Archive for April, 2012

Last night I woke to the sound

Of disaster and beauty, amalgamated in one

I looked out the window

And saw that the world was falling

The world was falling

In a rush of adrenaline never experienced

By any human being in existence

In a speed not of light, but of a thing

Never discovered by humanity

The world was falling

Soaring through the galaxies and the stars

Past the heavens and the earth

And all that anyone and everyone had ever believed in

The world was falling

Into space and infinity

Into eternity

The world was falling

And I was the only witness


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Logicians and scientists work with what is substantial. Artists work with what is not. They work with that intangible part of existence that is ingrained in each and every human being, that part that might not be the most essential element of humanity, but it is what completes the structure of humanity and makes each and every one of us purely what we are – humans.

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From the moment of its first publication, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre was hurled into a barrage of criticism aimed not merely against its unconventionality, but also to its supposedly vehement “anti-Christianity.” This latter criticism seems, at first glance, to possess credibility, considering the following undeniable facts: firstly, Jane’s own insistent inquiries and initial doubts about the rationality behind the Christian doctrine of forgiveness; secondly, that the figures most associated with Christianity and religiosity in Bronte’s novel are indeed depicted in quite an unfavorable light from the perspective of the protagonist; and lastly, her devotion and love to a human being almost to the point of “idolatry,” as she herself terms – to the extent where, according to Dr. Sally Minogue, Jane “chooses happiness in this world and…rejects any possible world beyond.”[1] However, despite these ostensibly irreligious aspects of the novel, the religious theme of divinity is actually precisely what ultimately renders the fateful course of the novel to come to be possible.

Jane’s initial inability to grasp the reasoning behind the Christian doctrine of forgiveness can be directly attributed to her headstrong, defiant nature even as a young girl. However, as a bildungsroman, the work of Jane Eyre is the development of Jane’s psychological, moral, and spiritual development, and is evident in the significant distinction between Jane’s philosophy of life as a girl – at the point in which such a Christian doctrine seemed out of her grasp of understanding – to that of a matured young woman. The image most descriptive of Jane as a young girl is undoubtedly that of her outright defiance and animosity towards her perpetrators of injustice. This was the moral philosophy that reigned her childhood, and her belief in it was so strong that an opposing view – portrayed by that of Helen Burns’ – was one she simply could not begin to comprehend: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you” (49). This is the Christian philosophy which Helen attempts to make Jane comprehend, and which the latter at the time still cannot do. It is upon this seeming irreligiosity that vehement critic Elizabeth Rigby attacks Bronte: “The autobiography of Jane Eyre is preeminently an anti-Christian composition. There is throughout it…a murmuring against God’s appointment…there is that pervading tone of ungodly discontent which is at once the most prominent and the most subtle evil…”[2] However, Bronte, in actuality, refers Jane’s inability to believe in the Christian philosophy to that of her undeveloped, immature mind – meaning that Bronte did not truly condone the rejection of such a Christian doctrine. This is evident due to Jane’s distinctive difference in reaction and approach towards the Reeds when she again returns to Gateshead as a matured young woman. Instead of exhibiting bitterness and antagonism towards those who had previously wronged her for years, on the contrary she actually says to her aunt: “Love me, then, or hate me, as you will…You have my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God’s, and be at peace” (211). This mentality of forgiving her torturer is not one readers can ever have imagined Jane’s character to possess as a child; but the mature Jane now refers to her previous mentality of hard-hearted vengeance as merely something of a childhood disposition: “Forgive me for my passionate language; I was a child then; eight, nine years have passed since then” (210). Therefore, by the end of those eight, nine years, Jane has come to gradually believe in, understand, and adopt Helen’s perspective of Christianity as her model.

