Author Archives: Kimberly Sciacca

Halt Unbeliever!

Within the first few pages of the prologue the story of the moonstone immediately reminded me of a ride in Disney world, which is a representation of the great Indiana Jones Movie, the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now, I’ve never actually seen the movie myself, but I’m an avid Disney World visitor, and I’ve been on the ride that has portrayed the scene many times, and let me just say there are many parallels to the story of the Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and by the story of the Gem, as told by an announcer on the Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. First, however, to set the scene of the movie ride, I’m going to explain it, just a little.

You’re sitting in a big car, with at least thirty people either in front or behind you, and the first scene is set up as backstage to an old movie set. Then, as the lights dim, a cast member, your tour guide, comes into the car and suddenly you’re set off into the world of movies ranging from Singing in the Rain with Gene Kelly, until you end up in a montage of hundreds of movies, including: Shirley Temple movies, The Three Stooges, Pearl Harbor, and Nemo, just to name a few. I could literally sit here and monologue the entire script and go scene by scene, like I said, avid Disney visitor, but to stick to the topic of the novel, I’m going to jump forward to when the car is slowly pulling into the Indiana Jones scene with the gem. (Just a quick bit of backstory to understand the context of the scene in the video I’m posting below. During one of the scenes earlier,  either a bank robbery, or an old fashioned western shoot out, depending on if you got the first or second car, the car is hijacked by a “robber” and your original tour guide is lost in the world of the set, at least for now. They keep quoting that “Anything can happen in the movies.”)

As now as we enter a scene with hieroglyphics on the wall, and a red, glowing gem that is protected by a keeper. The announcer says, in a grim and warning tone: “The dust of three thousand years lies undisturbed in this ancient burial chamber. And on the chest of the great stone god, a priceless jewel!” I’ve juxtaposed this to the prologue: “Here, in a new shrine—in a hall inlaid with precious stones, under a roof supported by pillars of gold—the moon-god was set up and worshipped” (2). Once the robber sees the gem, he immediately leaves the car and heads up the stairs to where the gem is and then he is again warned by the announcer:  “But the jewel is guarded by a curse! And those who dare defy that curse … must pay with their lives.” Then the temple guardian, who is really our original driver in disguise, (which also brought forward a parallel in the text, “watched it in disguise” (2).) again warns the robber: “Halt, unbeliever! Disturb the treasure of the gods, and you shall all pay with your lives.” And in our text the two moments that I compared to that was: “The deity predicted certain disaster to the presumptuous mortal who laid hands on the sacred gem,” (2) and “the warrior who had committed the sacrilege perished miserably” (3). Needless to say the robber then goes to grab the gem and dies in a smoky, tragic death. And while Herncastle doesn’t die from touching and taking the Moonstone, the sentiments are the same.

To comment on the rest of the text, I’ve been wondering about who the speaker, Betterredge, who is talking to in the text. One of my favorite moments, and the moment that made me question who was being spoken to be: “Here follows the substance of what I said, written out entirely for your benefit. Pay attention to it, or you will be all abroad, when we get deeper into the story. Clear your mind of the children, or the dinner, or the new bonnet, or what not. Try if you can’t forget politic, horses, prices in the City, and grievances at the club. I hope you won’t take this freedom on my part amiss—it’s only a way I have of appealing to the gentle reader. Lord! Haven’t I seen you with the greatest authors in your hands, and don’t I know how ready your attention is to wander when it’s a book that asks for it, instead of a person?” (28) Is Collins actively engaging us as readers? Or is there a broader, more exact person that he’s talking to when he uses the pronoun “You” and “Your”?

Feminism in Jane Eyre

As I was reading, the lack of a strong and constant male figure, until of course Rochester comes in, piqued my interested and it made me wonder, is this novel giving the woman the starring role in the Victorian era? Men seemingly governed the world back in the setting of this novel but it seems that as more and more of the narrative unfolds, that is turning out not to be the case. For example, when John Reed comes in and abuses Jane, nothing can be said, because one, he a man, and two, he’s the head of the house now that his father has passed. And we can see that when Mr. Brockhurst comes into the Lowood School and the entire school stops and obeys what he says. It would seem that his word is law. Miss Temple, however, goes to defy his word, because she finds it to be wrong. When Jane drops the book and the attention is drawn to her, causing her to be brought up to the center of the room, Miss Temple immediately diminishes the punishment that Mr. Brockhurst was demanding. She also helps to rid Jane of the accusations put on by Mr. Brockhurst, again, defying his side and using her own wit and judgment to assess if Jane was guilty of poor character and being a deceitful child. In a world that is ruled by men, the women are truly going against the grain and it seems to have no fault yet.

 

When Jane gets to Thornfield Hall there is a lack of a male head figure, again. And while Mr. Rochester is the head of the home, he isn’t present for a long while and Jane mistakes Mrs. Fairfax as the head of the house. This thought was interesting, because Jane truly believed that she was the head, and that a woman could have the power and right to run a house without a man there. There is a sense of equality between men and woman that, I feel, that Jane believes that there should be, but there isn’t. One quote that I was very much intrigued by was:

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as me feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex (93).

In doing my research for this topic, there was an article that I found interesting, which was really just more of a quote, on victorianweb. The writer, George P. Landow, quotes another writer, R. B. Martin, in whether he thinks that Jane Eyre is a feminist text or not.

The novel is frequently cited as the earliest major feminist novel, although there is not a hint in the book of any desire for political, legal, educational, or even intellectual equality between the sexes. Miss Bronte asks only for the simple — or is it the most complex? — recognition that the same heart and the same spirit animate both men and women, and that love is the pairing of equals in these spheres. . . . The famous plea that women ought not to be confined ‘to making pudding and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags’ [Chap. 12] is not propaganda for equal employment but for a recognition of woman’s emotional nature. The condemnation of women to a place apart results in the creation of empty, capricious women like Blanche Ingram, who tyrannize over men whenever possible, indulge in dreams of Corsair lovers, and can communicate only in the Byronic language of outdated romantic fiction. Only equals like Jane and Rochester dare to speak truth couched in language of unadorned directness.

Now, I know that feminism is a concept that was formed after the publication of this novel, but do the same principles apply that we can call this a feminist text? Or is this narrative still run by the hierarchy of gender roles that was present in the Victorian age?