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A Creative Response to "Jane Eyre"

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Reader, my tale is one of woe, for my existence has been tormented and my sanity only re-joins my turbulent mind for brief periods, such as is has at present. I have chosen to use this last moment of clarity well, and hope retell my tale as best I can, for it is perhaps my final wish that my despair be shared with another.

I believe it began on a gusty afternoon; myself, only a boy of perhaps thirteen; my memory is hazy on such details.

I stared out the window at the desolate brooding skies; rain fell in great sheets distorting my view of Gateshead’s vast and stately grounds. It would all be mine soon, if only Mama would fall ill and die; I could then dispose of my sisters and The Rat and live in solitude in all of Gateshead’s finery. I hated my mother and my sisters, they were ignorant and stupid, Eliza was greedy and selfish and Georgiana was in all senses a pitiful little mouse. I controlled my urges to strike them, however, and instead took pleasure in killing the pea-chicks and tormenting Jane Eyre, my orphaned cousin, who I despised the most. She was a dependent, living on my money, in my house, and doing nothing for her keep.

At the thought of her, my breath grew hot and heavy, and anger seemed to rise from the pits of my stomach and settle as an uncomfortable lump in my throat. Even now, though it has been years since I last laid eyes on her, I still feel the fiery heat of rage in my chest each time my mind conjures from its depths an image of her face. The glass in the window was beginning to turn opaque, fogging up from the heat of my fuming breaths. Now it seemed that outside everything was blanketed by a film of wavering but impenetrable grey. I cursed Jane Eyre under my breath and turned from the window, shutting the curtains behind me.
I was in the red-room; I went there often, in secret, and took pleasure in the solitude it provided. Although my father died there I had no fear of ghosts, and I even laid on his bed in the very place that death took him, enjoying the silent weightiness that the room seemed to bear. I suppose many would think I was a strange child, taking pleasure in laying on my father’s own deathbed, but I did so to escape the irritating company I was forced to live with, perhaps hoping that one day I would walk in my father’s shoes as the man of the house, exerting imperative authority over my sisters and Jane Eyre.

The room itself was one of the largest in the mansion, and had been tastefully decorated and furnished with varying shades of red. The bed, held up by pillars of an expensive mahogany, was hung with deep red damask curtains, which I sometimes drew, enclosing myself in a rustling red tent of blissful solitude. The windows were framed with similar red damask, and the carpet, also red, seemed to blend smoothly into the walls, which were a soft fawn that hinted on pink. At the foot of the bed was a table, covered in a crimson cloth. The bed itself was piled high with snowy white mattresses and sheets, and crouching near the head of the bed was an easy chair, also white, standing out like an iceberg against its rich surroundings. It was always cold in the red room, the air, stagnant and icy, weighed down on me with a comforting kind of heaviness.


At the thought of Jane Eyre, however the red-room and its comforts seemed to diminish, and like the view outside the window, become awash with wavering grey. I wished she were ugly like me, for I was fat and stout and my features were too large. I gorged myself regularly at the dinner table for I enjoyed the luxuries I was rightfully entitled to. As a result my physician said I was of delicate health, but I did not care for my physician. He was a shrewd little man, always bringing with him dire news that I did not wish to hear. I suppose I should have listened to him, perhaps then my health would not be as poor as it is at present. Jane Eyre, in contrast, was healthy and although pale, seemed to glow in a way that I did not. It riles me to admit that although I was only a boy, I saw in her a kind of beauty that I never saw in another. They called Georgiana pretty, but Jane Eyre was, I thought, something different entirely. I took great inclination in striking her, tormenting her, making her tremble at the sight of me. She took inordinate pains in avoiding me, hiding like an animal in the darkest corners of the house. She was submissive to me because she feared me, and this I very much enjoyed. Mother didn’t mind that I hit her; she pretended she didn’t see. Jane Eyre was despised by all.

I stormed out of the red room and into one of the cold and rarely used halls, its high ceilings and polished floors echoed and groaned with every step I took. I sometimes ran up and down these halls, yelling with glee, enjoying the amount of noise and raucous I was able to create with just my voice and a heavy gait. Catching my reflection in a window, I was disgusted by the sight of myself, and took relief in telling myself that I was a gentleman and my physiognomy did not matter as I would soon be rich and powerful and women would gather like flocks of geese to court with a man as noble as I. I could not help but think of Jane Eyre and her fairy like figure as my wife when I was old enough, I despised every inch of her, and yet I wanted her to be mine.

