“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.
I have several Christmas movies that carry great meaning to me and that I have loved over many years. I have written about them before in this blog, and I will continue to do so. Now, however, I want to make a new entry into my list of favorite Christmas movies.
The Man Who Invented Christmas is an extraordinary film that was released two years ago. It is a wonderful movie that explores the creative process of Charles Dickens as he wrote the classic novel, A Christmas Carol. The director is Bharat Nalluri, and this work is marvelous! We get a direct entrance into Dickens’ mind as he struggles with his writing. His characters appear and talk to him, which is an excellent touch.
The film is based on the book by Les Standiford, and the stars are Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, and Jonathan Pryce. The entire cast, without exception, give extraordinary performances. Christopher Plummer as Scrooge is especially brilliant. Dan Stevens should be recognized as one of the finest actors today.
This film delivers the message of Dickens’ masterpiece, that humanity should be the business of everyone, that money should not be the focus of our lives, and that we should all try to help each other. It will capture your heart and soul, and it is a film I recommend completely! On a system of 5 stars, I give it five!
Please, do yourself a favor, and watch this movie!
There are so many aspects of this holiday season that are wonderful to me: getting together with loved ones, friends and family alike (although this year on a very limited basis); the spirit of giving that I hope continues to grow; celebrations; the holiday music; and the memories of happy times. Among the favorite memories I have are a few specific Christmas movies.
The movie I will talk about today is Scrooge with Albert Finney as the star; he does a magnificent job in his performance as the miserly and misanthropic loan-shark. This musical version of A Christmas Carol is one of the finest filmic adaptations of the classic Christmas Eve ghost story and morality tale. This film follows the story closely with Scrooge being visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, of Christmas Present, and of Christmas Future. Among the movies best songs are Scrooge singing “I Hate People” which clearly shows his despicable and greedy nature, “Thank You Very Much” in which a tap dance is done on Scrooge’s coffin in the future, and “I Like Life” in which the ghost of Christmas Present teaches Scrooge about experiencing life as well as having empathy for others.
This movie does an excellent job of showing Dickens’ critique of a greed based society and one that did little or nothing to help alleviate the enormous difficulties of the poor. When first confronted by the ghost of his dead partner Marley, Scrooge tells him that he was always a good man of business. Marley’s ghost responds, “Mankind should be our business.” This is a sentiment that stands today. We should be putting the good of humanity above the pursuit of greed.
I was a teenager when this movie was first released in 1970, and I loved seeing it with two of my closest friends. We were captivated by the music and the story, and it remains as powerful to me as when I first saw it. If you have never had the opportunity to see this particular film, I give it my highest recommendation.
I also remind all of us, in paraphrasing the Master Charles Dickens, that we must always remember to make the good of others our business.
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