Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Jane Eyre: A Marxist Study" by Terry Eagleton

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12 comments:

Michael said...

Michael McGovern

At one point in Terry Eagleton’s essay, he states that Jane “creates relationships that matter, those of spiritual rather than blood affinity.” This seems to go against the fact that social class plays a prominent role in the book. While Jane may have difficulties with her family, they still matter to her. She needs her blood relatives in order to develop her social class in order to be with Rochester, the “spiritual” relationship that she wants. To say that her relationship with her blood relatives doesn’t matter seems to contradict Eagleton’s earlier statements. He states that “Bessie comments that the Eyres were as much gentry as the Reeds, and her Rivers cousins have an impressively ancient lineage. Rochester seems a grander form of gentry, and Jane’s relationship with him is of course socially unequal, but it is, nonetheless, a kind of returning home as well as an enviable move upwards.” This statement implies that Jane’s family validates her relationship with Rochester by narrowing the gap between their social classes. If her relationship to her blood relatives didn’t matter, then social classes wouldn’t matter and she would have no issue with marrying Rochester. However, she needs her family’s lineage to validate herself with Rochester. This shows that even though she might not be apart of her family, she still has a relationship with them that matters. This relationship is one that establishes her social class and allows her relationship with Rochester to take place.

alex r said...

When I first read through Jane Eyre: A Marxist Study one quote immediately caught my eye: “Rivers is a spiritual bourgeois eager to reap inexhaustible profits, unflaggingly devoted to the purchase of souls.” St. John adopts a humble Christian lifestyle, one that shuns considerations of class, but is in actuality just as class conscious as any other character in the novel. In Jane Eyre there is an extreme ambiguity between rebelling against class structure and taking advantage of it. Characters like St. John and Jane forthrightly condemn any sort of hierarchy when it puts them at a disadvantage but are quick to utilize the class structure when it benefits them. Class structure is a tool and an undeniable one. St. John and Jane seem to strive for equality but, by nature, require some form of dominance for fulfillment.
Part of the motive for their use of class seems to lie in the desire to avoid submission. If they ignore class consciousness they risk being trampled by it. When St. John and Jane find comfortable positions in the hierarchy they may quickly abandon class structure. For instance, when Jane is living with the Rivers family she exists more or less as their equal. The entire family is isolated: the only external influences are the townspeople and the school children who exist on a level below them. The Rivers are comfortable in accepting Jane as a sister. Each leaves themselves vulnerable to power struggles when Jane enters the Rivers’ household because there is an intense form of dependence. But because each is in reality more or less equal they can abandon those power struggles. However, when a character like Jane is threatened to be relegated to a lower position, submissive position they are eager to utilize the class structure. This is reflected when Jane uses her material and educational superiority to reprimand Hannah for previously turning her away from the household. Although Jane is clearly the dominant figure, she must assert her dominance to avoid accepting that inferior position. In this case, it is convenient for her to use class to her advantage.
I mentioned earlier that Jane’s use of class structure (or inadvertent movement through class structure) is rebellious. Typically, class structure would be a controlling element that individuals struggle to escape from. By picking and choosing what elements of class structure she uses and when she uses them, Jane undermines this characteristic. She can abandon her class (as when she leaves Rochester’s home and becomes a beggar) or take advantage of it (as when she uses her education to gain entry to the Rivers’ household). She moves between positions in society frequently from being the mistreated but privileged orphan to becoming the poor student, the governess in a wealthy household, the beggar, etc. This fluid movement through class with comparative ease undermines the stasis of Victorian society.

Meggggggghan said...

Meghan Ciaramitaro
D Block

During class today, we lightly covered the differences of the main protagonists within novels by Charlotte and Emily Bronte. “Where Charlotte Bronte differs most from Emily is precisely in this impulse to negotiate passionate self fulfillment on terms which preserve the social and moral convention intact, and so preserve intact the submissive, enduring, everyday self which adheres to them” (30). Charlotte’s characters, such as Jane, are rebellious but trapped in ‘self through surrender’. As it was worded in class, “you have to give up yourself for yourself.” Within Jane Eyre, Jane must fulfill herself before submitting to Rochester. For Charlotte Bronte’s characters, there needs to be equality. Through the “quivering sensitivity and blunt rationality” (30) Bronte gives Jane, she is able to overcome the unbalanced status between her and Rochester. Unlike Emily Bronte’s writing, Charlotte gives Jane the passion, social and moral convention, and submission that help builds her character throughout the novel. Although the sisters were born into the same family, it is good to show their differing identities within their works of literature.