“Rat”, I spat at the window. My spittle sprayed against the glass. “Rat, Rat, Rat,” yelled I. Turning swiftly away from the window, I stomped into the nursery. “Where are you, Joan!” I called. All was silent. I turned from the room and marched down one of the halls to her favourite hiding place; the drawing room. The little leech liked to indulge herself in reading my books. “Come out, come out, Jane Eyre!” I cried. My sisters withdrew from their rooms then, having heard my tirade, and not wanting to miss out on a scene. We entered the drawing room, and alas the rat was not there. I continued into the breakfast room, leaving my sisters to gossip idiotically in low, most irritating tones. The breakfast room was also free of her vile presence, and thus I let out another shriek; “Boh! Madame Mope!” but all I heard in response were my sisters tittering. “Where the dickens is she? Lizzy? Georgy! Tell mamma she is run out into the rain- bad animal!” I called, hoping they would now leave to find mamma and tell her of Jane Eyre’s mischief. I was certain The Rat was inside, but I wanted my sisters to take their gossip elsewhere. It was well that they did not run off, however, for Eliza poked her head through the doorway and said at once, “She is in the window-seat, to be sure”. And having been found out, my cousin Jane Eyre presently emerged from behind the expensive red moreen curtains and said in her insolent manner, “What do you want?”
I scowled. She should address me properly, I thought. I am her master, after-all.
“Say, what do you want, Master Reed- I want you to come here.” Said I, and seating myself in an arm chair I beckoned for her to come closer.

Obedient to her master, she approached, trembling like a leaf. I thrust my tongue out at her, far enough to make the inside of my mouth throb. I watched her expression, disgust and terror passing over her delicate features and she anticipated the coming blow. I struck her then, hard on the face, and the rush of power overcame every inch of my body. Gleefully, I watched her totter slightly, and then step back from me in terror. I supposed I should justify my action, and so I said, “That is for your impudence in answering mama a while since, and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, rat”. True to her nature, Jane Eyre remained submissively silent.
“What were you doing behind the curtain?” I asked her.

“I was reading” said she.

I demanded that she show me the book, and she fetched it promptly, handing it to me as though it was some sort of sacred object.
Bewicks History of British Birds was the said books title. I marvelled at what a bore The Rat was, to read such a tiresome volume. I decided to really scold her now; I wanted her to know her worthlessness, her wretched destitution. I lectured her on her pathetic dependency. I let her know that the books she indulged in, the house she resided in, would all soon be mine. I became more irate as I went on, and abruptly decided I would punish her once more.
“Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows.” I directed.
She did as I bid, her expression of confusion revealing, to my delight, that she did not know why I had directed her so.

I lifted Bewicks History of British Birds and aimed at her little head, before throwing it across the room with as much force as I could muster. She cried out as the book hit her, causing her to strike her head against the door. It was as though the force of the blow caused her to lose her mind, then. I saw in her eyes the terror diminish and become replaced with fiery rage. She began screeching, calling me wicked and cruel. I ran at her. She mustn’t stand up to me; I would ensure that she never rebel against me again. I grabbed her hair and her shoulder, but was horrified to find that she fought back. She hit and kicked and bit like a wild animal, and I bellowed, incredulous that Jane Eyre was beating me. Before long, Mama and Bessie and Abbot arrived and dragged the monster off me to be locked in the red room. I hoped they would cage it there forever, for it was not a girl. It was a beast. How dare it attack me? It’s master! How dare it rebel against me! It had no right to touch me with its filthy hands!

I had never despised Jane Eyre more than I did in that moment. On shutting my eyes I was haunted with her enraged and unusually beautiful face, bearing down on me, screeching like a banshee. Never did she rebel against me; never did she fight back, until now, when her little body seemed possessed by a demon of sorts. I tried striking her a blow a few days after the incident, but she had a newfound sense of revolt in her little soul, and the Rat struck back, making my nose bleed. She was no longer included in any family activities, and instead wandered about Gateshead like a ghost. My mother ordered my sisters and me to avoid her, and we went on about our business pretending that Jane Eyre did not lurk in the shadows with that newfound upward tilt of her chin, eyes glistening, an impudent, haughty expression playing out on her once docile features. She was sent to school in the month after the incident, although I never forgot her wildly infuriated face.

I was sent to Kings College in London when I was eighteen, and it was there that I discovered whiskey and gambling. I never made anything of myself at college; I failed all my examinations and left after only six months to stay with my new friend George and his father at their manor on the outskirts of London-Town. We lived in decadence, for the Buchannan Manor was far greater than Gateshead. It was a rambling building, positioned atop a grassy hill looking over an immaculate garden. The building itself was as picturesque as its surroundings, rising out of the grass as though it grew there of its own accord. Inside, there were fires in every room, always lit in preparation for Master George’s guests; mainly women from wealthy families, who were always arriving just to depart again some days later to make way for another party. George never thought any of them to be pretty enough for his hand in marriage, although the ladies clustered around him like colourful swans, for marrying into the Buchannan family meant wealth and a respected name. It was never quiet at the Buchannan house; women’s laughter filled the halls, punctuated by the gruff voice of a Master Gregory, or a Lord Granger. We hardly saw or heard of Master George’s father, for he was a decrepit old man, bed ridden with some sort of disease that we did not care to hear of. The whisky ran all day and night, and hoards of servants, maids, and cooks were hired to clean and cater for us. We spent the days in London-Town, gambling away our inheritance or buying trinkets for the latest party of tittering ladies. The nights we spent in the dining room, drinking whisky and chattering to each-other in increasingly slurred tongues. Often, someone would smash a glass or tear a curtain, and this caused great hilarity among us as we called in the maids to clean up the mess.

