“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
I want to welcome Ashley Clayton as the newest member of the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society. This is an unofficial organization dedicated to the preservation of books, and it was created in one of my First Year College Composition Classes at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. It is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrentheit 451. To join, a writer creates a post about a book he/she would become if they needed to in order to save it. They do not actually have to memorize it though.
When I first watched Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë several years ago, I felt I had stumbled upon a pearl necklace left on a tree branch. I had never heard of the novel before, surprisingly—and I still wonder why it wasn’t included on my school reading lists, alongside The Scarlet Letter and Crime and Punishment. Jane is a protagonist I closely relate to, while still finding her differences complex and intriguing. We’re both introverts and artists, we tend to observe humans from afar and would prefer our own company over most people. Jane is also compassionate and does not let her circumstances overcome her fortitude—qualities I greatly admire in other people.
Jane is orphaned as an infant and grows up in an emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive home. Her Aunt Reed is jealous of the girl and tends to overlook her plights while doting on her three spoiled and vindictive children. After Jane is struck by her older cousin John and she defends herself, she is sent to the red-room in the mansion—a scene which introduces the supernatural theme found throughout the novel. This is the room reportedly haunted by Jane’s dead uncle, and she begs to be released. Abandoned and injured, she falls ill and faints from her panic.
An apothecary is called to the home to see to Jane. Actual physicians, you see, were reserved only for the immediate family—Jane and the servants only saw the apothecary. The man recommends Mrs. Reed to send Jane away to Lowood Institute—an act disguised as charity while tidily securing the girl’s education and ongoing care, and thus eventual livelihood. This is the turning point of Jane’s young life.
Lowood was a harsh and cold place, the food poor and scant, but here Jane is given a chance to learn and develop her talents and abilities. Jane would adapt well and excel in her studies, while learning to survive within the austere school. Jane was already a resilient child from living with her aunt and cousins, and this trait became sharper at Lowood. After her classmate (and only friend) Helen dies, Jane is left alone to navigate the rest of her years at the school.
After Jane finishes her education and teaches at Lowood, she advertises for outside employment and is accepted to work at Thornfield Hall as a governess— “a fine old hall, rather neglected of late years perhaps” as Jane is told. Here she meets the estate’s proprietor, her master—a Mr. Edward Rochester. His life parallels in some ways to Jane’s: he lost a parent (his mother) early in life, his now deceased father was distant and neglectful, and he only inherited the estate after his elder brother’s untimely death. He is also the ward of a Ms. Adèle, a young French child who becomes Jane’s pupil—the third central orphan of the story.
Jane Eyre is a story of injustices, sorrows and resiliency—a story filled with complex moral decisions and vulnerabilities. It is a story of characters struggling along in unfortunate circumstances, trying to find an existence where some sliver of hope and light might be found. Mr. Rochester and Jane find this hope in each other, but only after fire, tragic death and mutual forgiveness. The ending of Jane Eyre is not perfect—the author does not allow for a perfect ending. But the reader is left with a glimpse of a hopeful future and a sense of redemption for mostly everyone involved. And Jane considers herself “supremely blest” at the close of her story.
Jane Eyre is often categorized as a romance novel. While romance is a central theme of the story, I do not believe that is all Jane Eyre should be considered as. And perhaps that is why the novel was not included on my school reading lists. No, Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece is, I believe, one story about what it means to be human and to find yourself in imprisoning circumstances, and ultimately how to live through continued suffering, albeit imperfectly. Charlotte knew these things well herself—her mother, too, died when she was a child and two of her elder sisters died from tuberculosis contracted at school, just as Helen did at Lowood. Jane Eyre is a story of one woman’s strength as she discovers what love, grace and forgiveness truly entail. It is a novel I want alongside me in my life, preserved always for future generations. It is, by no exaggeration, one of the greatest works of literature ever written, and greatly appreciated by myself.
Thank you for reading.
 Specifically, the 2006 BBC miniseries starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.