Contrary to Dr. Sally Minogue’s subtle insinuation that Jane chooses the earthly world specifically because she scorns the belief of “any possible world beyond,” – or in other words, religion – it is actually due to the development of her Christian moral principles that Jane forms the decision to leave Rochester and to leave Thornfield instead of becoming his mistress after the appalling discovery that he already has a wife living. If not for the belief in the law of a higher power, or “any possible world beyond,” why would Jane make the instant decision to flee a man whom she can’t bear to leave? Her decision to make this sacrifice of love cannot possibly be based on mere “earthly” concerns for man-made social standards of women, because Jane’s character is evidently not one that acquiesces to society’s mere standards. It is, instead, her sense of morality that commands her actions in denying being a mistress; it is her cognizance and recognition that the role of a mistress is one that would defy the moral standards of God.

The character first presented as the epitome of a Christian figure is that of Mr. Brocklehurst, depicted as a despicable, ruthless misogynist who, in his supposed religious fervor and “mission to serve his Lord,” wishes to instill in his pupils “spiritual edification” to an extent bordering on mistreatment and abuse, denying them adequate food and clothing, ordering their hair cut off, and establishing a rigorous structure in an unhealthy site and conditions leading to numerous deaths. The second character depicted as a representation of Christianity is St. John, whose excessively zealous love for God ironically renders him to be a man of impassive, cold and distant demeanor to everything else, to the point where he is insistent upon marrying Jane not out of love, but out of sheer duty – therefore portraying his character of excessive religiosity in an unfavorable perspective. Thus, whereas Bronte portrays the representations of religious figures such as Mr. Brocklehurst and St John in a negative light, she portrays the seemingly irreligious and sinful in an idealistic light – such as Rochester.

However, it is through the evidence and analysis of a particularly under-appreciated moment of the novel that anything contrary could be said otherwise, of both Bronte’s supposed irreligiosity and Rochester’s: the instance in the novel at which Bronte’s ideals of God are most highly evident is in Rochester’s dialogue of euphoric happiness after Jane’s return to him:

“Jane, you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog:  but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God…He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more wisely…I would have sullied my innocent flower…the Omnipotent snatched it from me…[but yet again] Divine justice pursued its course…I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I begin to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.” (395).

Here is the evident contradiction in Rigby’s criticism; how can the work of Jane Eyre possibly be a “murmuring against God’s appointment” and “ungodly discontent,” when, through this passage, Bronte conveys that even when brought to the point of the most severe circumstances of anguish and suffering, even if it seems that God has condemned us to misery by denying us that which we desire and love, we should indeed be “content” with “God’s appointment,” because, as Bronte illustrates through the very fatefully aligned story of Jane and Rochester’s love, whatever happens, happens according to God’s decree, and that we mere mortals cannot comprehend God’s plan and fate. It was, after all, a higher power which therefore aligned fate for Robert Mason to hear of Jane’s letter to John Eyre, thus halting the union which Jane would have undertaken without knowledge of the truth of Rochester’s existing wife; it was fate which rendered her on her knees at the home of the very people who would come to be her remaining loving family and the source to her inheritance; it was fate which finally eradicated the one real obstacle separating her from the one being who provided the essence of her happiness, and it was fate that enabled two hearts to be connected in such a supernatural way that they were capable of hearing each other’s anguished eruption of emotion across miles. It was due to a higher power that Jane and Rochester were again ultimately reunited, and Rochester himself – Bronte’s own idealistic figure – acknowledges this. Additionally, the contradiction against Rigby’s argument goes further as Bronte seems to imply that merely because Rochester’s character was not the fervently religious of St John’s, does not necessarily mean that he was a man completely deprived of any sense of acknowledgement of God, or even that he was doomed to the depths of hell. The mere fact that he was a man of sin – and yet his prayers to be reunited with his love were still answered despite it – exemplifies the fundamental doctrine upon which the Christian faith is based: that God is merciful and forgiving even to those who are sinners; that humans need not be perfect in order to be granted God’s mercy. Therefore, in portraying negative Christian figures, Bronte is not declaring any anti-Christian sentiment, but simply signifying various facets of Christianity and religion – the extent of extremism in the form of Brocklehurst and St John; the quietly and perseveringly devoted in the face of oppression and suffering – in the form of Helen; and the more moderate, yet sincere, continuous awareness of and gratitude towards God.