Kaylie said...

A Marxist Study

Eagleton makes a point early on that Bronte sets the novel up so that Jane can find a balance between her inner self and conventions. Without conventions Jane would lose her principles that are a part of who she is. Eagleton explains this through simplifying the two life choices she denies, one with early Rochester and one with Rivers. “loveless conventionalism and illicit passion both threaten the kind of fulfillment the novel seeks for her.”(33) Her life as Rochester’s mistress and as River’s wife would be on either extreme and not fulfill Jane like her final marriage with Rochester does. “each lives out a different kind of deadlock between passion and convention; suffering and affirmation, an dso projects Jane’s own predicament in more dramatic style.”(33) Jane has to deny both of these options in order to be truly happy. He seems to connect this initial point throughout his essay. Eagleton makes the point that Jane’s early life contributes to her needing this balance. Because she is so socially isolated she becomes very self possessed. Because of this she can’t make rash decisions that she knows wont lead to happiness in the end. One page 42 Eagleton makes the point, “Jane’s relationship with Rochester is marked by these ambiguities of equality, servitude, and independence.” Therefore in the end Jane can get the balance she wanted between her inner passions and principles of convention. As we talked about in class however, both must change classes in order for this ideal to be obtained. Jane must move up with wealth and family and Rochester must physically move down. In the end there is a perfect balance of dominance and submission.

chlo said...

One of my favorite statements Eagleton makes in "Jane Eyre: A Marxist Study" is about financial equality. I never picked up on it. Page 43. "The oclonial trade which signified a decline in status for Rochester signifies an advance in status for Jane, so that although they are of course socially unequal, their fortunes spring from the same root." I never caught that their financial equality, which makes up the fairy tale ending of the story, came from the same source. I like it. But this reminds me of two things. One: I feel like we were using the wrong word in class today when we talked about how, despite the ambiguity, Jane becomes socially equal to Rochester by the end of the novel. Instead of "socially", I feel like we should have used "status", which is what Eagleton uses. Status encompasses both financial class and social class, while social equality is determined purely by culture and birth. Eagleton states that social "equality" and position is much easier to assume without fact (seen in Hannah's snobbish remark to the "beggar" Jane.) Status however, since it relates to both social positioin and financial position, has more material to it. Material referencing to money, a tangible way to divide people by order.
In Eagleton's essay, he argues that Jane, once she receives the money, is able to "combine sturdy independence with a material sealing of her affinity with others." The essay was about the connections between social structures and relationships: Jane enjoys strengthening her relationships with other through money. As someone who could not advance socially, she had to raise her status (or get lucky, rather) through financial means. In the novel, she is able to strengthen her relationship with Rochester once she has independent wealth, and she is able to become closer to her newfound kin by sharing her inheritance. This reminded me of another character who strives for relationships marked by financial importance. In Chapter 2 of 'A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man' Stephen wins some prize money. He spends it lavishly on his parents in an effort to bring the family together, to strengthen their situation. He tries to play the father and provide. The difference between Jane and Stephen (well, there are lots and lots, but in this case...) is that Jane strives for isolation for much of the novel. It takes Stephen the entire novel to decide to break free, and his desire to establish a strong relationship based on material fades by chapter three.

BHand13 said...

Brian Hand

Terry Eagleton makes the assertion that "Jane's guilt about Rochester's passion and her own is strikingly imaged in the grotesque figure of Bertha...is a projection of Jane's sexually tormented subconscious." (Eagleton 45) Although he cites no examples from the text, I agree with his assertion. Bertha is the embodiment of Rochester's passions, and is Jane's foil regarding both marriage and sexual passions.
In Chapter 26, Rochester wrestles to restrain Bertha, who viciously grapples "at his throat" (Bronte 296). The description of Bertha as "virile" and almost mastering the "athletic" Rochester immediately brings to mind masculine connotations. When Bronte writes that Bertha is "in stature almost equalling her husband," she is drawing comparisons between the two characters (Bronte 296). She represents Rochester's sexual drive, as Eagleton writes that it is the novel's ending that "domesticates that drive so that it ceases to be minatory while remaining attractive" (Eagleton 45).
In relation to Jane, Eagleton indirectly cites when Bertha tries on Jane's wedding veil to affirm that she is "a projection of Jane's sexually tormented subconscious." Bronte wishes for the reader to compare the characters of Bertha and Jane by putting Bertha where Jane ought to be, under her wedding veil. Drawing these characters closer, Bronte is able to bring out their contrasts. Jane notes that Bertha's "visage flamed over" hers (Bronte 286). This careful use of language points out the sexual, fiery nature of Bertha, what Eagleton refers to as a representation of "Janes sexually tormented subconsciousness." Later in that passage, Jane notes that this event was "only the second time" in her life that she lost consciousness (Bronte 286) The first time? In chapter 1, when locked in the red room. This imprisonment further continues the comparisons to Bertha's imprisonment in Rochester's attic. The fact that she fainted both times is Bronte winking (As Cook would say) at the reader to compare the two events. Upon careful examination of both events, it is clear that the comparisons do not end there. Jane remembers that the red room "seldom had a fire" reflecting Jane's repressed passions and imprisonment. (Bronte 16) In Rochester's attic however, "there burnt a fire, guarded by a high and strong fender" (Brotne 295). Although Bertha has been imprisoned by Rochester, she retains her fiery passions. This is evident in her "fiery eyes" (286) and the vigorous grapple she has with Rochester.
Although Eagleton never directly cites examples from Jane Eyre to develop his assertion,I agree with his assessment of Bertha in relation to Rochester and Jane.

