Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Why I Keep Rereading JaneEyre Booklovers all have stories we return to over and over again. One of mine is Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontÃ «- but I donÃ¢â¬â¢t just reread it, I revisit it like a friend. I read my favorite chapters when IÃ¢â¬â¢m lonely, consult it when I need advice, turn to it when I feel lost or need comfort. Though itÃ¢â¬â¢s over 150 years old, I still find something new and relevant in it each time. Gothic Elements I first read Jane Eyre when I was fifteen, and itÃ¢â¬â¢s remained my favorite novel since then. I love it for the characters and atmosphere- JaneÃ¢â¬â¢s fierce independence, her romance with Rochester, the gothic allure of BrontÃ «Ã¢â¬â¢s writing- but also for the way those things have challenged me. One of the first things that struck me about the novel is the fantastical and gothic elements and how theyÃ¢â¬â¢re included in the story. From the ghostly red room to Jane and RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s eerie, moonlit meeting to RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s frequent teasings that Jane is one of the fairy folk, fantasy is part of the everyday in Jane Eyre. Victorian Conventions This isnÃ¢â¬â¢t entirely unusual for a novel from the Victorian era: Victorians loved fairy tales. Andrew LangÃ¢â¬â¢s fairy tale collections, Christina RossettiÃ¢â¬â¢s poem Ã¢â¬Å"Goblin Market,Ã¢â¬ and Lewis CarrollÃ¢â¬â¢s AliceÃ¢â¬â¢s Adventures in Wonderland are all products of the Victorian fascination with fantasy. But the way BrontÃ « portrays the fantastic elements goes deeper than surface level. Jane and RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s relationship contains elements of mysticism- from RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s humorous impersonation of a fortune teller to the way Jane and Rochester, agonizing over losing each other, each hear the otherÃ¢â¬â¢s voice calling to them during their separation. These things are eerie and beautiful; they render the love story impossible to contain in earthly bonds. In this way and others, the novel depicts romance quite differently from the Victorian norm. This is one reason the novel was so popular (and criticized by some) after it was published. Jane and RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s relationship is powerful and intense from the start, and BrontÃ « wrote it with a fiery passion woven into the words on the page. ItÃ¢â¬â¢s partly the restraint and tension that make it so intense, but I still marvel at how moving it is even to modern-day readers who arenÃ¢â¬â¢t used to the same censors on romantic and sexual content that Victorian readers were. Romance and Subverted Power Dynamics I especially love how Jane and Rochester develop feelings for each other not because of shallow physical attraction but because of a much deeper kind. IÃ¢â¬â¢ll call it an understanding: At their cores, they understand each other in an almost mystical way. Their relationship is based in intellect, in challenging each other to think differently and in talking about issues and philosophical ideas that matter to them. At fifteen, this kind of basis for love was foreign to me; at almost twenty-eight, IÃ¢â¬â¢ve still never read another love story quite like it. It represents a bond that transcends the normal human experience, and I think itÃ¢â¬â¢s utterly beautiful. I also appreciate the frank, unflinching way BrontÃ « explored power dynamics in Jane and RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s relationship, including the initial imbalance of power between them. One scene that stands out is when Rochester threatens sexual violence when Jane announces sheÃ¢â¬â¢s leaving him. (The movie adaptations usually gloss over this scene.) Rochester is both a hero and a villain in the novel, and I love that BrontÃ « depicted the more troublesome aspects of his character and built a relationship between him and Jane that is complex, layered, and utterly imperfect. Some readers see RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s maiming and blinding as a way to Ã¢â¬Å"lowerÃ¢â¬ him to JaneÃ¢â¬â¢s level- the level of a woman in Victorian society- and look upon this choice by BrontÃ « unfavorably, but I have a different take. I see it as Rochester being cleansed (literally in fire, even) for his sins, having to shed his controlling nature and toxic masculinity in order to deserve Jane as his equal and partner. His wounds are his battle scars, his reminder of what he has learned and overcome. While there are problematic elements to the way BrontÃ « refers to RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s disabilities, there is also something powerful in this message. In BrontÃ «Ã¢â¬â¢s time, a man of RochesterÃ¢â¬â¢s wealth and social standing would have been considered far too good to marry a servant like Jane, and this cultural aspect is explored in the novel. However, BrontÃ « subverts this norm when she shows readers that it was actually Rochester who had to prove his worth to Jane. The main aspect of the novel I turn to during times of sadness or stress is JaneÃ¢â¬â¢s determination to live by her own moral code. Though she is influenced by her religious beliefs and the norms of the time, she also makes her own decisions. She chooses not to marry St. John because she doesnÃ¢â¬â¢t love him romantically. She chooses to return to Rochester not knowing he no longer has a wife. Her strength and strong will have always been reminders to me to live my life according to my own moral code: to trust in myself and to find strength in my own independence. Feeling like rereadingÃ Jane Eyre? Check out theÃ complete annotated textÃ of Jane EyreÃ on !
Sunday, March 1, 2020
Introduction to Purchasing-Power Parity The idea that identical items in different countries should have the same real prices is very intuitively appealing- after all, it stands to reason that a consumer should be able to sell an item in one country, exchange the money received for the item for currency of a different country, and then buy the same item back in the other country (and not have any money left over), if for no other reason than this scenario simply puts the consumer back exactly where she started. This concept, known as purchasing-power parity (and sometimes referred to as PPP), is simply the theory that the amount of purchasing power that a consumer has doesnt depend on what currency she is making purchases with. Purchasing-power parity doesnt mean that nominal exchange rates are equal to 1, or even that nominal exchange rates are constant. A quick look at an online finance site shows, for example, that a US dollar can buy about 80 Japanese yen (at the time of writing), and this can vary pretty widely over time. Instead, the theory of purchasing-power parity implies that there is an interaction between nominal prices and nominal exchange rates so that, for example, items in the US that sell for one dollar would sell for 80 yen in Japan today, and this ratio would change in tandem with the nominal exchange rate. In other words, purchasing-power parity states that the real exchange rate is always equal to 1, i.e. that one item purchased domestically can be exchanged for one foreign item. Despite its intuitive appeal, purchasing-power parity doesnt generally hold in practice. This is because purchasing-power parity relies on the presence of arbitrage opportunities- opportunities to risklessly and costlessly buy items at a low price in one place and sell them at a higher price in another- to bring prices together in different countries. (Prices would converge because the buying activity would push prices in one country up and the selling activity would push prices in the other country down.) In reality, there are various transaction costs and barriers to trade that limit the ability to make prices converge via market forces. For example, its unclear how one would exploit arbitrage opportunities for services across different geographies, since its often difficult, if not impossible, to transport services costlessly from one place to another. Nevertheless, purchasing-power parity is an important concept to consider as a baseline theoretical scenario, and, even though purchasing-power parity might not hold perfectly in practice, the intuition behind it does, in fact, place practical limits on how much real prices can diverge across countries. (If you are interested in reading more, see here for another discussion on purchasing-power parity.)