In Jane Eyre, what is the topic of conversation that the Ingram's discuss at Jane's expense?
In Chapter 17 of Jane Eyre, the guests of Mr. Rochester, the Ingrams, arrive at Thornfield. While Jane seeks seclusion from the aristocratic party, Mrs. Fairfax informs her that it is Mr. Rochester's "particular wish" that she be present with his guests. Following the suggestion of Mrs. Fairfax, Jane then enters the room before the others and finds a seat in a window where she will be relatively unnoticed. When the grand ladies enter, some nod at Jane, others merely stare. The most distinguished of these guests are the Lady Ingram and her daughters Mary and Blanche. Jane observes,
They were all three of the loftiest stature of women....there was an expression of almost insupportable haughtiness in her [Lady Ingram's ]bearing and countenance....her voice was deep, its inflections very pompous, very dogmatical....
Jane notices, too, that Blanche, whose face matches that of her mother's, has a more satirical turn to her words and laughter. After the men enter the room, conversation begins; Blanche Ingram walks to the mantelpiece where Mr. Rochester stands and asks him about Adele. She mentions the cost of governesses, speaking with disdain of hers and her sister's who were
"...detestable and the rest ridiculous, and all incubi."
Having drawn her mother into the conversation, the haughty Lady Ingram remarks,
"...don't mention governesses; the word makes me nervous. I have suffered a martyrdom from their incompetency and caprice; I thank Heaven I have now done with them!"
Then referring to Jane, Lady Ingram cruelly continues,
"...I noticed her; I am a judge of physiognomy, and in hers are all the faults of her class."
And Blanche concludes,
"I have just one word to say of the whole tribe; they are a nuisance."
Thus, it is with great disdain, cruelty, and disparagement
Thus, it is with great disdain, cruelty, and disparagement for her profession that the Ingrams speak in the presence of Jane Eyre.