Considering the fact that St John is one of the negatively depicted figures of religion, it seems curious as to why Bronte would thus make him the last subject of Jane’s words and of the novel. Even as a figure of an overzealous Christian, however, there remains a sense of awed respect in Jane’s words in describing him and his unrelenting dedication to faith. Whereas Mr. Brocklehurst’s extreme deliberation of Christian faith seems to stem from the real intent of maintaining an image of status and social respect – therefore making his “faith” a façade of hypocrisy – St John’s religiosity sincerely stems from a more than genuine devotion to God. Therefore, although St John’s excessively zealous faith is portrayed in an unfavorable manner, through Jane’s words it is evident that she – and Bronte, for that matter – still holds a certain level of respect for such a character nonetheless: “Firm, faithful, and devoted, full of energy, and zeal and truth, he labours for his race; he clears their painful way to improvement…He may be stern…but his is the sternness of the great warrior Greatheart, who guards his pilgrim convoy from the onslaught of Apollyon…” (400). Thus, Jane nevertheless recognizes and renders St John as almost something of a heroic figure for humanity, who strives for the sake of his race, in “guarding” them from “Apollyon”, or the depths of hell, and by ending the novel with the last words of his death, she also emphasizes the personal sacrifices he has made of his own life, literally, in order to save that of others from the next life. Thus, by ending the novel with the imagery of his dedicated purpose and his submission to God as he breaths his last, Bronte affirms that all existence is in the hands of a Higher Power, and invokes a final reminder of humanity’s devotion to God.

Works Cited

 Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre, Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1992

Minogue, Sally. “Introduction and Notes,” Jane Eyre, Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1999

Nemesvari, Richard. Jane Eyre Broadview Introduction, Canada: Broadview Press, 2000, pp. 16-19

Rigby, Elizabeth. The Christian Remembrancer XV, 1848. Pp. 173-74

Sally Minogue. “Introduction and Notes,” Jane Eyre, (Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1999), p. xxii

Elizabeth Rigby. The Christian Remembrancer XV, 1848. Pp. 173-74

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One of the most significant flaws of humanity is the inability or the unwillingness to try to comprehend the perspective of others. Everyone has their own reasoning for doing things/possessing a certain mentality or belief. How many misunderstandings & clashes between countries & friends & families could be averted if we only attempted to understand the other sides’ perspective of things?

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As Charles Dickens’ ultimate intent in writing Bleak House was his critical depiction of the then-19th century legal system, the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is an element that exists ubiquitously throughout the narrative of the novel. Continuously described as a case which has brought ruin upon the lives of men throughout the countless years which it has been ongoing, Dickens thus depicts the highly flawed and disastrous system. Although the first concrete instance of which we hear of the devastating effects of the case is one which has already occurred – Tom Jarndyce’s suicide – there are a continuous flow of other instances throughout the novel which is evident of the cataclysmic and devastating nature of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

In chapters XXIV and other previous chapters, the dilemma of Richard’s occupation in life highly emphasizes the illusionary, mirage-like path to which numerous men are led and have been led due to the deceptive assurance of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, as Mr. Jarndyce himself so repeatedly reminds Richard. As Richard first accepts to practicing the occupation of a physician, it is gradually revealed that he in no way truly possesses any genuine passion or interest in the practice. It becomes evident that this is due to his mental occupation with and reliance on the claim. He is so utterly fixated on the notion that he is a ward in the case that it causes him to be delusional in considering his whole life to be free from monetary issues, as if he has already been granted all the money he could wish for. This incites him to be excessively imprudent, careless and completely irresponsible with the way in which he spends his money, constantly spending on lavish furniture and decorations, and immersing himself in debt through playing billiards. His infatuation with the case then leads him to consider the occupation of law, not because he holds a genuine regard for it, but mainly so as to be able to “keep an eye” on the case and somehow assure its decision quickly. And yet, he again becomes tiresome of law as well, deciding instead that the military is his calling. At this point, however, a wholly distinct aspect of his character is revealed, as he breaks down in confiding to Esther his regrets that he “is a very unfortunate dog not to be more settled”…for which he considers himself a “worthless fellow” (277). This uncharacteristic sense of despair in Richard already mark the beginning of the detrimental influence of the Jarndyce and Jarndyce delusion upon him. The climax of the issue with Richard’s occupation explodes through Mr. Jarndyce’s words when he realizes that Richard is, yet again, relying on the assurance of the claim: “Rick, Rick! For the love of God, don’t found a hope or expectation on the family curse!…Never give one lingering glance towards the horrible phantom that has haunted us so many years. Better to borrow, better beg, better to die!” (291). Mr. Jarndyce’s words powerfully capture the extent to which this one case has destroyed the lives of many.

