Year: 2010

Gone With the Wind, Part 2


[Part 1]

Around p. 860:

Scarlett is against the Ku Klux Klan, but not because of the racism.  If I recall correctly, it’s because it keeps bringing the Yankee soldiers down on the townspeople, disturbing their lives and putting them at risk of arrest.  We soon discover that even Ashley is part of it, sweet, nonviolent Ashley.

Last week I watched a documentary on the rise of the KKK; though GWTW portrays it as protecting the women and townspeople from violent blacks, the documentary showed that even in the early days, the KKK was violent and murderous.

In her household, Scarlett is the only one who doesn’t know that even her husband Frank and Ashley are in the KKK–showing us an implied approval even by Melanie.  When Scarlett finds out, she screams,

“The Klan!  Ashley isn’t in the Klan!  Frank can’t be!  Oh, he promised me!”

Her in-law India yells at her,

Of course, Mr. Kennedy is in the Klan and Ashley, too, and all the men we know.  They are men, aren’t they?  And white men and Southerners.  You should have been proud of him instead of making him sneak out as though it were something shameful.

And indeed, this Klan avenged Scarlett’s near-rape with murder.

It’s hard to tell what exactly the author felt about the KKK, from this episode.  Scarlett and Rhett both oppose the Klan, but are also both portrayed as picking and choosing morals based on what suits them.

Rhett opposed the Klan as “foolishness,” but he himself killed a black man for insulting a white woman (the reason he ended up in the Yankee jail earlier).

Later on in the book we find that Rhett and Ashley worked to get the local KKK band disbanded, Rhett for practical and Ashley for moral reasons.  Still, Rhett speaks of “Klan outrage stories” as being slander manufactured by the Yankee governor to keep himself in power.

Even sweet Melanie, a true lady and Christian who refuses to believe anything bad about anyone (especially Scarlett)–

–hates Yankees, plans to teach her child and grandchildren to hate Yankees, and hates the thought of sending her child to school with black children.

Et tu, Melanie?

Even the rogue Huckleberry Finn decided he’d rather go to Hell for helping Jim escape slavery, than do what the locals proclaimed to be moral, and turn him in.  And Mark Twain was a Southerner who had actually lived through slavery and the Civil War.  Here is a Southerner who was against slavery and racism.  Is it so much to ask that Melanie be the same?

Melanie has always loved and supported Scarlett, and now has fiercely stood up to the townswomen for wanting to shun her, to the surprise of everyone.  She’s completely blind to Scarlett’s real feelings for her, and Scarlett’s desire to steal Ashley away from her; instead, she is staunchly on her side, no matter what.  She tells the town the heroic things Scarlett did for her and her family during the war.

You could say that Scarlett is a kind of idol for her: She will do anything for her.

Now Scarlett has snapped at her, said she doesn’t care if she visits or not, broken her heart.  What a way to repay Melanie for all she’s done!

Yet Melanie keeps standing by her.  I know how Melanie feels.  It’s tough to learn that your idol has clay feet, and I learned this quite recently about my own idol.

P. 940: Scarlett has been discovered with Ashley–but it was just a hug.  There were two times when, if they had been discovered, a scandal would be justified: One of them was an especially lusty kiss.

But no, the scandal started over a mere hug, an affectionate hug which Scarlett realized was between friends, not lovers.  And she’s fine with being friends with Ashley.

She’s also realized that she’s fallen in love with Rhett.  Unfortunately, she’s so full of pride, so afraid of being scorned, that she won’t tell Rhett how she really feels.  If only she would tell him, any trouble between them could probably be resolved.

The book is nearly done, their child Bonnie is dead, and Scarlett’s relationship with Rhett keeps deteriorating because she’s far too full of pride to show how she feels.

She’s lonely and has no old friends to comfort her because she’s alienated them all.

You want to feel sorry for her, but she brought it on herself by being mean to everyone, an old-time “mean girl.”  This is the price paid by people who decide to not care about others’ feelings, but only about their own selfish interests.

Rhett, on the other hand, has sympathetic friends everywhere because–for Bonnie’s sake–he decided to stop offending Atlanta’s Old Society.  Yet he just wants to be left alone.

But Scarlett still has Melanie.  And, finally, she’s beginning to appreciate her.

…Except that soon, Melanie is dying.

And finally it hits Scarlett and she says to Ashley as they grieve for Melanie: “Why couldn’t you see that she was worth a million of me?”

And Scarlett scolds him for not realizing sooner that he loved Melanie, not her, for stringing her along all those years, and says, “You should have seen so clearly that you loved her all the time and only wanted me like–like Rhett wants that Watling woman!”

She realizes that if he had done so long ago, she would’ve been broken-hearted, but only for a time, and then she would’ve moved on.

And now I have finished Gone With the Wind.  The ending shows real repentance from Scarlett, and I hope that she will turn herself around in days to come, become a decent human being.

