenia. Talk about being stuck in the dark ages! Why not have a crusade against people with epilepsy? We all know they’re possessed by demons too, and the whole “mental illness thing” in general? Nothing a good exorcism won’t cure. (Seriously, don’t they have education where she comes from?)

But no, it wasn’t because she was disturbed that she didn’t finish the book, oh no:

but simply because I didn’t feel my brain and soul should be partaking in any inch or atom of “the dark side”. And it was not my parents who made this decision. I knew in my heart reading this book on my own that I could not finish it. In summarization, of what I did read of this book, much of the underlying content was quite ungodly, and I could not, in a clear conscience, finish this very dark, very creepily-gorgeous, very famous novel called Jane Eyre.

…,

No, she didn’t hate the book or the story at all, but actually rather enjoyed it. It’s just that it’s “ungodly” and about “the dark side” (“No Star Wars for you!”) – have we even read the same book?

But, let’s put dogmatical differences aside, and focus on some good facts and not just personal opinions; starting with: Charlotte Brontë was a parson’s daughter. She had a strong, Christian faith and it permeates her works (without being preachy), and she ended up marrying her father’s curate. This didn’t mean she was out of touch with reality, far from it. I’m not overly clued up with regards to her Monsieur Hegér obsession, other than it wasn’t reciprocal (could the poor woman actually have suffered from erotomania with regards to him?), but that is perhaps the only thing where she was a bit fuzzy with regards to reality.

The whole point about the character of Jane Eyre is that she is very strong not just in her faith with regards to her own self-worth but in Christianity. She puts her trust in God, and pleads with Rochester to do the same – and just look at the ending of the novel, the last two words are “Lord Jesus”, and the sentiment of the book is essentially, “don’t mess with God and think yourself better than Him, because he’ll fuck you up and then you’ll come crying for His salvation. Repent and He’ll might reconsider”. Mr. Rochester has paid dearly for his sins, and not until he has been humbled by God can he be allowed to be redeemed and be reunited with his love. In fact, it’s not until he starts praying/pleading to God (Chapter 37) that Jane hears his call, and comes to find him a changed man in many ways.

So even though the whole book oozes Christianity with Jane’s strong convictions and how Rochester has to pay for his sins and unbelieving ways before he can be redeemed … it’s “ungodly”? The pious Charlotte Brontë would have been offended. The blogger also says she also now won’t be reading Wuthering Heights or Villette. Give those books to charity without opening them, please. I mean, there’s a bloke dressing up as a nun (oh noes, a TRANSVESTITE) pretending to be a GHOST in Villette. Can’t have that now, can we?

There’s a genuine ghost (or a brain ghost, at least) in Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is obviously not a psychopath but possessed by demons, as is Cathy, and they live in ungodly sin and oh there is plenty of Dark Side. Every page of that book is dark. Which is, incidentally, why so many people love it, and have loved it ever since it came out in 1847. (I’d like to see Twilight be that popular in 164 years time. Or actually, no I don’t – those books are horrifying. And by that, I don’t mean that I’m frightened by blood-sucking vampires and bare-chested hunky warewolves.)

The whole “but it’s about the Dark Side and the Dark Side scares me” argument … The world’s a scary place. Either grow up and learn to deal with it or shut yourself in a convent where you can live the rest of your days in blissful ignorance. You know, before someone points it out, I totally get that not everyone’s a fan of the horror genre. It doesn’t float everyone’s boat, and I won’t pretend that it does. I’m not too keen on Stephen King, for instance. Fact remains: Jane Eyre isn’t a horror story. It’s a romance novel and a Bildungsroman set in a Gothic old mansion. With a mad woman in the attic.

But heaven forbid she and people like her should finish the book. They might actually learn something.

P.S. A disclaimer, of sorts:

I tend to stay clear of opinions about religion on this blog, simply because this isn’t that sort of blog, and I don’t really want it to be either. This post, however, felt like it should be here because it’s specifically about Jane Eyre. Can’t guarantee I won’t ever be posting things with regards to religion (or politics) ever again, because if it’s relevant and it annoys me enough, it will most likely come out here.

I also have nothing against people with a religious faith. In general, anyway. I’m of a “live and let live” opinion, and tend to live by “if you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you” (something a number of them seem to find impossible), and I actually find it quite interesting to read about how and why different religions celebrate their holidays and so on. Believe whatever you like, I really don’t care, as long as you don’t harm anyone by doing so. This includes harming yourself.

What I REALLY can’t stand, however, is ignorance and stupidity, especially when the tunnel vision is brought on by being uneducated and/or prejudiced (which, incidentally, tends to go hand in hand with how religious you are). Being ignorant is something I class as being harmful to yourself and others.

