We are using the excellent Lost Tools of Writing along with our literature studies, which often requires that we consider the choices our characters make as an essay prompt. This is particularly effective, as there are always plenty of poor decisions made by the characters in any great novel. Jane Eyre is no exception, and, in fact, if you hear the students discuss it, she makes more mistakes than any character in the western canon. According to them, Jane does indeed err.
Part discussion, part exercise, finding flaw in a character's actions is entertaining fodder for discussion and argument. Students asked:
Should Jane have married Rochester? Should she have left Thornfield? Should she have walked far? Should she have knocked on a door and sought help (this particular moment of indecision nearly spoiled the novel for some students)? Should she have taken her jewels when she left? Should she have married St. John?
Other interesting points for discussion were atmosphere, spirituality, Jane's odd art (what's up with that, really?), beauty, ugliness, clothing, and more. A favorite scene, students said, is Rochester's impersonation of the Gypsy fortune teller, which, as several pointed out, could have been left out of the story. But, they realized through discussion, this scene provides the reader with the only real view of Jane from a perspective outside of herself. Was Rochester right to do this to Jane? If we consider that Bronte, through Rochester, does this for the sake of the reader, well, yes. And doesn't it give us some insight into Rochester's character, too? Is he just teasing her?
Like TTC, I suspect this is a novel which will stick with us through the rest of the year, prompting comparisons and inspiring deeper reading.
Between novels, we take a look at poetry. Next week, the students are reading Whittier's Maud Muller...
(image source: https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/bronte/charlotte/b869j/plates/p190b.jpg)