 It is unclear who Adèle’s father is and whether he may still be alive. Her father may be Mr. Rochester, or more likely, another man who Adèle’s mother was involved with during (or shortly after) she was Mr. Rochester’s mistress. Either way, I still consider Adèle an orphan, if not legally, then spiritually.
Thank you to Ashley Clayton for joining the U. L. S.
Please be sure to visit her website A. R. Clayton.
I am delighted to welcome Andrew McDowell to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society! This is an unofficial organization dedicated to the preservation of books, and it was created in one of my First Year College Composition Classes at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. It is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrentheit 451. To join, a writer creates a post about a book he/she would become if they needed to in order to save it. They do not actually have to memorize it though.
Here is Andrew McDowell’s post:
Christmas is my favorite holiday, and one Christmas story I’ve always enjoyed is Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, written and published in 1843. I’ve seen many movie adaptations, from the Muppet version starring Michael Caine to the 1951 and 1991 versions starring Alastair Sim and Patrick Stewart, respectively. My favorite is indisputably the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. I even starred as a Cratchit kid in a theater production in high school (though I really wanted to play Jacob Marley). Throughout it all, the story has struck a chord with me.
Ebenezer Scrooge cares for no one and nothing beyond advancing business and hoarding money. He dismisses the poor, his own nephew, and his clerk Bob Cratchit, whom he lets have Christmas Day off with the greatest possible reluctance. But on Christmas Eve, the ghost of his deceased business partner, Marley, who is suffering and carrying a ponderous chain in death for having lived the same life of greed and selfishness, comes to tell him he has a chance to escape the same fate.
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come respectively show Scrooge how he came to reject the world and his own heart, how those around him—including Bob and his sickly yet beloved son Tiny Tim—are sharing love and affection through Christmas, and what will happen to them—and himself—if he does not change. Finally Scrooge proclaims he is not the man he was, and that he will honor Christmas in his heart and remember the lessons he has learned.
Simply put, A Christmas Carol is about redemption. Scrooge acknowledges men’s courses will result in certain ends, but those ends will change if their courses do. This story shows us no matter how far we have fallen, if we choose to change, we can still be redeemed. Scrooge rebuilds his relationships with his nephew and Bob Cratchit, and he becomes a second father to Tiny Tim, who is really the heart and soul of the book. Scrooge is described as thereafter knowing how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
A Christmas Carol may not have Santa Claus, Christmas trees, cards, or presents, but it does have many essential blessings that are essential to Christmas: home, food, family, love, and charity. This book has been credited as redefining Christmas for the modern world. It is said that an American businessman, after hearing Dickens read it, decided to give his employees Christmas Day off. A Christmas Carol teaches hope and faith. It shows the best in humanity, what humanity is capable of, and reminds readers that the well-being of all is everyone’s business.
Thank you to Andrew McDowell for this post! Please visit his website: Andrew McDowell An Author of Many Parts
(Francisco Goya ~1799)
This image is one of Francisco Goya’s most well known and important. It has been debated if its meaning lies in the personal for Goya or on commentary on society. We can never be sure of what the artist intended.
It is possible, however, to see how when people abandon reason and analysis, that horror follows. Fascism arose in the 20th Century as people in Germany, Austria, and Italy primarily abandoned reason to follow the emotional cults of personality that would lead to the worst evil the world has ever known.
In the United States, which has a terrible history of bigotry, nationalism, and violence, driven by right wing forces that abandon reason and, using tactics of Hitler, such as blaming others through scapegoating and pull people to their worst impulses and the use of the big lie, in which an untruth is repeated loudly and often, we must recognize that such evil is here.
The United States, on January 6th, experienced an attack that was directly against the sovereignty of the country, against freedom, and against democracy. This was the worst attack against the foundation of our nation since the Civil War. This was not a riot gone terribly wrong; this was a planned insurrection, an attempt to overthrow the government of our nation, and those responsible should be held to account for their actions. The insurrectionists responded to a President who used Hitlerian tactics of the big lie about the “stolen election”, which was fair and secure and not stolen, and scapegoating members of Congress as the enemy rather than members of a different political party. These actions were real, and they were horrific and abominable.