Courtland Kelly said...

One of the main assertions that Eagleton makes in his essay is that Jane, as well as Bronte's other characters, seem to possess an ambivalent attitude toward several aspects of their lives. He made the point that Jane tends to sandwich herself between two opposing characters, and thus finds a middle ground that avoids extremist views. There are several examples of the polar characters throughout the novel: Helen Burns and Brockelhurst; St. John Rivers and Mr. Rochester; even her two families, the Reeds and the Rivers. In each case, both extremes have both attractive a repulsive qualities that cause jane to consider both extremes while adhering completely to neither. I would go into more details and examples, but this is a point that Eagleton develops throughout the essay, and I am just summarizing for my purposes. The examples are in the essay. However, what I thought most interesting about Eagleton's idea was that Jane does seem to be exeptional at finding the middle ground, a middle ground that Stephen, in Portrait of the Artist, struggles so much with at the beginning of the novel. I think Naomi pointed this out in the blog, but Stephen does seem to jump from extreme to extreme, mostly regarding religion, but also women and maybe some other things that I can't remember right now. In contrast, Jane encompasses aspects from each opposing character and finds a balance that releases her from many constraints of society and gives her the freedom to develop in ways that are most thematically significant to Bronte's purpose.

Rose said...

Rose Pleuler.

I find the ending to Jane Eyre frustrating because it seems too convenient for Jane - she doesn't have to give up her passion for Rochester, but doesn't have to compromise her personal morals to be with him, nor does she upset the conventions of society by being with him. The author of the essay 'Jane Eyre: A Marxist Study' asserts that Rochester can be considered a "sacrificial offering" made by Bronte to make it possible for Jane to be with Rochester without sacrificing anything of herself at the conclusion of the book. What happens to Rochester in the fire is what finally makes it acceptable for them to get married. The point I think the author of the essay is trying to make is that Charlotte Bronte herself felt indignant toward society's views on power and status, and instead of making Jane compromise herself in any way - character, moral, convention - Bronte forces the pieces of her story to make society accept Jane. Bronte allows Jane to be victorious in the novel, even if she would not have been so victorious in reality. While the conclusion is still convenient for Jane, thinking that Bronte just wanted to let Jane have something that she couldn't have in reality is acceptable to me.

Emily Castro said...

Eagleton states that Charlotte Bronte has an "impulse to negotiate passionate self-fulfillment on terms which preserve the social and moral conventions intact, and so preserve intact the submissive, enduring, everyday self which adheres to them." (30). Jane Eyre is the embodiment of this impulse. All her life Jane seeks to fulfill her passion, but never she is willing to step outside conventionalism to do so. Jane also seeks a sense of equality while at the same time the need to feel dominant. A perfect is example is Jane's decision to not marry Rochester because she discovers that he already has a wife. Jane so passionately wants nothing more than to surrender herself to Rochester, but to do so would be to blatantly defy convention, and Jane simply cannot bring herself to do so. Instead Jane flees from Rochester and finds a new life as a teacher with the Rivers family. While staying with the Rivers' , Jane learns that she has inherited twenty thousand pounds. Jane splits this money among her new siblings, St. John and his two sisters, meaning that Jane is the owner of five thousand pounds. After some time another offer is proposed to Jane. St. John asks Jane to go to India with him as his wife to do missionary work. Rochester's offer would fulfill Jane's passion but it would not preserve convention, conversely, St. John's offer preserves convention, but does not satiate Jane's thirst for passion. Jane knows that in accepting this offer she will no find complete happiness. In the midst of all her confusion and uncertainty, Rochester calls to Jane in the night, a voice only Jane can here. Seeing it as a sign, Jane's immediately returns to Thornfield to discover that Rochester's estate has been burned down by his wife Bertha, who died the evening of the fire, and that Rochester now lived in a smaller home in the woods nearby. Jane goes to his home to find a maimed, blind Rochester, and it is in this moment that Jane submits herself fully to Rochester. Rochester no longer has a wife, so marrying him would no longer mean that Jane is his mistress, but instead his wife. Because Rochester is maimed and can do very little by himself, Jane holds a position of dominance, which is important to her. Finally, seeing as much of Rochester's wealth was destroyed in a fire, and Jane miraculously procured five thousand pounds, they are also financially equal. A relationship that finally fulfills Jane's needs on terms that are both agreeable to her and to societal convention.