She’s realized what makes a decent person, and that her selfish, mean, spiteful actions and fierce tongue have made her lonely when she most needed friends.   She’s let go of Ashley at last, realizing that what she mistook for love was just obsessive, physical infatuation.

But Rhett is gone with the…er, you know what.  She thinks she’ll get him back.

Yeah, well, people often think that right after a breakup.  Usually doesn’t happen.  It can, but usually not.  She’s abused him far too much for him to want to come back.

In any case, her best hope of ever getting him back is to let him go, since whenever he tried to go away and forget her before, he always came back.

Yes, I have read “Scarlett,” the sequel, which came out around the time I read GWTW the first time, in 1993.  It was entertaining, but since Margaret Mitchell didn’t write it, it isn’t really “canon.”  So all we can do is speculate.

Watching the movie version of GWTW….Funny how, in the movie, Rhett is far more open about being in love with Scarlett.  In the book, he guards himself because he’s seen how Scarlett abuses the ones who love her.  He tells her he WANTS her more than he’s ever wanted any other woman, not that he LOVES her more than any other woman.

And his lack of forthrightness is also what led Scarlett to hide her feelings when she finally realized she loved him, because she feared he’d laugh at her.

It’s funny how they sanitized the movie of Gone With the Wind.  So many things are changed or missing.  The slave language is changed, Rhett never asks Scarlett to be his mistress, she doesn’t offer herself as his mistress so he’ll give her the money for Tara’s taxes….

Even the kiss between Ashley and Scarlett in the field is sanitized.  You don’t get the feel that he was about to throw her down on the ground and take her right there.

Mammy gets a far more prominent role, as well: She was important in the book, but not with all these awesome lines.  And of course the most offensive of the racial struggles are missing, though the black characters are annoyingly portrayed as silly, childlike creatures.  😛

[Review written over several months and completed June 30, 2010]

I see Tracy hanging out of the window of their minivan, like a crazy woman

Tracy did not accept responsibility for her anger and abuse, but put it on others.

She accused others of being “childish” and needing to “grow up,” but was the pot calling the kettle black.

She wouldn’t respect others, not even clergy if they said something she didn’t like, but demanded respect from others, kept complaining loudly about how they weren’t respecting her–but how was it respectful for her to scream at adults and children who annoyed her?

And oh, how she criticized me for finally standing up for myself by cutting her loose!  How offended she acted when we broke off the friendship with them because of her, as if we were the ones being childish and throwing tantrums!

I thought she would be happy to have me out of her life, that I was doing her a favor and showing her respect.  But apparently it just made her angrier.

For some reason, she wanted Jeff and me to stay friends with her.  I really haven’t a clue why.  Why on earth did Tracy get so angry at me for ending the friendship?  I thought it was what she’d always wanted.

Was it the loss of Jeff as a partner in D&D?  Was it the loss of the support and free babysitting (at the drop of a hat) we’d given them? free taxi service? free meals?

(We were never reimbursed for the extra expenses incurred while they lived with us, or for the broken couch.  Jeff’s parents told him he should have ended things long before this, that they sounded like moochers, that as soon as Tracy started complaining about the food, we should’ve politely shown them the door.  One of my friends said they sounded like manipulators who were using us.  My pastor friend said that when thinking about what Tracy said about me, I should consider the source and disregard it.)

Was it because she didn’t get her way?  Because normally a jealous person is very happy to see the subject of her jealousy end a friendship with her husband.  This is the most baffling part.

There is another possibility I can think of: She had already cost Richard several friends.  He had often said how much he liked us, that I was a very dear friend to him, that I did so much for his family, that Jeff was fun to play D&D with, etc.  Maybe Tracy wanted to deflect responsibility and Richard’s anger onto somebody else for the loss of two more friends.

We heard through a third party that they miss Jeff at D&D, but Jeff wondered if they missed me.  He told me he won’t play with them until they stop holding grudges against me, his wife.

In order to not be a hypocrite, doing the same thing I found wrong in Tracy, I have told him he can be friends with them, play D&D with them, if he wants to, that I will not put restrictions on who his friends can be.  But he’s disgusted with both of them and doesn’t want to.

The trouble is that the city where we live is too small to avoid each other entirely.  Not only do they come to my church occasionally (oddly enough, more often now than they did when we were still friends), but I sometimes see their vehicles on the street.

Tracy drives her company cars, and their other vehicle has bumper stickers on it, so if I can see the back of the vehicle, or see who’s driving the company car, I know who it is.

Once, either October 5, 2010 or December 7, 2010, I set off walking past my house to fetch my son from elementary school, when who should I see driving past me on the street?

It was a residential zone and between a middle school and college, so the speed limit was 25.  I was near the middle school and its football field, where there were no trees or cars in between me and the street.

It was a long stretch with no obstructions before or behind it to block my view of them.