Such as: “Oh noes, I can’t go through sex ed in school” (fine, go believe having your period is a punishment by God and that sex ed means anything but looking at boring anatomical drawings of genitalia to explain how babies are made and how to protect yourself from unwanted pregnancies and disease), “we must circumcise our girls, because we can’t marry them if they’re filthy and unclean” (fuck you!), “she’s possessed by demons and even if we end up killing her during the exorcism, at least we saved her soul” (or she has epilepsy or a mental illness and needs medical treatment, you murderer!), “having sex with virgins cures HIV/AIDS” (no, but condoms really help you not getting the virus in the first place and raping babies because they’re “guaranteed to be virgins” is revolting and you’re a disgrace to the human race), “the Jews were taking all the money in Germany and Hitler didn’t think that was right” (no, that’s what you call “Nazi propaganda” and I can’t believe I actually heard this one with my own ears not that long ago – and was more than happy to set the person straight), “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (don’t even get me started on that one), “Bertha Mason was possessed by demons” (she had a mental illness, get your mind out of the 1600s).

Jane Eyre is not ungodly just because Rochester wants to commit bigamy, and Charlotte Brontë was an educated woman way ahead of her time, who probably knew and understood the Scriptures way better than most of us ever will. Now please, everyone, go and read a book and broaden your horizons. And start recycling. We’ve only got one planet Earth, regardless of your beliefs how it (and us) all came about.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted along the way.

17 thoughts on “One does not suffer Jane Eyre fools gladly

  1. Wow. Just when I think I can’t be surprised…

    I just don’t have words.

    Jane Eyre has always seemed to me to be a deeply religous story (obviously so), from a decidedly Christian POV thanks to the author’s personal beliefs and background. I don’t get how one can’t see that, but maybe that’s just me.

    I just don’t understand that perspective at all – part of me wants to say to each his own and write it off as an abberation, while the other part of me has to comment that that particular post felt more dramatic than the author’s take on JE.

  2. It is hard for some people to understand literature. Too much ignorance in this modern era.

    Nothing dark about Jane Eyre and I very much agree, not everyone is into horror. In fact, my religion strictly prohibits it.

    Never heard you talk this way…I know you are mad:)

  3. Urrrrgh… PLEASE know that this deluded girl is not a good or even an average representation of Christianity. Very likely she has been brainwashed by hyper-conservative parents and is going to have some rough times ahead when she has to deal with the real world. Don’t be angry with her, pity her. But MOST Christians are nothing like that.

    I am a Christian, Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, and you are absolutely right when you say it’s permeated with faith. One of the things I love about it, but not the only thing by any means! I’ve also been lurking on your blog for a while but I had to delurk because I just cringe when someone like this ignorant blogger is seen as a representation of Christianity.

  4. Katharine T – I’m a Christian too, which is one of the reasons I find that post so baffling. How can one MISS the faith that saturates JE? My mind is just boggled…

  5. Ruth/Katherine: Don’t worry, I only take her as an example of a fundamentalist hyper-conservative Christian, not a Christian in general! There are loads of Christians out there who are incredibly well-educated and nicely relaxed about most things. You guys are brilliant examples!

    There was a man at work (now retired) who gives sermons in a Methodist chapel and he is one of the best people I have ever had the priviledge of getting to know and I really miss him. He’d happily talk about his faith and answer questions, but he never tried to force his beliefs on anyone. He’s a good example for anyone to live by, regardless of faith!

    Anyway, ugh, all fundamentalists of any religion (or Atheism, for that matter) rub me the wrong way. Can’t we all just get along and be groovy to one another? Preachiness and err, “over-religiousness” in general rubs me the wrong way (bits of the Narnia books make me cringe) so I find it rather amusing how much I love Jane Eyre! 😀

    Avalon: It’s funny how many people have reacted with a shocked “I’ve never heard you swear before!” Granted, I don’t talk a lot so when I do swear, it’s more of a surprise. 😉 That your faith “prohibits horror” sounds really interesting. Is there a specific reason? Does it include ghost stories you tell each other as kids? 🙂 (The SAW films are classed as horror, right? Now there’s a series of films I really don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would want to watch. Blood and guts and gore? Ewwwww, no thank you!)

  6. This kind of thinking absolutely infuriates me. I have a great deal of religious faith and I feel that “Jane Eyre” is the most positive, uplifting, and valuable book a young woman can read, whether or not she professes any religious faith herself. Jane is the perfect example of what a young Christian woman should be–a girl with the quiet conviction to put her standards and morals ahead of her personal desires. Maybe if this poor deluded child had actually finished the book, she might have realized that a better example of a woman of faith cannot be found in literature.