abigail lechleiter said...

During the discussion on the Jane Eyre essay 'Jane Eyre: A Marxist Study' Mr. Cook said something that caught my attention about love. He said something along the lines that in order to fall in love with someone you have to make that deep connection to them, to build a bond with that other person and trust them with your heart. That is what seemed to be the case in Jane Eyre, with both her love interests, Rochester and a St. John, she tries to build a trust with them and show both what her love can bring them. Apparently for Rochester it has an amazing healing ability that heals his sight, but my problem with the ending of the novel is not what is brought into question here, what I am questioning is the love in this story, because it is easy to say that is exactly what Jane Eyre is, a love story. While both Jane and Rochester confront their feeling for one another it is never allowed to be, until Rochester’s wife dies, he becomes horribly deformed and Jane inherits a great some of money form a dead relative. Is this a wink from the author to her audience explaining the pure stupidity of class rank, or just a easy way to tie up a few loose ends in the story. As said in the essay regarding Jane and St. John’s nonexistent relationship, that if Jane agreed to go with him then it would be the equivalent of suicide. So it is obvious that her feelings for him weren’t that strong, not enough to give up her life for him. I believe that Jane is selfish when it comes to love, she seems to act that she is better than most with her restraint with her emotions but in fact it just puts her at a disadvantage. She wouldn’t give up the comfortable life she had and leave with St. John, and would only accept Rochester when he lost his wife and eyesight. Her happy ending seems to come to easy for Jane.

Mr. J. Cook said...

Abs L

During the discussion on the Jane Eyre essay 'Jane Eyre: A Marxist Study' Mr. Cook said something that caught my attention about love. He said something along the lines that in order to fall in love with someone you have to make that deep connection to them, to build a bond with that other person and trust them with your heart. That is what seemed to be the case in Jane Eyre, with both her love interests, Rochester and a St. John, she tries to build a trust with them and show both what her love can bring them. Apparently for Rochester it has an amazing healing ability that heals his sight, but my problem with the ending of the novel is not what is brought into question here, what I am questioning is the love in this story, because it is easy to say that is exactly what Jane Eyre is, a love story. While both Jane and Rochester confront their feeling for one another it is never allowed to be, until Rochesterʼs wife dies, he becomes horribly deformed and Jane inherits a great some of money form a dead relative. Is this a wink from the author to her audience explaining the pure stupidity of class rank, or just a easy way to tie up a few loose ends in the story. As said in the essay regarding Jane and St. Johnʼs nonexistent relationship, that if Jane agreed to go with him then it would be the equivalent of suicide. So it is obvious that her feelings for him werenʼt that strong, not enough to give up her life for him. I believe that Jane is selfish when it comes to love, she seems to act that she is better than most with her restraint with her emotions but in fact it just puts her at a disadvantage. She wouldnʼt give up the comfortable life she had and leave with St. John, and would only accept Rochester when he lost his wife and eyesight. Her happy ending seems to come to easy for Jane.

pumpjacksandbison said...

Megan Leach
F

In Jane Eyre: A Marxist Study, there was much conversation on Jane needing to conform to social norms while trying to find herself. Eagleton brings up many instances in which Jane forms different relationships and subdues them throughout the novel, all while keeping in mind her closeness to Rochester. The closeness to Rochester is marked in a kind of submission in itself, but Charlotte Bronte never ‘allows’ it to be seen as a dominant/submissive relationship. Charlotte Bronte tries to keep the integrity of Jane as an independent character. This steadfastness to maintain an aspect of a character without allowing her to change says not only much about the text of Jane Eyre as a feministic text, but about Charlotte Bronte as a feminist writer.