It was these riotously enjoyable months that made me forget about the little demon that was Jane Eyre. During my time with George Buchannan, there was not a moment when her enraged face haunted my mind. I suppose I thought I was free of the wench forever, but I was wrong.

After I had been residing with Master George Buchannan for over a year, his father finally died, and he decided he was to go abroad, to find a suitable wife and bring her back to England. He pleaded for me to come, and spoke of adventures in foreign lands and encounters with exotic beauties. He told me we would find the most fine-looking wives in the entire known world, and bring them back to England to parade around London. I pleaded for mother to send me more money so I could afford to partake in such a wondrous jaunt, however the silly old woman insisted that she would not fund the trip, and so I remained in dreary London. George entitled me to Buchannan manor while he was abroad, but the lords and ladies did not care for parties at the Buchannan residence after Master George was gone, and the once jovial manor became lonely and drab. Thoughts of Jane Eyre became increasing prevalent, and my health became increasingly poor.

One gusty winter afternoon, I was striding down a bustling London street on my way home after losing a bet, my mind hazy with ale, when a beggar woman staggered out in front of me and began clawing like an animal at my feet. I looked down at her; her face was haggard and marred with pockmarks and wrinkles. Strands of thinning, dirty hair hung over her eyes, which were once perhaps black, but had since glazed over with milky cataracts that made her appear blind. Her lips were drawn back in a snarling expression, bearing blackened gums and a sole yellow tooth. She wore a countless amount of tattered shawls over her slightly hunched back and shoulders, and she seemed to be giving off the stench of rotting meat and faeces. I was disgusted by the sight of her; not a woman but some kind of filthy creature. I shook my leg, kicking her in the stomach, “Move! Go! Get out of my way!” I yelled at her crouching frame. She stayed where she was, looking up at me with vacant eyes.
“Do ye tink brass in ye pocket makes you a good man, sir” she crowed, her voice raspy and feeble.

“Get away!” I shouted.
“Do ye tink you ‘ave a place in ‘eaven? Do ye tink I’m goin’ ‘a hell cause I got no brass in me pocket? Well sir, ye are wrong. I’m a good woman, never done a ting wrong in me life. I has lived like a good Christian should live. You are goin’ to hell, ‘cause you ‘ave done bad tings. You’re a sorry rotten drunk, nowt a good man.”
I kicked her again, quite hard. She crowed like a wild animal and collapsed in a filthy heap on the street, muttering and cursing under her breath.
“Dirty old witch!” I bellowed, striding away as quickly as my drunken feet would carry me.

I am sure that the beggar woman was Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre, come to torment me.

To this day Jane Eyre haunts me. I think she hunches over a cauldron or rides through the night sky on a broomstick, cackling as she casts spells to torment my entire being. I have ruined myself with alcohol to escape the wrath of Jane Eyre. I am a hopeless alcoholic, and a gambler. I have never won a significant sum, as Jane Eyre has given be bad luck. Mother says I am ruining the family as well as myself; I frequently send letters asking her for money. I do not care for the ruination of my family, for the money is mine, and will be under my control once Mother dies. I think she will never die. I will have to keep begging her for my money for the rest of my life, like some sort of parasite, and she will outlive me, and I will never be a true gentleman; Another of Jane Eyre’s curses. She has also taken pleasure in making me uglier than I was as a child. As a man I am sunk and sullied, and I seem to repel the female species. I go whoring to substitute my lack of a wife, but one must pay whores. They do not belong to me, and this makes me feel degraded; again the fault of the heinous Jane Eyre. I don’t believe I can cope with my dreadful existence any longer.

I mean to take my own life, so as not to give Jane Eyre the pleasure of doing so herself, for she will cause me to die, in some horrendous way. I will be rewarded in heaven, contrary to what that wretched beggar woman told me. I only wish that you, reader, will sympathize with my tales of despair.

Yours truly, Master John Reed.



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Ericaflooze said...
Oct. 18, 2013 at 6:47 am:
Jane is by no means annoying! She is strong, independent, and self assured. She refuses to sacrifice her principles, and never strays from being "plainly" herself. Although she is at times "destitute", "poor", and powerless to the constraints of society, she refuses to sacrifice her own "free will." I have learnt so much about myself from her character!! :) 
 
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FireThiefThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 18, 2013 at 6:27 am:
interesting point of view. btw, isn't Jane herself annoying?
 
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