Americans, of any party, who believe in democracy must repudiate such beliefs. If as some suggest, we simply move past this insurrection, then we are agreeing once more, to abandon responsibility, analysis, and reason. The consequences of such ignoring of the enormity of what happened can be devastating to our nation and our democracy.
White power groups are an extension of the evil that Hitler manifested. Let there be no mistake about it. They represent bigotry and evil and dictatorship. And they are a direct threat to our freedom and democracy.
We must not fall into a national sleep of reason. We must stay awake, otherwise, the fate of this nation, of the United States of America, for which so many fought and died in many wars, will be at risk.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I would like to offer a few of this extraordinary American’s quotations as a tribute to him. He was one of the finest, most decent, and empathetic people in the history of the United States of America. We should all remember him and honor his teaching, his legacy, and his call for justice for everyone.
“What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”
What happened the other night in Portland, Oregon should have all Americans who believe in the Constitution, Freedom, and Democracy outraged and frightened. Please do not divert the subject by speaking about “riots”. That is an issue that is addressed by local and state authorities, not the Federal Government. The President does not seem to care about the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
The Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Having Federal agents, wearing police insignia without identification of person or office arresting people without warrants and taking them away in unmarked vehicles is a clear violation of both the Fourth Amendment and their oath to uphold the Constitution; it is, by its very nature, an assault on American freedom and democracy. Without a warrant and an authorized jurisdiction of policing, these actions are kidnapping.
Let me be very clear. What happened is what occurs in totalitarian dictatorships, such as Putin’s tactics in the Crimea. Putin is very likely extremely proud of his friend, Donald Trump.
Further, for those who are true conservatives and care about the separation of states and city rights from the Federal government, they should be horrified. This was a clear violation of state and city sovereignty and jurisdiction.
It is also ironic that with the turmoil in our country about the abuse of police power, that these actions, themselves, are abuse of police power.
Let me be clear. I am not speaking as a member of a political party. I am speaking as a proud American who holds our Constitution to be a sacred document. Regardless of political affiliation, no matter if you are Republican, Democratic, or Independent, you should decry these actions. Our land must never become one that is ruled by autocrats and dictators who use force as they wish and ignore the rule of law.
Let us also remember that many fought and died to preserve out democracy. Let us honor their memory by insisting on the government abiding by the Constitution of the United States of America.
The United States of America lost an heroic figure with the passing of Representative John Lewis on Friday from pancreatic cancer. (1940-2020)
Mr. Lewis was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement and worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He participated, in the March on Washington, and he led the march, as a young man, across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. This would come to be known as Bloody Sunday because of the violence the marchers encountered, including Mr. Lewis.
He would later be elected to the United States House of Representatives in which he served for 30 years; he was frequently considered to be the Conscience of America. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011.
Among Mr. Lewis’ quotations are “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something, you have to do something.” and “I’m very hopeful. I am very optimistic about the future.” and “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
Mr. John Lewis was a tireless fighter for justice and against injustice. He will be missed.
Rest In Peace
I try to avoid political posts in this blog, but I cannot remain silent. Our country and our democracy are under attack from the highest level of government–the President.
Today, Donald Trump used tear gas and military force to dispel peaceful protestors in Washington, DC, so he could have a photo-op holding a Bible. Please remember that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees the right of citizens to protest peacefully.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
He then held up the Bible in front of a church to justify his actions, and that is the highest level of hypocrisy. All Americans who love this country, who admire our democracy, and who want to preserve freedom must oppose this would be dictator. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents must oppose him.
Please make no mistake–I am not condoning violence or rioting, not at all, but Trump is using this time to project strength, but the strength he projects is that which is reminiscent of Mussolini and Hitler, not of Reagan, FDR, JFK or President Bush.
Remember that freedom and democracy are fragile and precious, and they must not be sacrificed to the altar of a projection of power. America needs and deserves better.
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