They passed just a few yards away from me, so I had time and opportunity to make a positive identification.

Since we’re in the same school system, they were probably out for the same reason, but a different elementary school, so they were going the opposite direction, facing me.

Tracy was hanging half her body out the window of their van–head facing me, shoulders turned so they were above and below, arms and hands dangling in the air.

She was hanging out the window by the entire upper part of the torso, possibly down to about her waist (which struck me as extremely odd and dangerous behavior)–while Richard gave her an upset or angry or scared look.

It was hard to define the look in only a few seconds while they drove past, but I figured he was upset with her for hanging out the window.

I thought Tracy, at least, must have seen me, since she was hanging out the window with me just a few feet away from her passenger-side window, and she was facing me.  So you see she was close enough to identify.

If she tried to say anything to me, I didn’t hear over my Discman.  I turned and saw her from the back as they passed, and most likely looked for the license plate and bumper stickers at this time.

There was no explanation for why on earth she’d be hanging half out the window, just yet more bizarre behavior from this woman.

I thought it was a psychotic episode.

Maybe they’d been arguing.

Maybe she threatened to jump out, which from what I’ve read, is common among people with borderline personality disorder, both the threatening and the doing.

Maybe she saw me from a distance and wanted to yell at me.

In any case, this incident proved to me that I was not crazy, that Tracy had something going on with her psychologically or mentally, that her problems with me came from inside herself.  I saw it as a gift from God.

Another time, Jeff and I were driving down one of the major streets of the city, while I looked out the passenger window, and who should I see unloading a big van at the local political headquarters, but Richard.

I saw out of the corner of my eye (trying not to look directly at him) as he saw us and stared after us.  He’s such a big guy that he’s easy to spot.

I have no respect anymore for either Richard or Tracy after all this.

It’s been a struggle just keeping in the same denomination as they are, especially when they have demonstrated that they will still come to my church on occasion–meaning I can never consider them to be completely out of my life unless they relocate.  

I came close to giving up on church because it reminded me too much of Richard, but I had too much strength in my beliefs to throw them away.  

I sometimes feel that the only way I can truly go on in Orthodoxy is if they either apologize for their crimes, or leave me alone to disconnect the Orthodox Church from Richard.

I still care about him and miss our friendship, remember the good times, and miss telling him all about the happenings at church or the latest news about local churches of various denominations.  But I can’t deal anymore with the crap that came along with it.

I don’t miss Tracy one bit, and don’t care to ever see her again.  Jeff doesn’t miss her, either, and doesn’t want to say anything to her when he sees her.

They are welcome to apologize at any time, though whether or not a friendship would be reinstated, after so much time and childishness on their part–would take a lot of reflection first.  Who knows what could bring on Tracy’s venom next time?  Abusers go in cycles:

If we reinstate a friendship, like a year before (after 2009 discussions) there will probably be a honeymoon period for a while.  But then she’ll start building up her anger yet again, and something else will set her off a year later.  You know, just like what had already happened.

So what’s the point?  Who knows; maybe at some point in the future, things will somehow come to a point where a friendship is possible again.  But I’m not holding my breath.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing


Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Part 1

Summary here.

[This was originally a series of Facebook posts, written over several months as I re-read the book.]

Now I’m reading Gone With the Wind for the second time since 1993.

In reading the description of Scarlett–doesn’t like conversation about anything but herself, wants men to love only her and nobody else–I think, Oh my gosh, it’s Jackie Burkhardt from That 70s Show. No wonder I can’t stand Scarlett! 

The first line of Gone With the Wind reads, “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm….”  But I can’t think of any other face but Vivien Leigh’s, which is beautiful and certainly does not have Scarlett’s thick eyebrows.

About 200 pages into re-reading Gone With the Wind: Rhett was right when he said Scarlett is no lady: Let’s see, she marries a decent boy out of spite and doesn’t care that he’s dead, she dances publicly as if spitting on his grave, she blackmails her own father into not telling her mother about this, and now she’s reading Ashley and Melanie’s letters….

….So, while reading one of Ashley’s letters to Melanie, Scarlett gets bored at his philosophical ramblings and discussions of books, and wonders why he doesn’t write a proper love letter.  She recalls how Ashley was always boring her with talking like that.

So….she thinks she should marry Ashley, WHY?  I think Ashley might be attracted to her, maybe even very attracted to her, same as most of the young men around her.

But Melanie is his other half and he knows it; he loves her in a way he never could love empty-headed Scarlett.  Melanie understands him, while Scarlett only cares for dresses and beaus.  😛  Even if she got Ashley to profess his undying love for her, she’d probably be miserable if she couldn’t keep her beaus as well.

I’ve always admired Melanie, and I love that everyone around her in the book admires her as well, including Rhett.  He leers at every woman except her, respects her.

