by Lea Ann Blake
Lea Ann Blake CIED 4313
Jane Eyre Reading Ladder
Theme: Head vs. Heart: How Our Culture Shapes Our Values
Lee, A. (Director). (1995). Sense and Sensibility [Motion picture on DVD]. U.S.A.: Columbia Pictures and Tristar Home Video.
This movie is based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name. The movie follows Elinor, the reasonable sister, and Marianne, the emotional sister, as they navigate their change in fortunes after their father’s death. Both fall in love with unavailable men, but react in opposite ways to their circumstances. The sisters face off on whether or not one should express one’s feelings enthusiastically or reign in their emotions for the sake of social decorum.
I put this movie first in order to establish both the basic themes and the historical time period, which we would be focusing on. Sense and Sensibility the novel was written in 1811, whereas Jane Eyre was written in 1847. The movie shows the strict decorum that was expected of young ladies at the time, the position of women in society, and their limited options.
Jane Eyre is described as being cold looking. She is restrained in her movements and actions and yet speaks with passion: “The flame flickers in the eye; the eye shines like dew; it looks soft and full of feeling,” but “The forehead declares, ‘Reason sits firm and holds the reins” (Bronte, 226-7). All the major movements in the novel are based on Jane’s choices, which are influenced by her circumstances at the time. Jane seems to be a combination of Elinor and Marianne, and I felt it would be easier for students to distinguish between the two extremes by analyzing two people with distinct qualities instead of one person, whose traits contradict each other.
Compare student conclusions to Jane’s:
“Feeling without judgment is a washy draught indeed; but judgment untempered by feeling is too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition” (Bronte, 266).
Green, Alison. (2013). “6 Career Myths You Shouldn’t Fall For.” U.S. News: Money. Retrieved from: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2013/01/07/6-career- myths-you-shouldnt-fall-for
This article argues against following impractical dreams. According to the author, just getting a college degree won’t guarantee you a job, following your passion won’t lead you to money, starting a business is difficult and not for everyone, having a major in something won’t lead you to a career in it automatically, and grad school may lead to more debt and not necessarily get you a better job.
I put this second, so I could immediately reveal how the passion vs. reason debate relates to the students’ lives. This lesson plan is for seniors, and they will be getting conflicting messages from all different sources about how to plan their futures. Each of these sources gives advice based on the advisor’s values. In this case, the advisor values security over creative fulfillment, for example. Students must learn to examine the context in which they are given messages. They must ask themselves: does this match with my personal values?
Compare to Jane:
“Which is better? –To have surrendered to temptation; listened to passion; made no painful effort—no struggle. . .to have been now living in France, Mr. Rochester’s mistress . . . What am I saying; and, above all, feeling? Whether is it better, I ask to be a slave in a fool’s paradise at Marseille--fevered with delusive bliss one hour--suffocating with the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next--or to be a village schoolmistress, free and honest, in a breezy mountain nook in the healthy heart of England?” (Bronte, 402).
Pradhan, Nihar. (2013). “Romanticism vs. Realism.” Retrieved from: https://nrpin.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/romanticism-vs-realism/
This is a blog post, which puts in simple terms the definitions of romanticism and realism and how they relate to the changes that were occurring in the 19th century, which is the same century in which Jane Eyre is written.
I wanted to put Jane Eyre within a larger literary context. I want to show students that the choices that are considered “correct” in one novel are dependent upon what society at large considered valuable at the time in which it was written.
“ROMANTICISM vs. REALISM” (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://webs.anokaramsey.edu/stankey/eng2230/docs2230/romantic/romretbl.htm
ROMANTICISM vs. REALISM
Realism 1865 - 1914
Characters may be “larger than life” -- e.g. Rip Van Winkle, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, Natty Bumppo, Ralph Hepdurn, Bartleby
Characters resemble ordinary people -- e.g. Huck Finn, Editha, Frederick Winterbourne, Daisy Miller, Sylvia, Louisa, Edna Pontellier
Plot contains unusual events, mystery, or high adventure -- e.g. Poe's stories, Melville’s Typee
Plot is developed with ordinary events and circumstances
Ending is often happy
Ending might be unhappy
The language is often “literary” (inflated, formal, etc.)
Writer uses ordinary speech and dialect - - common vernacular (the everyday language spoken by a people)
Settings often made up; if actual settings are used, the focus is on the exotic, strange, mysterious -- e.g. Melville’s Marquesas islands (S. Pacific), Cooper’s woods and frontier, Poe's gothic chambers
Settings actually exist or have actual prototypes
Writer is interested in history or legend - - e.g. Irving, Poe
Writer is interested in recent or contemporary life
I felt a comparison table would help clarify the previous article. This will also give students a visual study aid to use while reading Jane Eyre.
Compare to Jane Eyre:
“’Jane! Jane! Jane!’ nothing more. ‘Oh God! what is it?’ I gasped.
I might have said, ‘Where is it’ for it did not seem in the room--not in the house--nor in the garden . . . And it was the voice of a human being--a known, loved, well-remembered voice—that of Edward Fairfax Rochester” (467).
Bronte, Charlotte. (1847). Jane Eyre. London, England. Penguin Group.