    I guess I can understand the squirrely-ness of people not wanting to read books about wizards and vampires.(although I privately wonder how strong your faith can be if a single book or even a series of books can shake it). But a book of this literary caliber, written by the daughter of a parson who saw the best and worst of what her society’s Christianity had to offer….as a woman with faith, all I can do is shake my head at this goofy child and hope that the dose of reality she someday will get doesn’t whack her too hard over her pointy little head.

    There are two types of JE readers that chap my hide…the ones who are so narrow-mindedly AGAINST religion that they fail to understand the importance of faith in both Charlotte Bronte’s life and in her that of her lovingly crafted heroine AND little narrow-minded pinheads like this who look at the portrayals of poor souls like Bertha and Rochester as proof of the novel’s sinfulness.

    My only consolation is that this girl is young, and may grow out of her self-righteousness someday. Many of us have….Thank God!

  7. “although I privately wonder how strong your faith can be if a single book or even a series of books can shake it” — BINGO! I’ve been wondering the same thing. Surely the argument should be that the strength of your faith can only be proven when it’s being challenged? And if you never allow your faith to be challenged … well, what then?

  8. Sigh. I understand your exasperation. That was an ignorant young girl who uses her hyper-religion as a badge and a shield because she understands nothing outside of its confines. Aside from a school primer, good literature requires critical thought outside of one’s self, something this girl finds threatening. You can’t really tell this to somebody like her. You just hope one day she may learn the difference close-minded dogma and real faith. Meanwhile, appreciate the fact you don’t have her problem.

  9. I had to go read the “Oblivious or Needy” blog for myself. It, and the comments that followed, really got my knickers in a twist. I had to wax ignorant several times in reply before my meager bosom stopped heaving in indignation.

    I made the mistake of going to the Rotten Tomatoes site to read about the new movie, and read the comments therein. For a Rochester apologist such as myself, it was quite painful. Much holding up of “Wide Sargasso Sea” as the truth about Bertha and Rochester, much rantings about the evils of Edward and the entire period of history itself.

    Makes me crazy to think that people out there read the book ONCE and think that gives them a right to an opinion. (or in the case of Miss Christian Purity above, don’t finish it at all and think they can write about it.)

    I need to go lie down….

  10. Went back to the Blog and my three comments had been removed. Guess you can only comment if you agree with her. Nice….

  11. judiang: Very wise words, I totally agree with you. 🙂

    Tara: Yup, the author of JE:OoN? removed the comment I made as well, which was along the lines of what I posted here. In fact, I copied that comment and pasted in order to make the post above, but expanded it a little! I wasn’t even being rude, I was merely stating the factual errors in her article. But fine, be that way! The teenager actually approved my comment (which might be a bit stroppy but not impolite – unlike the post above ;)) and the comment after mine (from “rachel”) is from a self-confessed “born-again Christian with very rigid values” who politely points out how Christian the book actually is. She also disagrees with throwing books. <3

  12. This is just plain ridiculous!! I go to an all girls Catholic school and are currently reading JE in Lit class.

    “What I REALLY can’t stand, however, is ignorance and stupidity, especially when the tunnel vision is brought on by being uneducated and/or prejudiced (which, incidentally, tends to go hand in hand with how religious you are).”

    Very well expressed! The comment about Bertha’s being demon posessed is wholly out of ignorance and very offensive in today’s society.

  13. Wow, I just read two of that blogger’s posts. Ok, she got you riled up for very good reason. My reaction to her was to laugh. An 18 year old that needs her mum’s permission before she reads Jane Eyre??? Then her first and second reasons…hehe. That second one I couldn’t have dreamed up if I tried.

  14. I’m in the states and I went to see the new Jane Eyre yesterday. Thought you might want to know its incredible. I’m so sorry its not in the UK for you to see yet. 🙁

  15. myownmania: Yeah, JE is all about keeping the faith, so it makes no sense. I hope she’ll grow up some time.

    Ragtag: Oh yeah. It’s a crazy world!

    Elsie: Thanks for the heads up. Glad to hear you enjoyed it! 🙂

  16. I understand what you’re trying to say that Bertha was her real first name and not Antoinette. But if she wanted to be called as Antoinette, why didn’t Rochester oblige her? I know a guy in my office who prefers to be called by his surname. And everyone obliges. Why couldn’t Rochester do the same?

  17. TRB: Umm … Wide Sargasso Sea is not canon and there is no evidence she preferred the name “Antoinette” in canon (Jane Eyre). In fact, Antoinette isn’t even her name, it’s AntoinettA. 😉

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