I’ve always wanted to be like her, but couldn’t quite measure up.  Now I find out how she can be so sweet with no trace of dislike for anyone: She was so sheltered that she couldn’t imagine anyone actually being evil.

For those of us who have endured teasing or abuse or some other thing from an early age, it’s probably impossible to be quite like her, no matter how much we may try.  She is truly the heroine of the novel, though being so sheltered can make you too easily misled, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Scarlett, on the other hand, thanks to Rhett pulling her on the dance floor while in mourning, and calling her out on her hypocrisy, has decided to flaunt the rules.  I like her better now than when she was the 16-year-old belle of the barbecue.

That doesn’t mean I like her, just that I like that she’s letting her true colors show more often instead of pretending to be the perfect Southern lady.  I’ve been burned by people pretending to be one way, but really being another.  I’d rather see what they’re really like before they pull me in to liking them.

That, and I think the rules she lived under were far too strict anyway.  Who wants to be a dour old matron at 17?  (By the way, for myself I was referring to being teased from an early age, not child abuse.)

On p. 428, after the burning of Atlanta and the fall of Tara.  The “I’ll never be hungry again” scene is far less melodramatic in the book than in the movie, with its fist to the sky and dramatic music.

On the one hand, we see admirable strength as she takes on the hard work necessary to feed everyone and rebuild the ruined plantation with nothing but a few vegetable gardens, a cow and a calf.

But on the other, she’s turned into a terrible bully.  Everyone fears her tongue, from the few slaves to her own father–and, of course, her little boy, Wade.  They go to Melanie for comfort, Melanie who has only just survived risky childbirth and is fighting her own battles.

Meanwhile, in the Little House books you find a family who is kind to each other even in the worst of situations, such as during the long, hard winter when they run out of food and fuel, but without sacrificing resolve or hard work.  It’s good and right that Scarlett wants her family to survive, but she’s sacrificing her soul.

I’m around p. 500.  While I love most of the book–the writing, the historical detail–the racism is really getting on my nerves.  >:(

I would love to get the impression that when the author talks about the “negroes” being generally lazy, like children, not as good as whites, that she’s just giving Scarlett’s point of view, showing how horrid she is.  Unfortunately, I get the strong impression that she agrees with Scarlett.

Not only that, but Yankee characters are seen as bad simply because they’re Yankees.  Same for “white trash.”  Who are the villains?  The Yankee former overseers, who are now sticking it to the ruined plantation owners.

Today, I read two things that disturbed me further.  One is that Emmie Slattery appears to be condemned as “white trash” simply because of the kind of family she was born into.  Sure she’s had a few kids out of wedlock, but is that enough to treat her like she’s not worthy to live?  And she’s married the father now.

Two, the evil Yankee former overseer Jonas (now married to Emmie) not only wants to buy Tara, but he (horror of horrors) loves to say how “negroes” are equal to whites, put his arm around their shoulders, etc.  Not only that, if he bought Tara, he’d probably dine negroes right there at Tara!  What an insult to Tara! [GROAN]

Around p. 780:

There are racist bits all through the middle part of this book.  It’s like watching Birth of a Nation all over again to read complaints about letting former slaves vote, the “horror” at the thought of them going into politics or being governor or even *gasp* marrying whites, the “loyal” former slaves who want someone to give them orders again because they don’t like their freedom.

For the last one, I can imagine something like this may have happened with people who were raised in slavery and not taught even basic learning or how to take care of themselves.  The Israelites made similar complaints when Moses brought them out of Egypt, that he had taken them away from the provisions of their masters and into the desert to starve.

Of course, the botched Reconstruction is also largely to blame, especially if this book is as well-researched as is claimed.  The former Confederates were screwed over in all sorts of ways, inspiring discontent, while it sounds like the former slaves were just thrust into the world without the skills they needed to make good lives for themselves.

They should’ve been educated in reading, math and trades, especially considering the widespread poverty right after Sherman went through and destroyed everything.  There should not have been a black illiteracy rate of more than 70% as late as 1880.  But of course, the government was in charge of Reconstruction, so what can we expect?  😛

It’s quite something watching Scarlett lose her soul in the pursuit of money.  Stealing her sister’s beau so she can control his store and buy a mill, seems mild in comparison to what she does as time goes on.

Remember the “I’ll never be hungry again” scene, which seems in the movie like a testament to surviving despite great odds?  It’s actually the beginning of her descent, as the book shows far more clearly, because it’s her excuse to turn into a controlling tyrant.

Even infatuated, deluded Ashley is beginning to see her true colors, and no longer looks at her with love, because she manipulated Melanie to force him to take over one of her mills instead of going North to start again (and flee the temptation of adultery).

The free blacks hired for her two mills keep failing to show up for work, so she leases a convict team, and puts over them a bully who asks for free reign in how he treats them.  Then she acts all surprised to find them starving, living in squalor, and beaten-down.

