“It was like the day I discovered my adoption papers while searching for a pack of playing cards. I have never since played cards, and I have never since read Jane Eyre.” (75)

Jeanette has a fairytale-like image of what her life should look like. At very select moments in her life, that picturesque idea was shattered by a harsh reality. Jeanette had always believed her mother to be her biological mother. She understood her family to be a “normal” family, with a child growing in the guidance of the two people responsible for her birth. She had never even imagined the possibility of her family coming together in a different way. The discovery of her adoption paper was earth shattering, and there was no conceivable way for her to frame it in an acceptable manner. The most dominant framework she has is religion. Unfortunately, none of the classic biblical stories start with adoption. This new version of her story was uncharted waters.
Now, here she is in a library, and she decides to relive a fond memory of her childhood, one where she felt so connected to her mother. But, as it turns out, this wasn’t real either. Jeanette loses her sense of reality, and identity. She feels as though every aspect of her life could be called in to question, anything could turn out to be a deception. She cannot handle this feeling. So, she shuts the book and she never revisits it. She carries on and speaks as if her mother were the woman who gave birth to her. She pretends she never learned the truth, because lying to herself is much more comfortable. She does all that she can to avoid this stabbing feeling of a harsh truth. Yet, it keeps appearing as if it’s unavoidable. It is what she felt when she learned she was adopted, when she learned Jane Eyre did not end as she had thought, and also, a little later in life, when she realizes she can’t settle down and start a family of her own in the way she had always expected. She can’t have the fairy-tale life she had assumed she would. The real challenge lies in accepting that.


Adrienne Rich:

“She died   a famous woman   denying

her wounds


her wounds   came from the same source as her power”

Okay so these lines stuck out to me the most because it’s like they are opposite phrases to one another-one states this woman dies denying her wounds (not recognizing her pain and suffering), but she states that she got her power from this same denial. At first this made no sense to me because the way I have learned to process and live life constitutes me acknowledging my pain and suffering– that’s how I grow as a person, that’s how I recognize that the same things that give me pain, have given me power to be better, stronger, more beautiful, understanding, and accepting. So these two phrases were contradictory to me and I could just understand why she was saying this and how she struggled with this. In my group we tried to analyze this and we talked about what her power is. We talked about how she was an amazing scientists and how when women are in positions of power “they lose femininity” and they have to sacrifice so many things– for example a woman who is a doctor most likely spends less time with her child and so she suffers because she cannot be with the child as much and the woman has to hide this pain and deny her suffering in front of her colleagues or else they would scrutinize her. Then, we talked about how she did have cancer and if she wanted to continue to do research and be a scientist she had to deny she was in pain, or else she would have to stop her work because of her health. This made more sense to me. We also talked about the element itself she was purifying is so damn powerful and it did help her kill off some cancer, it was also causing her pain and suffering, so in order to keep treating her cancer, she had to ignore the pain that came with the toxin.