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Book Addled

To be added when less addled.

Currently reading

The Custom of the Country
Edith Wharton, Linda Wagner-Martin
Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy, Louise Maude, Alymer Maude

Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics)

Jane Eyre - Michael Mason, Charlotte Brontë [The picture disappeared which made the comments rather irrelevant.:]


…Oh course, Rush Limbaugh is nuts.

In December 2007, on a radio show with an audience of 14.5 million, Limbaugh asked this question about the former first lady's presidential prospects, after an incredibly unflattering picture of her had surfaced: "Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? I want you to understand that I'm talking about the evolution of American culture here, and not so much Mrs Clinton," Limbaugh told his audience. "It could be anybody, and it's really not very complicated. Americans are addicted to physical perfection, thanks to Hollywood and thanks to television” (news.com.au).

Interestingly and at the same time, we have John McCain, another presidential prospect, who was 71 years old [11 years older than Hillary Clinton:]. Somehow this is different. Society has agreed that women age, and men grow more distinguished. Ah, bullshit. McCain looked plenty old and acted like an irrational coot.

However, the more important point is how little we've changed. Women still must be beautiful. And, for the most part, beautiful women still populate contemporary fiction. Consider how brave it was, then, for Charlotte Brontë to insist on a "plain" heroine. Brontë emphasizes Eyre's plainness as if challenging the reader to reject her. The impact of presenting such a heroine may be gauged by a male critic (a 19th century Limbaugh) in the Westminister Review (1858), who writes, "Possibly none of the frauds which are now so much the topic of common remark are so irritating, as that to which the purchaser of a novel is a victim on finding he has only to peruse a narrative of the conduct and sentiments of an ugly lady" (Showalter 123).

Despite ignoring the classic paradigm of either having a beautiful heroine or a heroine--ostensibly plain--who later "blooms," Brontë makes us forget that neither Jane nor Rochester are physically attractive. From the opening scene, Jane's personality dominants the horizon. Having endured the young master's abuse for some time, Jane strikes back and, as punishment for her passion, is banished to the red room. The room is chill, garish, and where Mr. Reed died. Jane's cries to be released are ignored, and she falls into unconsciousness.

Although Jane suffers no lasting harm, her thoughts before she is thrust into the room isolate well why her path will be harder than fate had dictated already:
I know that had I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping child—though equally dependent and friendless—Mrs. Reed would have endured my presence more complacently; her children would have entertained for me more of the cordiality of fellow-feeling; the servants would have been less prone to make me the scapegoat of the nursery.

While beauty and its attendant charms would have made Jane’s life easier, it would have lessened her complexity as a character. Again and again, Jane cannot sit back and depend on the free pass beauty often accords, but must choose to give up or to fight her way through. Jane chooses to fight, and it is her passion, wit, and intelligence that make her an unforgettable heroine.