She’s just about to let the manager of the mill quit, and good riddance, but–no, she needs him so she can have a successful mill and make lots of money to never be hungry again.  So after dressing him down, she decides to look the other way.

[To be continued.]

Hope of Future Healing and Moving On from the Abuse

I’ve been reading through an article on the long-term effects of bullying, and the most recent comments posted by readers sharing their own stories.  I noticed a common theme of bullying victims becoming very quiet and having trouble trusting, making friends, and the like.  These things sound very familiar.

Some of them have moved on from childhood abuse and some are posting about recent abuse which they are still struggling with.

But disturbing is that some still hold anger, rage and bitterness decades–even 50 years–after the bullying occurred.  It has turned them into shells of themselves, and they still wish evil things to happen to the bullies.

I, too, can recall at least one time when I bullied somebody–not that I meant to, but the words came out cruel and made me into a bully–and times when I said things that came out totally wrong.

In some cases it was a friend who stayed a friend, and the mistakes have long since been forgotten.

But the time I bullied a person, I remember what I said, what I really meant but how it came out instead, and how she reacted, and I often wish I could find her and apologize.  But I don’t even remember her name.

I’ve also discovered that some of my own bullies from school, people who meant to pick on me, and did it over and over, have since–whether at reunions or on Facebook–found me and befriended me, sometimes even apologizing for what happened back then.  They are truly nice people now, from what I can tell online.

So while I haven’t forgotten that I was bullied, and at times it still bothers me, I have forgiven at least most of the bullies, many of whom are now nameless and faceless in my memory.

I realize that even if we have forgotten each other, they probably have matured and regret what they did or said all those years ago.

(The same applies to most of the bullies in my College Memoirs, by the way.  People still act stupid in college.)

I really wish the commenters on that bullying article would do the same.  At this point, they are the ones still suffering from their anger and resentment, not the long-ago bullies.

I have a healthy marriage and a child, and held down the jobs I needed before becoming a stay-at-home mother.  The first job I lost because of large-scale downsizing.  The second, I held for four years before resigning because of my coming baby.

But the commenters who won’t let go, they’re still stuck, often not having healthy relationships or even jobs.

Knowing that I have been able to move on since other cases of bullying and abuse, tells me that I can eventually move on from this latest Tracy/Richard episode as well, even though it has been very traumatizing in its depths of betrayal, gaslighting and bullying.

For it is not an enemy [Tracy] who reproaches me, 
Then I could bear it; 
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, 
Then I could hide myself from him. 
But it is you, a man my equal, 
My companion and my familiar friend [Richard]; 
We who had sweet fellowship together 
Walked in the house of God in the throng.  
Psalm 55:12-14, NASB

A song from Klank, a Christian band that is raw and real and doesn’t bother with happy Christian conventions in songwriting or music, such as the pat-answer/ ending of how Jesus will help me through:

You don’t know what it is to be me 
I was lied to and flat out deceived 
Said you cared, but was never there 
You left me to drown in my despair 
You gave me your word that you’d 
Always be my true friend 
Now that you’re gone, I can go on with 
My life again 
I cared for you and called you my friend 
Shared my life with you and let you in 
Then you dissed me 
Started spreading lies 
Even to my face you still deny 
You gave me your word that you’d 
Always be my true friend 
Now that you’re gone, I can go on with 
My life again 
I still feel it 
Inside, false pride 
Outside, you lied 
You don’t know what it is to be me 
I was lied to and flat out deceived 
One more time 
Twist the knife in my back 
I don’t need no friends like that 
You gave me your word that you’d 
Always be my true friend 
Now that you’re gone I can go on with 
My life again  
–Klank, Deceived 

Story of another spiritual mentor who caused great grief (showing that I’m not the only one this has ever happened to)

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing


Jane Eyre Review–Part 3


Part 1
Part 2

I love how Brontë describes Jane’s feelings so well, so masterfully.  We see how Jane goes from finding Mr. Rochester ugly, to a deep, passionate attachment.

We see it’s because he starts treating her as a friend, seeking her out, and she believes she sees something more in his eyes.

When she discovers she may have a rival, Blanche Ingram (merely based on the fact that a beautiful and accomplished young upper-class woman is in his circle of acquaintances), we also see how she forces herself to stop thinking her plain and lower-class self can possibly make him think anything for her other than friendship.

Sure she’s gained in health, ruddiness and weight since she came to Thornfield, which is much healthier than the institution she left, and her appearance has improved.  Sure men do occasionally fall for their secretaries/maids/etc. (though Jane doesn’t actually think of this).

But she believes her feelings for him are impertinent and must be squashed.  It doesn’t work, but when she hears news of him coming back to Thornfield, she tells herself there are other reasons why her hand is trembling and her face is flushed.  Brontë has (had) a gift for describing a woman’s inner thoughts.

