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By John Peck (auth.)

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Additional resources for How to Study a Novel: A Students’ Guide

Example text

This extract concentra tes on her reaction: No w I wep t: Helen Burns was not there; noth ing sustai ned me; left to myself I a bandon ed myself, and my tears wa tered the boa rds. I had mea nt to be so good , and to do so mu ch a t Lowood : to make so man y friends, to earn respect, and win affection. Alrea dy I had made visible progress: th at very morning I had reached the head of my class ; M iss Mill er had prai sed me wa rmly; Miss Te mple had smiled appro ba tion; she had p rom ised to teach me draw ing, and to let me learn French, if I continued to make sim ila r improveme nt two months longer : and then I was well received by my fellow-pupils; treated as an equal by those of my own age, and not molested by a ny; now , her e I la y again crushed and trodden on; an d could I ever rise more?

295] The passage is about Clara, and Paul's impetuous scattering of flowers over her. It may seem rather difficult to find an opposition here, but when this happens it helps to think of the themes raised so far in the novel. The main opposition evident in the text could be said to centre on the difference between being trapped and achieving some sort offreer existence. In this passage Clara is clearly associated with freedom; there is something casual and relaxed about her , which contrasts dramatically with Miriam's anxiety.

The extremes seem to be a rather cold and characterless good behaviour and utterly reprehensible behaviour. And Edmund's difficulty in expressing himself sums up how difficult the established order finds it to talk of emotional matters. Fanny's response is very different, however; she embraces the polite forms of Mansfield, but brings with her, and preserves, a capacity for measured love and measured feeling. It seems that Austen is putting forward a sort of compromise - that the old forms can be given fresh life if feelings are allowed a place.

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