Helen, Jane, Agnes
Posted by Helen on September 22, 1997 at 10:37:36:
In response to Confession time - can't put it down..., written by Susie on September 21, 1997 at 20:43:48
] ] What a lot Helen gave to Jane in such a short time! The most important, to my mind, is a different view of religion that would carry her throughout her life, and act as an antidote to the hypocritical and supercilious Mr. Brocklehurst--yuck! Although I will always chuckle at Jane's solution to avoid hell "I must keep in good health and not die." ;-)
] ] Helen opened Jane's mind to other possibilities in life, and gave her other means with which to cope. Jane would never have made it through her public humiliation without Helen's encouragement.
] ] My edition has a footnote which reads:
Helen Burns is based on Charlotte Bronte's sister Maria. CB insisted that she was true-to-life, despite the pathos of her story, and even fell short of reality: "I abstained from recording much that I remember respecting her, lest the narrative sound incredible"
It's so good to hear this: like most "good" characters in literature, Helen Burns sends a lot of people reaching for the "of course not true" label.
] Confession time: I haven't cried yet (even over the death of Helen Burns) but am having serious trouble putting this book down. I had forgotten what a compelling read it is, and how it grips one from the first page. I read Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte while on holiday, and although covering similar territory (trials and tribulations of a young governess)and providing an interesting picture of the social set-up, it is not nearly as powerful. It seems to be something to do with CB's insight into characters and emotions that engages the reader so immediately - would you agree?
I love both books, for different reasons: Agnes Grey is not "powerful" or thrilling, but it achieves a kind of serenity and perfection of tone which sometimes I long to read. And she is a lot better at creating rounded characters: Rosalie is surely a lot more realistic a portrait of a spoilt rich girl than Blanche Ingram will be. I think Jane Eyre is the first "having it all" book - she really believes she has the right to an emotionally fulfilling life, but Agnes Grey is about making a satisfactory life for yourself when you think you can't have it all - sometimes this can be an equally inspiring role model.
] The positive characters of Helen Burns and Miss Temple provide a necessary balance to the grim picture of childhood deprivation and callous treatment that Jane suffers in the Read household and at Lowood. It would otherwise be scarcely credible that she retains her spirit, even optimism, and capacity to feel love and affection.
Well said! For obvious reasons, I was always intrigued by the character of Helen Burns, but I agreed with Jane that I could never behave like that. One thing I like about the book is that Jane doesn't hate herself because she does not feel she is like the people she admires - another very positive characteristic.
Helen, who first read Jane Eyre at an age when she thought the Lowood scenes were far more interesting than any of that romantic nonsense later on.
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