In the morning, Judith Collins walked us through Disguise, deception and concealment in Jane Eyre. Her inspiration for this topic were the two scenes when Rochester dresses up, first in the charades and then as the gypsy-woman. She says: “it occurred to me that although these were literal disguises, that is, he changed his clothes so that he wouldn’t be recognised, there were other sorts of disguises in the novel.”
|Toby Stephens as Mr Rochester|
Indeed, Judith focused on three levels of disguises employed by Rochester: dressing up physically, covering up his feelings for Jane until he knew they were returned and, most importantly and cunningly, his predicament of being previously married. She made a strong point about Rochester’s disguise being about subverting and distorting the truth or simply lying, as opposed to concealment, which “just” implies not revealing the entire truth, which was more Jane’s case.
|Paul Gretton talking on Wuthering Heights|
The analysis was interspersed with readings of crucial scenes between the novel’s central couple, expertly re-enacted by Group members Kate and Paul (who was evidently practicing for his own talk later that day). Through evoking and analysing these extracts, Judith showed that as their relationship developed and gained momentum, Rochester was removing the layers of his disguise gradually and very carefully. He only came clean to Jane after a confrontation with Mason on the failed wedding day forced him into a corner. Only then did they become equal in terms of knowledge, even if they remained separated morally. Before this happened, in the process of revealing himself, Rochester continually manipulated the information as well as its recipients. He willingly misled Jane into believing that the night fires were caused by Grace Poole (since he’s still covering up the existence of Bertha) or that he was honestly courting Blanche Ingram (since his feelings for Jane are still under disguise).
Even the physical disguise was related to what lay hidden deeper – Rochester attempted to elicit a declaration of love from Jane, but with his elaborate schemes only managed to force her deeper into hiding. Blanche Ingram, even though not the intended target, also ended up confused and misled by his machinations and cryptic communication. As Judith concluded, “although the charades and the gypsy scene are ostensibly physical disguise, during the course of events the reader gains a partial insight into Rochester’s disguised emotions, and also of Rochester’s predicament”.
|Ian McShane as Heathcliff|
After an extended lunch break, we were treated to some more animated readings from Paul Gretton, illustrating his own talk on the subject of Literary themes and sources in Wuthering Heights: The Disruptive Intruder, The Fascinating Baddie, The Star-crossed Lovers, Digging up your Girlfriend ... (as one does) .
|Sir Gawain and the Green Knight|
There is a myriad of other popular topics making an appearance in the novel, including “The Fascinating Baddie” in the vein of Macbeth, Richard III, The Giaour and again Paradise Lost, and the “Star Crossed Lovers”, or illicit love leading to disaster of Romeo and Juliet and Pyramus and Thisbe in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Paul has provided us with more background information on his topic. Click here to access the document.