An orphan, Jane Eyre begins life as a dependent within her Aunt Reed’s house. There, she is treated cruelly until a kind doctor asks her if she would like to live elsewhere. He makes a recommendation of school to her Aunt Reed, who chooses the cheapest, harshest school she can find because she hates Jane. The strict religious institution she was sent to eventually becomes tolerable once the conditions were made public. Jane remains at school and eventually becomes a teacher there. Then she decides to go on her own to Thornfield, where she becomes a governess to a young girl. She falls in love with Mr. Rochester, who loves her back. He asks Jane to marry him without telling her that he is already married to a madwoman, who has been causing mysterious happenings throughout Jane’s stay there. Jane leaves him in the dead of night, with no money, and is at the point of death when she comes across the doorstep of who we will eventually find out are her long-lost poor relations. Her relation St. John asks her to marry him, not because he loves her, but because her temperament is suited to a missionary work. She refuses to marry without love, and hears the cry from miles away of the pained Mr. Rochester. She returns to him and learns that his wife died in a fire, which made him blind and one-armed, and they marry, and live happily ever after.
I put this in the middle of the ladder instead of the end because I have some texts that enhance the reading if given beforehand and others that will refer back to the reading.
Zeffirelli, Franco. (Director). (1996). Jane Eyre. [Motion Picture on DVD]. U.S.A. Miramax.
The plot is the same as the novel.
I would use excerpts of this to clarify any plot confusion as needed by the students. I put the movie excerpts after the reading because I find knowing what is going to happen often inhibits reading motivation for me. I like the discovery. Plus, during the reading, we will reflect on the various choices Jane makes, and I would like students to reflect on what they would do in that situation without knowing the consequences of the action beforehand, as that will cloud their judgment.
Bird, Beverly. (n.d.). “How to File for Divorce When Your Spouse is Mentally Ill.” Retrieved from: http://info.legalzoom.com/file-divorce-spouse-mentally-ill-20467.html
This article details the potential obstacles of divorcing your spouse on the grounds of insanity.
“If you file on grounds of insanity or mental illness, and if your spouse is not capable of
working, your state might require you to pay for his support permanently after your divorce. There could be a great deal at stake, depending on the severity of your spouse’s illness, so speak with an attorney before you begin your divorce proceedings and bring the situation to the attention of the court” (Bird).
I want to get students thinking about whether or not what happened to Jane is possible in modern times, and what would they do if they were stuck paying for their divorced spouse’s institutionalization for the rest of their lives.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. (1892). “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In Baym, Nina; Levine, Robert S. (Editors). The Norton Anthology of American Literature: 1865-1914, Volume C. (pp. 792-803). New York, NY. W.W. Norton & Company.
A woman slowly goes crazy following the advice of her physician husband John, who diagnosed her with hysteria. She knows all she needs is “congenial work, with excitement and change” (Gilman, 792). She begins to hallucinate a woman within the wallpaper. She obsesses over the wallpaper. By the end of the story, she has lost all reason.
This is an example of following society’s dictates to the extreme. I want students to consider what they can and cannot live without. How far is it reasonable to deny passion? How do you balance personal desires and societal expectations? This text is written near the end of the same century, so it is a useful comparison to both Sense and Sensibility and Jane Eyre on the growing criticism of the stringent roles of women in 19th century society. The woman also engages in the same struggles of reason vs. passion.
Compare to Jane:
“I felt daily more and more that I must disown half my nature, stifle half my faculties, wrest
my tastes from their original bent, force myself to the adoption of pursuits, for which I had no natural vocation” (Bronte, 444).
The Narratologist. (2014). “Literary Theory: ‘The Madwoman in the Attic’ (1979) by Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert.’” Retrieved from: http://www.thenarratologist.com/literary-theory/literary-theory-the-madwoman-in-the- attic-1979-by-susan-gubar-and-sandra-m-gilbert/
This article describes how The Madwoman in the Attic describes a common trope in 19th century literature in which female characters were described as angels, who were calm and submissive, or monsters, who were passionate and rebellious.
This angel/monster trope is another way of looking at the passion vs. reason debate and how the morals in literature can be used as a means of social control, in which to uphold the status quo.
Gardner, Amanda. (2012). “How Gender Stereotypes Warp Our View of Depression.” Time. Retrieved from: http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/15/how-gender-stereotypes-warp-our- view-of-depression/
This article examines how gender stereotypes affect our view of depression. It found that “people of both sexes are less likely to view men as being depressed and in need of professional help—even if a man’s symptoms are identical to a woman’s” because “Male stereotypes that emphasize traits such as toughness and strength may dissuade both women and men, and especially the latter, from identifying or acknowledging the signs of depression in men, says study author Viren Swami” (Gardner).
Again, I wanted to direct students back to the real world. Why do we study stereotypes in literature? Because they end up being stereotypes in real life!
The Dresden Dolls. (2004). Girl Anachronism. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO5APfKnR50
This music video juxtaposes amusing scenes of a woman “acting crazy” with the angry/sarcastic tone of voice in which she critiques the stereotypes of mental illness.
Like how they should be avoided:
“But I MIGHT be catching so DON’T TOUCH You'll start believing
You're immune to gravity and STUFF.”
Or that they’re fragile:
“Don't get me wet
Because the BANDAGES will all COME OFF.”
Or that they’re faking for attention:
“THEY’LL SAY just
LET her CRASH
The attention just encourages her. ”
I think it is irresponsible to use extreme forms of mental illness as the face of mental illness. I think this video will relate to the extreme emotions often experienced by teenagers and the way that teenage emotions are often dismissed as cries for attention. One of the most common stereotypes is that people with mental illness are somehow to blame for it.
“Stereotypes About People With Mental Illness.” (n.d.). The Scattergood Foundation. Retrieved from: http://scattergoodfoundation.org/stereotypes#.V-iP6mcVC70
This article is a short overview of the myths and realities on the common misconceptions about mental illness, and how they lead to prejudice.
This article is a more straightforward look at the stereotypes about mental illness. This can be reviewed at a glance for clarity.