Mr. Rochester invites over a bunch of local upper-class people for a few weeks.  He pays attention to Blanche Ingram, as if he intends to marry her.  (In the miniseries, she’s played by the first Romana, Mary Tamm, who’s perfect for the part.)  [Update 5/18/14: RIP Romana.  🙁  ]

Now that Jane has encountered Blanche, and been forced (by Mr. Rochester) to stay in the drawing room every night as his guests assemble after dinner, she knows that Blanche is haughty and arrogant.

Blanche is proud of the ways she tormented her governesses; her mother speaks of governesses with contempt; she’s horrible to Rochester’s sweet little French daughter; Mr. Rochester sees it all.

Jane can see that he has no passion for Blanche, yet he seems to intend to marry her anyway, for family or political reasons, as upper-class marriages often were in those days.  The very thought burns her inside with what isn’t quite jealousy, she writes.

It reminded me of an ex-boyfriend who had to choose between me and a girl he didn’t love, but initially chose the girl he didn’t love.  I knew I held his heart, and a few weeks later he finally decided to follow his heart.

But until then, I had to endure him calling some other girl he didn’t love his “girlfriend,” and him telling me that people with no passion for each other who were “just friends” could be successfully married.

So I know how Jane is feeling.  I also understand her saying that if he had loved Blanche, she would have felt far differently about his marrying her, than she did knowing he did not.

If my ex had loved the other girl, I would have understood his choosing her.  But he loved me and only saw her as a friend.  So my heart burned then just as Jane’s is burning now.  The book has become far more real to me than it was in my inexperienced teens.

Even though Jane Eyre is a little Quakerish woman who refuses to do anything she perceives as “inappropriate,” and the social mores of the time would prevent a respectable English novel from being explicit, the middle part of the book has a strange erotic flavor to it.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why, but Brontë describes Jane and Mr. Rochester’s emotions and expressions so minutely and completely that the air flashes with sexual tension.

When Mr. Rochester confesses that he loves Jane and not Blanche Ingram (though he gave blatant hints here and there that only Jane could miss), and they no longer pretend with each other, the tension increases.

The housekeeper is surprised, and warns Jane to be wary of her master wanting to marry his governess.  She doubts his real intentions.  But she had noticed that he treated Jane as a “pet.”

I especially love that term right there, treated as a pet.  It seems to fit, with the way he loved to tease her for being an imp and a fairy, while she teased him back, refusing to mince words for the sake of politeness or his position as her employer.

When he gives her money for travel to her aunt’s deathbed, he fears she’ll stay away too long, and tries to take it back.  She keeps it from him, rather than surrendering it like a dutiful servant.  They had such a close relationship that she felt comfortable asserting her rights and teasing him.

This also reminds me of one of my former bosses, whom I would tease one moment, and the next insist that he pay my wages (since he was often late with them).

Then when they go from master/servant to engaged, Jane teases him even more, taking the housekeeper’s advice and keeping him at a distance until the wedding day.  It stirs him into a passionate fury, but she can tell he enjoys it.

It’s enough to make me wonder if Brontë had some other romance in her life that no one ever knew about, since she writes like someone who has experienced it.  Yet at this time of her life, the closest thing to “romance” anyone knows about is her unrequited love for Prof. Heger.

However, the devastation she feels, when on her wedding day she learns that Rochester is married to a madwoman in the attic, is probably taken from Brontë’s realization that Prof. Heger never felt anything for her.

The next part of the book is a sweet little bit that got cut out of the Orson Welles movie: when she finds out about Mr. Rochester’s mad wife, and runs away to avoid becoming his mistress instead of his legal wife.

After several days of desperate need, thanks to a parcel of money etc. forgotten on the coach, she finally comes upon a little house with a few caring souls who take her in.  She gets along quite well with the two young sisters, and their brother, St. John, is a blond Apollo and a Calvinist preacher.

He gives Jane a job as a charity schoolteacher.  She soon becomes his confidant when she discovers his secret love for a local heiress, who returns it, and whose father would bless the union.  But he has made up his mind that he is to be a missionary to India, and this beautiful but weak girl would never last in harsh climates.

Jane discovers that she has inherited a small fortune–and that these three new friends are her first cousins.  At long last, she has a loving family.  But then St. John decides she must become his wife and help him be a missionary to India.

St. John is strict and passionately Calvinist, unlike Jane, and he believes that he KNOWS God’s will for Jane.  And that will is that Jane MUST go to India and MUST marry him (to avoid scandal, not for love), or else she will burn in hellfire forever.

The exchange between Jane and St. John reminds me very much of an Evangelical church we once attended.  This church began to teach that everyone should go on missions, even though not everyone felt the desire or ability to go.  In the same way, St. John wonders why not everyone around him burns to go into missions.

Jane replies that not everyone has his powers, and it would be foolish for the weak to march with the strong.  He says that when the right people are found for the job, they must be stirred up; Jane asks, wouldn’t their own hearts tell them first?

