Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chapter 3: In Which Mr. Lloyd Foreshadows

When we left Jane, she had just collapsed in the red room. In chapter 3, she's been removed to her own bed, and Charlotte Bronte throws in another atmosphere-setting zinger:
I felt an inexpressible relief, a soothing conviction of protection and security, when I knew that there was a stranger in the room, an individual not belonging to Gateshead, and not related to Mrs. Reed.
This is a ten-year-old girl, remember. And what it takes for her to feel safe is the presence of a stranger.

The stranger is Mr. Lloyd, the local apothecary (the lowest rung of the medical profession at the time; if you don't know this, the fact that Mrs. Reed calls in a physician for herself doesn't have the same impact). He's there to check in on Jane, who's had a bit of a fright.

And then we get one of the moments where Jane actually seems like a child, as she contemplates Gulliver's Travels:
This book I had again and again perused with delight. I considered it a narrative of facts, and discovered in it a vein of interest deeper than what I found in fairy tales: for as to the elves, having sought them in vain among foxglove leaves and bells, under mushrooms and beneath the ground-ivy mantling old wall-nooks, I had at length made up my mind to the sad truth, that they were all gone out of England to some savage country where the woods were wilder and thicker, and the population more scant; whereas, Lilliput and Brobdignag being, in my creed, solid parts of the earth’s surface, I doubted not that I might one day, by taking a long voyage, see with my own eyes the little fields, houses, and trees, the diminutive people, the tiny cows, sheep, and birds of the one realm; and the corn-fields forest-high, the mighty mastiffs, the monster cats, the tower-like men and women, of the other.
Mr. Lloyd comes back for a chat, and the reader is given the first hint that Jane might have family beyond the walls of Gateshead:
"Have you any relations besides Mrs. Reed?"

"I think not, sir."

"None belonging to your father?"

"I don’t know. I asked Aunt Reed once, and she said possibly I might have some poor, low relations called Eyre, but she knew nothing about them."

"If you had such, would you like to go to them?"

I reflected. Poverty looks grim to grown people; still more so to children: they have not much idea of industrious, working, respectable poverty; they think of the word only as connected with ragged clothes, scanty food, fireless grates, rude manners, and debasing vices: poverty for me was synonymous with degradation... I was not heroic enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste.

We've touched on Jane Eyre as a book that endorses revolutionary ideals, but it's a revolution that takes place very much within the landed classes. Bronte was not a fan of Jane Austen, but I think there's a good chance our Jane and Fanny Price would have agreed on the undesirability of poor relations.

Mr. Lloyd continues to act as a one-man foreshadowing show when he asks Jane if she'd like to go to school. Poor girl doesn't know what she's letting herself in for, but we'll see, starting in the next chapter.

Even with all the pathos in this chapter, the deadpan humor is still there, particularly in this line from the narrator:

Abbot, I think, gave me credit for being a sort of infantine Guy Fawkes.
Hmm. That's a mash-up that no one's tried yet. Anyone up for Jane Eyre and Gunpowder?

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