Three Chapters, Three Stories
In the story of Emma (Austen), it opens with a third person narration of the main character by which the story is titled. Emma Woodhouse is described as a privileged young woman who seemed disconnected from life’s worries and had spent what seems to have been a very uneventful childhood in the best of ways. Immediately, “handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home” (Austen, p 1, para 1), are the attributes that the reader is first given in the narrator’s description of Emma. The highlight of her childhood seems directly connected to the governess of the house, Miss Taylor.
When Emma was only five years old, her mother died, and Miss Taylor was hired by her father to help raise Emma. Being mild-tempered and non-imposing, Miss Taylor, overtime, became Emma’s best friend in whom she could confide every thought and feeling. But this unity was to be cut short, as Miss Taylor is said to have gotten married to Mr. Weston. Although she only moves a half a mile down the road, Emma feels that this distance is like a great chasm, as her best friend is no longer with her in every aspect of her life.
Emma’s father is described as being a gentle, amiable fellow, who is liked by everybody, but falls short of Emma’s expectations of someone that she can converse with at all levels. He is disconnected in a way that is similar to that of Emma as well, in that he feels that others should feel the same way about something as he does, meaning that if something is depressing to him, it should be depressing to everyone. He expresses his sorrow for Miss Taylor’s marriage in that he claimed that “Miss Taylor had done as sad a thing for herself as for them” (Austen, para 10).
Mr. Knightley, the older brother of Mr. Weston, comes into the middle of Emma and her father reminiscing. He seems to very direct and calls out people’s feelings, especially Emma’s. He speaks openly of Emma’s affection for Miss Taylor in a way that seems like he is twisting the knife into the wound of her departure be saying that “Miss Taylor has been used to have two persons to please; she will now have but one” (Austen, para 30). Emma tries her best to deal with the anguish of this separation by pretending to have facilitated the marriage herself years ago. By exaggerating her part in unifying Miss Taylor to her new husband, Emma consoles herself with the thought that she handed her best friend off instead of having lost her due to circumstances beyond her control.
From the beginning of the chapter, the reader is compelled to sympathize with the protagonist by the author using the loss of routine and familiarity as a disruption to what at first seems to be a perfect life. Also, the naivety of the main character is used to keep the reader in suspense of how she will interpret and react to the events in her apparently deteriorating ivory-tower utopia.
Next, in the novel Wuthering Heights (Bronte), delivered first-person, begins with the year and place that the story occurs in. Mr. Lockwood, the main character who enjoys being away from society, begins his tale with in 1801, in a remote country setting in England. He then approaches his new landlord for the first time to introduce himself, politely excusing any inconvenience imposed by his visit. The landlord, Mr. Heathcliff, seems very coarse and reclusive in character, not extending the same pleasantries that Lockwood opened with in that he interrupts Heathcliff by saying “I should not allow anyone to inconvenience me, if I could hinder it-walk in!” (Bronte, para 1).
Joseph, a hired hand, is instructed by the landlord to assist Lockwood in getting settled in. Joseph is described, with emphasis, as being old and having a temperance and coldness of character that seems to eclipse even that of Mr. Heathcliff. Upon entry, Mr. Lockwood addresses the name of the domicile, Wuthering Heights, which references it to being in a location that endures the worst of storms. He also notices that it is firmly built with carvings around the outside that dated back to “‘1500’ and the name ‘Hareton Earnshaw'” (Bronte, para 3), and felt compelled to inquire of more information about them, but felt as if that would be bothersome to the landlord.
A month passes, and Lockwood describes a sheepish flirtation with someone that he give little to no detail about, and then goes on to immediately refer to a problematic event at the hearthstone where a dinner was to be served. He notices that a dog approaches him a sly manner with mannerisms like that of any other dog waiting for a bite from the table. He makes an attempt to pet the dog, and is abruptly scolded by both the landlord and the dog because of the dog being unaccustomed to such affection and spoil. However, the landlord temporarily leaves the room to ask Joseph something, leaving Lockwood alone in the room with the dog. Lockwood makes the mistake of making faces at the dog, which provokes it, along with two other dogs nearby, to rush at, and jump upon him. The canine assault is abruptly brought to a calm by a woman from the kitchen brandishing a frying pan whom the dogs obviously had respect for and fear of.
Shortly after, Mr. Heathcliff rejoins them at the hearthstone and seems somewhat humored at the event, and offers wine in a hospitable manner that he didn’t seem capable of previously. As the ice apparently seemed to melt a little between the two, the engaged in a few topics of interest before Lockwood decided to go back to his place. As he left, he comments to himself, “how sociable I feel myself compared with him” (Bronte, para 25), who once thought of himself as reclusive as Heathcliff, prior to their meeting, based solely on their similar taste in isolation.
The author sets the reader up with a few questions that will entice further reading. First, Bronte introduces two characters that seem to completely contrast one another, which compels the reader to wonder if relations will improve between these two. Then, the author gives the reader a little bit of danger and humor in the middle of certain scenarios to keep interest from declining.
Next, the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, takes a similar first person approach and opens with the main character, Jane, referring to a walk that she gets to avoid due to rain. She also shows a distain for this activity in that she attributes this event with being, tiresome and made even more undesirable with the current cold weather, followed by her not liking getting rebuked by the nurse for having exposed herself to such conditions that would make her sick. Soon, the reader is confronted with the somewhat confusing behavior of Jane’s mother, in that she forbids Jane from joining her on the sofa along with her other siblings for a reason that, at this point in the story, the reader can only assume Jane acted insubordinately towards her in that she says “until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent” (Bronte, para 5).
However, the reader soon realizes that this woman is not Jane’s mother, but is actually a caretaker due to Jane’s father having died and she was forced to live with this woman who is only called Mrs. Reed. This disconnect from the others is displayed by Mrs. Reed and her children by showing that they have absolutely no respect for Jane. Also, the author does not fully describe how Jane came to live with Mrs. Reed, or even what her relation is to her.
Jane seems to have a favorite pastime of reading and resorts to hiding behind a curtain for uninterrupted reading time. She becomes familiar with bleak landscapes described in her reading material that she equates to her current situation. She also reads about tyrants such as Roman emperors whom she finds similarities to in John, the eldest of Mrs. Reed’s children. Her to ability to make references to her life found in her reading, means that reading is probably her only form of temporary escape from the reality she currently has to suffer.
John, the worst of Jane’s problems, torments her verbally and physically. In one event, he strikes her so hard with a book that she cuts her head as she falls back against a door. One would normally expect others to show some concern for a little girl getting abused to the point of bleeding out of her head, but Mrs. Reed and the others supposed that Jane brought this on herself by forcing John to defend himself. And to further exaggerate their lack of affection for Jane, they lock her alone in a room. This animosity towards the protagonist is supposedly due to her being perceived as an intrusion to Mrs. Reed and her children’s lives, as Mrs. Reed is said to have referred to her only as a dependent.
The first chapter of this story makes a quick transition of what seems to be at first, a family oriented setting, to a very cold and indifferent atmosphere as seen through the eyes of a child. In the first few paragraphs, the reader will be given the impression that the following story will be sad and emotional. The inclusion of violence and isolation from any sympathy, keeps the reader in a constant state of anticipation for the main character to find the courage to find justice and overcome the odds.
Three Chapters, Three Stories