But St. John takes it upon himself to speak for her heart, and badgers her into submission.  For every objection, he’s already prepared an answer, making it impossible for Jane to be “right.”

Jane very nearly gives in, when the voice of Mr. Rochester is supernaturally transmitted to her across the ether, as if to show that even God disagrees with St. John’s concept of Jane’s destiny.  It’s as if Brontë wants to show that Calvinists don’t have it all figured out, after all.

In fact, a strong antipathy to Calvinism runs through the whole book, from the abuses of Mr. Brocklehurst, who insists on unhealthy conditions for the girls of the Lowood charity school, for the “good of their souls”; to the unloving austerity of Eliza; to St. John’s fiercely moral and ambitious (but not loving) character.  Helen is the opposite of this, with her loving ways and universalist beliefs.

Even Mr. Rochester’s wild ways seem more desirable to Jane than the strict rules and predestination of the Calvinists around her.  In the end, it is Rochester she runs to, and she finds God and salvation are both there with him.

For a more complete treatment of this topic, see Rochester vs. St. John Rivers: or Why Jane Eyre Preferred a Cynical Sinner to a Religious Zealot by Peter Bolt.

Amazing how the book has new levels of meaning for me as time goes on.

[December 2009]


Jane Eyre Review–Part 2


Part 1

I have noticed an odd tendency in old British books to print lines of French, but not translate them.  The writers seemed to assume the reader would understand.  I wonder if French was just a common part of English education in those days, as expected as reading and arithmetic, since France was just across the Channel….

In the miniseries, I was struck by the acting of Dalton and Clarke: When they first conversed in the parlor, they seemed so stilted as if they were acting badly, with no feeling or passion for the characters.

But as the miniseries progressed, their familiarity and comfort with each other increased–showing that first conversation was deliberately acted that way.

It showed two people first getting to know each other, not at all comfortable with each other yet.  Later on, their comfort increases along with their regard for each other.

It’s very familiar to me, since I often feel the same way on first meeting someone, very shy and quiet, but if we hit it off, I feel much more comfortable in their presence.  Even if I already “met” this person online, the first meeting is usually like this.  So this part of the miniseries certainly rings true.

Since the miniseries is one medium and the book another, the scene can’t be quite the same in both.  But the book still shows an abruptness and unease in the way they talk with each other:

Mr. Rochester blames Jane for the fall that twisted his ankle, as if she were a fairy who put the ice on the roadway and bewitched his horse.  He asks her questions, but it’s more grilling than getting-to-know-you.  She’s not afraid of him, as she would be if he were polite and refined, something she’s not used to.

He’s impressed by  her portfolio, which has several watercolors which are not at all your typical Victorian schoolgirl landscape: They’re surreal, with brooding supernatural beings.

I can’t help but wonder if the very thing that made Mr. Rochester upset at her–his idea that she is a fairy who bewitched his horse–is what finally attracts him to her.

Since the pretty drawing room flowers–that is, the rich women in the neighborhood–could hardly compete with a mysterious fairy who somehow survived eight years in a charity school.

The descriptions of Mr. Rochester fit Orson Welles much better than Timothy Dalton: middle height, broad chested, dark face, stern features, heavy brow, about 40, granite-hewn features, gloomy but with eyes “not without a certain change in their depths sometimes, which, if it was not softness, reminded you, at least, of that feeling.”

Of course, Brontë probably had in mind either her brother (a wild and brooding young man) or the great (unrequited) love of her life, the married Professor Heger.

Heger was (from the accounts I’ve read) a stern man himself, given to fits of pique, but an excellent, attentive and caring teacher–Though after you stopped being his student, he apparently forgot about you, which troubled Charlotte Brontë to no end.

It seems she mistook his care for his favorite student as something else.  She didn’t understand why he lost interest in her after she left Brussels for home, and rarely responded to her letters, certainly with no fondness or indulgence.

Her disappointment seems to have followed her throughout the rest of her short life: She kept re-making the whole story in various ways in her three novels, turning the Professor’s sweet wife into spiteful old women, and turning the Professor into unmarried characters who fell for her Mary Sues (Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe).

Pictures of Prof. Heger–though he hardly fits the word “ugly” often used for Mr. Rochester: Here and here.

Mr. Rochester finds Jane fascinating because she’s not subservient or artful, but rather tells it like it is.  When he asks if she finds him handsome, instead of coming up with some polite evasion, she simply says, “No, sir.”  He also tells her,

Know, that in the course of your future life you will often find yourself elected the involuntary confidant of your acquaintances’ secrets: people will instinctively find out, as I have done, that it is not your forte to talk of yourself, but to listen while others talk of themselves;

they will feel, too, that you listen with no malevolent scorn of their indiscretion, but with a kind of innate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouraging because it is very unobtrusive in its manifestations.

