Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jane for President

  If I were to tell you that it was with fond nostalgia that I recollect my days studying English in high school as a freshman, I'd be lying; rather it was a castrating experience of humiliation fueled by my own blundering ineptitude and an instructor quite open in her distaste for my grade level and gender.  So it is understandable that one of the pieces of literature we indulged that year, Jane Eyre, would share the cold and farcical stigma that association bears.

  Then I grew up, and with youthful naivety also went the foggy warped lens by which I tended to pass judgement with upon works of literary craftsmanship.  No longer did Macbeth seem the right hand of the devil, no more did I have a desire to burn Hawthorn in a manner akin to the puritans he wrote of, and Atticus Finch and Boo Radley indulged the status of facebook BFF's.

  Poor Jane stood, however, at the end of this metaphoric hallway of new literary admiration; more then likely associating her neglected nature once more to her plain and lowly standing; but not for long.  Granted it was by requirement I again indulged the pages of Bronte's pen work, yet it was not a bitter reunion; having long ago left my resentment much as Jane had her own of Mrs. Reed.

  Yet, as I again ventured the rooms of Gateshead and Thornfield Hall, a new revelation dawned on me; something that time dictated I would have been unable to note so many years ago.  There was something of a familiar ring to the predicament Jane endured early in the novel at the hands of her adopted family and the venomous bigot Brockelhurst.  It was that nature she seemed to have that fated all her actions to be seen as acts of deceit and evil; that cannot do right attitude they bore regarding her that seemed only to grow worse if she offered the olive branch to their scornful hands, and how even though their hateful ways were clearly in the wrong, somehow they were perceived as the chaste lot by all save their victims until well into the story.  Why did this have such a familiar ring to it in echoes of recent events I heard?  Then it dawned on me...

Jane Eyre was the President!

  Indeed, the similarities between the plight of the orphaned child and the leader of the free world was in-mistakable.  In both cases the assailing party claimed to represent the will of God and voice of good christian society, branding their victim with labels of evil and the devil's servant.  Yet beneath the sweet sugared icing of both lay a deep rooted hypocrisy.

  As the Victorian metaphor revealed itself in my mind another thought occurred.  In the story Jane, before departing to Lowood sharply rebuked her wicked aunt and called her on all the evils committed on her part.  It is noted in the writing that this act shakes the wicked old crone quite visibly and, in a sense, proves a victory for Jane, rewarded further by the poetic justice that besets the Reeds in the years after.  The President really needs a moment like this; to call out the deceitful lot who labels him as a communist or tyrant, even though they could not tell you the dictionary definition of either even if it were staring them in the face.

  Or perhaps the hypocrites claiming the christian banner, waving it about with proclamations of the love of Jesus, then denying it to any who disagree with them and enthusiastic applause and jubilant cries of "YES" when the death of someone who dares live on their money is called into question.  That yes echoes among the cups of rancid water, bowls of inedible porridge, and drowns out the commsumptive coughing of poor Helen Burns; slowly dying because the grim pillar named Brockelhurst decreed that anything better for her would only encourage vice.

  I may have been an attention deprived nit wit in high school, but even then I could discern who the villain was in that scene.  When did the Reeds and Brocklehursts of the world become the protagonists?

1 comment:

  1. To more this idea more specifically to the novel (I'm not sure that we can hold any real person to the standard of a fictional character), we might think about what Bronte is saying about the nature of Christian works. She clearly has no respect for the Brocklehursts and Reeds of the world since they have no sympathy with others and adhere to rigid dogma rather than striving to plant the seeds in people that will yield faith (Helen Burns, Miss Temple). What are we to make of St. John Rivers?