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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Holiday Musings...


Dear Y13

Right, you should be well in to your first draft of your comparative coursework by now. Remember, this is independent study so the onus is on you to study independently.

I am expecting your first drafts or your comparative coursework on Monday.

One thing I think it is worth stating is that this is your final coursework and you should draw on everything you have learnt across this A Level to do well.
You need to ensure that you incorporate your learning into your coursework. It should include narrative voice, genre, language analysis, feminism as well as how the context impacts upon reader understanding. A wealth of knowledge!

The narrative voice in novels changed towards the end of the nineteenth century. The essay by Henry James, ‘The Art of Fiction’ signalled a change in the moralistic premise of Victorian novel and a move away from audience sensationalism to art. The challenges to convention reflect the social change at the end of the nineteenth century, and the transgression in the concept of identity, gender and the reality of moral literature. This is further evident in the theatre of the late nineteenth century. For example, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) and Henrik Ibsen’s The Doll’s House (1889) question Victorian notions of earnestness, gender and the reality of happy endings.

In Jane Eyre, Brontë also uses romanticism and the Gothic to emphasise the introspectiveness of Jane. In chapter 26 Brontë uses a blend of these genres:
‘Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman- almost a bride, was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects desolate. A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm has whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses’ (Brontë)
The description of landscape to represent feeling and emotion, in this case pathetic fallacy, is typically associated with romantic poets. The iced ‘ripe apples’ connote her ‘ripe’ sexuality and fertility ceasing now her marriage has not happened. The crushed roses are significant as a stock article associated with love. The repetition of ice, particularly the ‘untrodden snow’ connotes the emotional coldness of her solitary journey. These evocative metaphors forefront descriptions the readership would have associated with the Romantic poets Coleridge, Wordsworth and Byron.  The ‘desolate’ and barren imagery are located in the gothic.  Also, by addressing herself in the third person Brontë creates a confusion of identity that shifts from the security found in a first person narrative. Furthermore, she has reverted from woman to child. This indicates a confusion of identity and also suggests the lack of autonomy women have when unmarried and fatherless. Brontë combines genres to not only to create imagery associated with Jane’s emotional state, but also to make a social comment about women.

Although there is a blurring of genres, one of the most pervasive genres in Jane Eyre is the gothic. Brontë skilfully uses gothic techniques so that the readers know we are in Jane’s emotional world. The gothic is evident in the description of landscapes and the imprisonment in the red room at the end of Chapter one. She describes herself as ‘out of herself’ (Chapter 2, pg 6) and the description of the room places the reader in the gothic as Jane tells the reader her story of torment at her incarceration. The mood of the ‘revolted slave’ was still bracing her with ‘bitter vigour’ (Brontë, pg 9) and she has some sort of mental breakdown. The gothic is sustained as she awakes to see a ‘terrible red glare, crossed with thick black bars’ (chapt 3, pg 13).  Brontë uses the gothic again to portray the incarceration of the Creole, Bertha Mason or Antoinette. The images are strong and animalistic:
‘a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly on all fours; it snatched growled like some strange, wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face. ‘ (Chapter 26, pg 308)
Jane’s meeting is loaded with animalistic imagery and a contrast to the pale and small Jane. The dehumanising of Bertha/Antoinette (I'll say Bertha because that's how Jane would have known her) and Jane’s later references to her as a ‘demon’ and a ‘vampyre’ locate this description in the gothic. The use of the gothic here and in Jane’s ordeal in the red room link Jane and Bertha on a psychological level and signify Jane’s struggle with self-control and rebellion of the ‘revolted slave’ that frequently burns inside her: Bertha is the dark side of Jane. Fin de siècle novels such as The Awakening, Dracula and Heart of Darkness show the fear of the miscegenation and reverse colonialism, but this clearly shows that fear of the racial ‘other’ was evident much earlier in the century and Brontë’s use of the gothic heightens the fear of the dark Bertha, whilst simultaneously highlighting the plight of the social incarceration of women in nineteenth-century society. Unable to justly represent the plight of women because of the social constraints upon her Brontë had to create a double. By the end of the nineteenth-century it is unnecessary for there to be a symbolic doubling as it has been recognised that the ‘mad rebellious woman and the sane dutiful woman were really inhabitants of the same body.’

Jane is significant and vital to our understanding of Antoinette. It was her treatment by Bronte that moved Jean Rys to write her prequel. Why?

BTW, if anyone's still reading, please look at this. It is actually one of the best things I have ever seen!

Happy holiday!
Ms :)