Something About Jane

“My home, then, when I at last find a home,—is a cottage; a little room with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor, containing four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard, with two or three plates and dishes, and a set of tea-things in delf. Above, a chamber of the same dimensions as the kitchen, with a deal bedstead and chest of drawers; small, yet too large to be filled with my scanty wardrobe-” (Chapter 31).

While some may view this as simply a description of Jane’s new setting, I’d argue that due to the amount of detail included in her observations, Jane could have slight ocd. She lists almost all essential objects, from the walls, down to the silverware in the drawers. I think it is interesting that small, odd details mean enough to Jane for her to be able to recount them after such time has passed. The sanded floors, painted chairs, the amount of dishes, the dimensions and sizes of furniture. Yes, she could have been even more detailed for sure, but what is already provided is enough to make me wonder. If not ocd, then she is still very perceptive to, and perhaps wary of change. Jane is used to a certain lifestyle, usually having whatever she needs, and having enough in amount of it all too. She lists only four chairs, just a few dishes, one just one tea set. Perhaps Jane is used to having more and so this change jars her a bit.

“I must not forget that these coarsely-clad little peasants are of flesh and blood as good as the scions of gentlest genealogy; and that the germs of native excellence, refinement, intelligence, kind feeling, are as likely to exist in their hearts as in those of the best-born. My duty will be to develop these germs-” (Chapter 31).

I think this quote also lets us see into Jane’s mind a bit, and reveals how she really thinks of the students and her new situation. Again, Jane is used to a certain lifestyle, she is used to a certain social class and found her belonging there. At this new school, Jane is meant to teach students who assumedly live in a poorer class. She calls them peasants, germs, and compares them to what she calls the best born. Clearly Jane is struggling with some classism here. From being upset by her barren new setting, and feeling the need to almost rescue the students academically, her classism is apparent. Maybe, she will learn to remedy that bias. 

So, I don’t really know if Jane has ocd like I first suggested. Maybe she does and it got triggered a little bit. Or perhaps she is just classist and needs to learn to adjust and show some care for people of a lower wealth or social class than herself.

4 thoughts on “Something About Jane

  1. I feel like your first quote is absolutely a symptom of ingrained classism, by her describing the obviously adequate accommodations as though they are barely enough (“little”, “small”, etc) for her, despite literally sleeping on the ground after she escaped from Thornfield before being promoted to this adorable-sounding cottage. The second one hit me so wrong when I read it the first time, and seeing it pulled out really doesn’t help with that feeling that not only are her words classist, but laced with terrifyingly white supremicist beliefs (where she mentions that, despite their class, the children should still be considered good because they’re “the scions of gentlest genealogy”, and that “the germs of native excellence… are as likely to exist in their hearts as in those of the best-born”, using words that, connotatively, at the very least, read to me like she’s praising them solely for being born of a certain race if, “at least”, not of a “dignified” class – it’s all very ooky to me, though I’m not certain how justified I am there). ANYWAY – fantastic post, what a great starting point for a really productive discussion!

  2. When reading the first quote in the book, I definitely felt like the description of a new setting was kind of, naming every single thing in the room. I know the author must have to describe a new setting, but I did notice just how many more things were described than usually seen in books. I could definitely see her as having slight OCD, but it would also make sense, like you said, that she was just use to having more in a bigger place like Thornfield Hall. Great post!

  3. The co-occurrence of different diagnoses of neurodivergence, like autism, ocd, adhd, and so forth, seems to be quite high. This is the subject of ongoing research. So when we read possibly-neurodivergent characters from older literature, diagnostic blurriness is going to constantly be a feature. I think this is an opportunity for us to flex our interpretive muscles. And an opportunity for contemporary readers to be able to see themselves in past characters (authorial intent be damned!).

  4. I was reading this in the beginning as just a view for the reader to help visualize the setting. However given the circumstances around Jane’s up bringing, it would not surprise me at all that she would develop OCD. I think it is interesting how it is possible she could just be “classist” but because of my own personal experience reading this book, I choose to side on her having OCD. Excellent points both ways though!

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