Page 43, 7th Paragraph
For some brief context, in this scene Mr. Brocklehurst visits Gateshead and summons Jane. Jane makes note of what she observes concerning his physical appearance and then he questions Jane on her behavior and character and the following exchange occurs.
In uttering these words, I looked up: he seemed to me a tall gentleman; but then I was very little; his features were large, and they and all the lies of his frame were equally harsh and prim.
“Well, Jane Eyre, and are you a good child?”
Impossible to reply to this in the affirmative: my little world held a contrary opinion: I was silent. Mrs. Reed answered for me by an expressive shake of the head, adding soon, “Perhaps the less said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst.”
"Sorry indeed to hear it! she and I must have some talk;" and bending from the perpendicular, he installed his person in the arm- chair opposite Mrs. Reed's. "Come here," he said.
I stepped across the rug; he placed me square and straight before him. What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with mine! what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent teeth!
“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?"
"They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer.
"And what is hell? Can you tell me that?"
"A pit full of fire."
"And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?"
"What must you do to avoid it?"
I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: "I must keep in good health, and not die."
"How can you keep in good health? Children younger than you die daily. I buried a little child of five years old only a day or two since,--a good little child, whose soul is now in heaven. It is to be feared the same could not be said of you were you to be called hence." Not being in a condition to remove his doubt, I only cast my eyes down on the two large feet planted on the rug, and sighed, wishing myself far enough away.
"I hope that sigh is from the heart, and that you repent of ever having been the occasion of discomfort to your excellent benefactress."
"Benefactress! benefactress!" said I inwardly: "they all call Mrs. Reed my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable thing."
This passage is exemplary of the conflict between perception of the outside and internal truth. Throughout volume one of Jane Eyre, the words “silence” and “sound” are used frequently. Here specifically, Jane reveals that her true, sincere sentiments are contained silently within her when she says, “my little world held a contrary opinion” and “Benefactress! benefactress!” said I inwardly: "they all call Mrs. Reed my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable thing” It appears that whenever the truth is present it is present in silence rather than outward declaration or if the truth is vocalized, it often tends to come in the form of an uncontrolled passionate outburst. It also appears that much of what is said, especially what is said by Mr. Brocklehurst, and the Reeds, is false. For example, Mr. Brocklehurst proclaims his Christian doctrine when in actuality he is a self-indulgent hypocrite and Mrs. Reed is often vocalizing lies about Jane Eyre’s behavior. This quote shows the separation of truth and falsities in relation to or in terms of internal and external expression. Also outward appearance is given much attention in the novel so far. The first part of this quote, when Jane is describing Mr. Brocklehurst, she is viewing him through with a skewed viewpoint. To expand, Jane is a child and rather small, therefore she falsely gauges Mr. Brocklehurst’s size. Vision allows a person to perceive the outside, and in this case vision perceives what is false since so far in this novel the external is often false. Again this part of the quote reiterates the idea of false appearances, false external interpretation.
Appearances throughout the novel have proved to be rather deceiving. The ideal, pleasant façade at Gateshead and Mr. Brocklehurst false projections of piety and self-deprivation are a couple examples. This quote makes an indirect point about perspective when gauging appearances. Jane says, “but then I was very little”, therefore she realizes that Mr. Brocklehurst’s size may have appeared exaggerated. Appearance proved deceitful due to a skewed perspective. This connects to the idea that what is external to one’s person can often be false because such external elements are often sensitive and dependent on perspective. The author is making a statement about the superficial thought, and what is perceived by the senses, in other words, the tangible. More specifically she is denouncing reliance on the senses alone and is perhaps is advocating the use of emotion, intuition, and abilities of interpretation that stem from the mind. When Jane produces a witty, atypical answer to Mr. Brocklehurst’s question about hell, the idea of looking past the common or the superficial is apparent. Jane clearly utilizes a logic that is deeper than a superficial understanding of how to avoid damnation to hell. Another point concerning the reliability of the narrator includes the fact that children, because of their stature, their underdeveloped minds and immature understanding of the world, tend to generally have distorted interpretations. This factor can cause the reader to question their trust in the narrator who is recalling her thoughts as a child.
The novel is somewhat critical of Christian doctrine or rather the interpretation and use of Christian doctrine by people, particularly adults. In this case Mr. Brocklehurst is defending his argument by using aspects of Christian belief as a way to produce fear and to punish. In earlier parts of the novel Mrs. Reed uses Christian beliefs to support her distorted arguments against Jane. This interpretation of Christian doctrine stands in contrast of how children like Helen interpret the Bible. Helen approaches Christianity in a more sensible manner. She, more so than Mr. Brocklehurst, considers the calm, rational, pious side of Christianity rather than focusing on the negative. Again these conflicting interpretations can connect back to the idea of perspective: the adult perspective versus that of children. Another connection to the points made above includes the idea of sound versus silence and what is true versus what is false. Helen who tends to be a quiet child preaches a true explanation of Christian doctrine, while Mr. Brocklehurst, who is a much more vocal character preaches a skewed Christian message. This reiterates the point that what is silent and internal is true while what is vocalized and external tends to be false.
Note to Mr. Gallagher: I meant to post during my period 7 study today but when I plugged in my flash drive I found that my blog post didn't save on it so I just posted when I got home.
April 14, 2009 4:56 PM