As a quiet person myself, I know this is true-to-life.


Part 3

Jane Eyre Review–Part 1

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, available from various publishers:

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!!!!! 

This was originally written as an e-mail to my former friend Richard.  I then adapted it for an online book forum, where it got so much praise that I put it here on my website.

I have just read Jane Eyre for the first time since high school.  The first time I read it, it was so engrossing that I read 80 pages in one day–quite a feat for me.  Then I got my mom into it, and she read it even faster.  I read it at least once or twice more, probably saw the Orson Welles movie, and even saw the BBC miniseries of it on A&E’s “Classroom.”

I loved the book so much that it became the hallmark of good books. Being next to or near Jane Eyre in my bookcase was an honor.

Orson Welles fit the character of Rochester perfectly, even physically, and the movie is full of Gothic overtones to match the novel, but I still prefer the BBC miniseries.

Sure Timothy Dalton does not fit the physical description of a plain man that the pretty women only want for his money.  But the miniseries took the time to include a great deal of the original plot and dialogue, unlike the Welles movie, which completely cut out the part with the Rivers family.

Also, Jane was supposed to be plain–a major part of her character because she wasn’t used to getting attention for beauty–but the movie version cast Joan Fontaine in the role!  The miniseries found a more appropriate face, Zelah Clarke.  I do believe Zelah Clarke can be pretty, but for the miniseries, she was made to look plain.

Not knowing the standards of beauty of the time, when women often didn’t wear makeup and it seems even plain women could find pioneer husbands, I wasn’t sure if Brontë’s description of Jane’s face was supposed to look like a bushy-browed buck-teethed girl, or more like Zelah Clarke.

I recall that Zelda Gilroy (of Dobie Gillis) was supposed to be 50s-plain, but even my dad said she was cute.

In our country, even the plain girls usually aren’t ugly, at least not in the Midwest where I live.  Ugly meaning bad teeth, horse face, that sort of thing.  Even plain girls can be cute with a sweet smile and maybe a little makeup.

Zelah Clarke fits that version of plain: not at all unpleasing, just not model-pretty, more like most young girls look.  But was that the English standard of the time?

I’ve also noted that Charlotte’s description of Jane matches a description I read of Charlotte herself from a writer or publisher who met her in person.  So Jane is probably modeled on Charlotte.

From descriptions I’ve read of Charlotte Brontë, she herself was considered plain; this was noted in the fact that she loved Professor Heger, but his wife was so pretty he’d have no reason even to look at Charlotte.

Though, from the best painting of her, she looks pretty to me.  If that’s what they considered plain, then yes, Zelah’s is the face to bring to mind as I read.

…In case anyone believes that women were perfectly happy in their lot as homemakers with few opportunities for a career, or as submissive wives, until feminism came along and put ideas into their heads, it isn’t true.  We have many examples that it isn’t.

Not only is there George Sand, who preferred to wear men’s clothes and live more like a male libertine than the conventional wife’s life.

Not only is there Anna Howe, Clarissa Harlowe‘s dearest friend and closest confidante, who was written by a man in the eighteenth century, but speaks as if she were born in the twentieth.

Not only does Clarissa herself prefer living as a single, independent woman to pledging obedience to a man she cannot respect, no matter how handsome or rich or well-connected that man may be.

Not only is there Laura Ingalls Wilder, who is gratified to find that Almanzo, her pa and her pastor do not believe in making her say “obey,” which works because she wouldn’t have said it anyway.

Not only does Almanzo reply, “I never knew [a wife] that [obeyed], nor any decent man that wanted her to.”

Not only were there the suffragettes.

Not only is there the Wife of Bath, who wants to take over control of her husbands.

But we also have Jane Eyre, a book written by a woman more than 100 years before the feminism of the 1960s and 70s:

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.

Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot.  Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth.

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a constraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.

It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex (p. 129).

Jane is also a feisty little thing at 10 years old, refusing to bow down to those who offend her sense of justice.  Her friend Helen is the opposite: angelic, bowing down and even agreeing to the injustices.

Helen is right that Jane’s anger against various people needs to be tempered with Christian love and mercy, but I think Helen carries it too far, becoming the one who willingly submits to abuse, the enabler.

Jane at 10 realizes that she’s probably disliked by her rich aunt because her dead uncle made the aunt take her in, and because she doesn’t act like many other children.  If she were pretty, clever, laughing, running around all the time, she probably would have been welcomed into her aunt’s little family circle.

Not only does this remind me in some ways of myself as a child, but I can’t help imagining if Wednesday Addams were taken in by a family of rich blondes from Addams Family Values.

Or remembering the way Wednesday is treated at summer camp, looked on with suspicion and dislike because she doesn’t act like the other children–until she is finally forced into the Harmony Hut with the happy children’s movies and the *gasp* pictures of Michael Jackson:



To be continued.