Another background character through whom Dickens depicts the corruption of the judicial system and its effects upon the people is Mr. Gridley. Mr. Gridley is portrayed as an outspoken man who vehemently protests at the injustice and corruption of the system. He is a man who, as he declares, has been extremely wronged, having gradually been robbed of all he has: “The costs at that time…were three times the legacy…My whole estate…has gone is costs. The suit, still undecided, has fallen into rack, ruin and despair, with everything else” (185). He is a man who is so very outspoken against this injustice to the extent that Tulkinghorn actually issues a warrant for his arrest, leading him to be on the run. This continuous struggling and battling against the law and the system eventually breaks him down to a feeble, debilitated man deprived of the vigor with which he had lived and battled, as seen in the scene in the end of chapter 24, XXIV. The spectacle of this vigorous man reduced to a dying man through the pressures and the struggles due to the system of the law accentuates the extent to which the law ruined and destroyed the lives of men. The juxtaposition of the previous chapter’s address of Richard’s gradual ruin through debt and infatuation with Jarndyce and Jarndyce to the next chapter’s scene of Gridley’s death seems to foreshadow the impending fate to await Richard if he continues to rely so heavily upon the delusion of the law.

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With the capacity to reflect and refract the various elements of ourselves and of the time, space, history and context within which we reside, heteroglossia is defined by Bahktin as the multiplicity of the “voices” within language. This multiplicity is highly evident in the significantly distinguishable narratives of Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet. The first narrative, through Watson’s voice, possesses a quality inflected with intellectual and scientific language. From the first sentence of the novel, Watson is introduced as a scholarly doctor of medicine, and Sherlock Holmes himself is introduced through the initial image of a scholarly student enthusiastically engrossed in his chemistry experiment. Throughout the rest of the narrative, Watson’s disposition towards the traditionally logical and rational becomes evident in his outburst of scorn (“what ineffable twaddle!”) at reading Holmes’ “Science of Deduction and Analysis,” which he considers to be so irrationally reasoned that he thinks, “So startling would his results appear to the uninitiated that…they might as well consider him as a necromancer” (14). His attempts at engaging Holmes in conversation on topics of literature, philosophy, astronomy, the Solar System and Copernican Theory, further establish the language of intellectual, rational and scientific inflections through his voice. The Copernican Theory having been developed in the 16th century, Europe was still basking in the glow of the Scientific Revolution, which is precisely the historical context reflected through the language which Doyle employs. Even Holmes, even as a seeming “necromancer,” and even with his lack of knowledge and interest in astronomical science, possesses a shrewdly scientific, rational lens through which he develops his “Science of Deduction and Analysis.”

In comparison to this first narrative of 19th century England, the second narrative’s language is significantly distinguishable. The language with which Doyle depicts the landscape of the second narrative can be described as one of the lawless Wild West. The imagery of Westward migration and expansion which the Mormons are in the process of undertaking when we are introduced to them, creates the sense of a whole new world through the language of the second narrative, which is more significantly focused on the nature and landscape of the arid, deserted “land of despair” (57) – something not even imagined in the Britain which readers had just departed. The language of this narrative, then, reflects the context of the 19th-century America, which, through such language, Doyle seems to convey as the opposite of the 19th-century London depicted in Watson’s narrative: whereas 19th-century London is fixated and established in advanced scientific endeavors and disciplines, America is still in the process of expansion and of establishing itself as a stable, law-abiding country. The hostile depiction of newfound religions in America also further this distinction between the “scientific” London and the “irrationality” of the Wild America, as religion is obviously portrayed by Doyle as the opposition to the rational.

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