Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Well-Placed Semi-colon

I'm embarrassed to say that I'm just now, age thirty, reading Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre." I know the plot well enough, having seen at least one movie adaptation of it, but I'd never so much as read an excerpt. Interestingly, a teen-aged character in one of my college stories read "Jane Eyre":
When Sylvia arrived in her homeroom, she took her seat in the last row and slouched back with her copy of Jane Eyre. By the time the room had filled with students and attendance had been taken, Sylvia was in the middle of the second chapter. As punishment for fighting with her cousins, Jane has been put in the room where her uncle died. The walls are blood red.

I'd relied on online summaries. But, of course, we all know the real thing is better. A New York Times article about the most recent movie adaptation of "Jane Eyre" quoted its director: "Jane Austen is like 'Gossip Girl,' and Charlotte and Emily Brontë were like Goth twins." "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights" are dark, moody, and even spooky. We enter Jane's inner-most thoughts:

What a consternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon! How all my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection! Yet in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle fought! I could not answer the ceaseless inward question--why I thus suffered; now, at the distance of - I will not say how many years, I see it clearly.

I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with Mrs Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage. If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love them. They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that could not sympathize with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing, opposed too them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation at their treatment, of contempt of their judgment. (p. 21-2)

Anyway, I'm about two-hundred pages in. Because I already know the basic structure of the plot, I can relish in the descriptions and characterizations. I can exam how Brontë develops her story. And I can appreciate the well-placed semi-colons.

In other news, my dad leaves for Kenya a week from today. Sometimes I try to reconcile my wants and needs here and the needs of the people he helps there. How picky I can be about food, about people. How wasteful I can be. Spending money on a new phone because my old one wasn't "fast" enough. Actually, I can't reconcile it; I can only make excuses. The injustices in the world are too big for me to wrap my head around. I'm just glad my father's able to make a positive difference.

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