Study notes Module B
Summary A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Jane Eyre – Sandra M. Gilbert & Susan Gubar

Bertha Mason represents “Jane’s truest and darkest double: she is the angry
aspect of the orphan child, the fero...

Chapter 9,


Chapter 10,


St. John Rivers

Chapter 34,


Chapter 13, ,Chapter 17,

Jane, Rochester imagines her thinking "My fine visions are all very well, but I must
not forget they are absolutely...
sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched playing with daisies on a lawn;
or again, dabbling its hands in run...
Jane has another symbolic dream the night she decides to leave Rochester and
Thornfield. In this dream, she has ret...
Jane outwardly accepts this reasoning, but reflects, "satisfied I was not (2.278)."
Clearly, Jane can distinguish w...
that Jane finds submission to be metaphorically wounding because it is not really in
her nature, for we have seen i...
intellectual independence, a freedom from the strictures of society and the
expectations of others. She, a “free bo...
10 | P a g e
to independence by the Reeds, and having learnt the value of truth from Helen
Burns at Lowood), that she is e...
11 | P a g e

Sample essay 2
How are the ideas of love and relationship portrayed in Jane Eyre?
Jane Eyre is fundamentally...
12 | P a g e
emotionally intense point in the narrative, the energy, confidence and passionate
belief that love can nurtur...
13 | P a g e
therefore, is not outward appearances, but inner reality. Between Jane and
Rochester, as Jane herself declare...
14 | P a g e
into the reader’s present as possible. Even within the last passage, Jane narrates experiences
ten years old ...
15 | P a g e
sentiment out of the main body of the narrative, and introduces an element of criticism into
the equation. Ja...
16 | P a g e
Brontë contributes to her presentation of Jane as a human narrator, one with whom the reader
can empathise. W...
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  1. 1. 1|Page Study notes Module B Summary A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Jane Eyre – Sandra M. Gilbert & Susan Gubar Contemporary Victorian viewers were shocked by the Jane Eyre’s anger and rebellious feminism: its refusal to accept the forms, customs and standards of society. Her “mind contains nothing but hunger, rebellion and rage” – Matthew Arnold on Charlotte Brontë Jane is “the personification of an unregenerate and undisciplined spirit” and the novel is “an anti-Christian composition” – Elizabeth Rigby “Jane Eyre is a feminist tract, an argument for the social betterment of governesses and equal rights for women” – Richard Chase. (N.B. This argument in supported in the opening of chapter 12) SYMBOLIC MOMENTS IN THE NOVEL • In the opening of the novel, the world outside Gateshead is wintry, with “sombre” clouds and “ceaseless rain”, but the world within it is claustrophobic and fiery, representative of Jane’s own turbulent, passionate mind that rebels against what is considered ‘normal’ in her society. Her outburst at Mrs Reed is a very self-assertive act that a Victorian child was not supposed to be capable of – in an age where children were to be “seen but not heard”.
  2. 2. 2|Page • Bertha Mason represents “Jane’s truest and darkest double: she is the angry aspect of the orphan child, the ferocious secret self Jane has been trying to repress ever since her days at Gateshead.” Jane fears the “vapoury veil” that Jane Rochester will wear for an unequal marriage and secretly desires to tear it up; Bertha does it for her. • Sandra M. Gilbert asserts that after she has rejected a false union with Rochester , Jane’s “terrible journey across the moors suggests the essential homelessness… of women in a patriarchal society” • In order to be fully free and independent, Jane has to resist St John Rivers and his attempts to imprison the “resolute wild free thing” that is her soul in the ultimate cell, the “iron shroud” of principle. Gilbert and Gubar note that even Brontë’s seemingly contained female characters harbour concealed resentment and anger, in tune with the idea of the suppression of women. Miss Temple, referred to as a “shrine of ladylike values” in The Madwoman in the Attic, has to hide her fury at Mr Brocklehurst’s cruelty and hypocrisy. Additionally, Helen Burns, the ideal of self-renunciation and piety, burns with spiritual passion and anger, leaving her possessions in “shameful disorder” and dreaming of freedom in eternity. Gilbert and Gubar note that Brontë is “able to act out that passionate drive towards freedom that offend agents of the status quo”, but cannot offer a definition of this elusive freedom, for at the end of the novel Jane does not remain fully independent but instead offers herself to Rochester. However, the marriage is uncommonly egalitarian for the times, as Brontë emphasises that the couple will become “bone of [each other’s] bone, flesh of [each other’s] flesh”, therefore, true to her independent spirit, Jane does not lose herself to masculine authority. Themes Locations o Gateshead - Chapter 1, o Lowood - Chapter 6, Thornfield - Chapters 11, & Chapter 12, o Chapter 12, Feminism
  3. 3. 3|Page Religion o Chapter 9, o Chapter 10, Ambition St. John Rivers o Chapter 34, o Chapter 13, ,Chapter 17, Rochester Bertha Mason o Chapter 25, o Chapter 27, o Chapter 11, o Chapter 38, Narration Authority Figures o Chapter 7, p.56 o Chapter 25, p.248 Dreams Dreams Jane Eyre contains a number of significant dreams and day-dreams. Despite her distaste for fantasies and inefficiency, the eponymous narrator, Jane, is a frequent day-dreamer. Edward Rochester, Jane's employer at Thornfield, recounts observing her pace around in a day-dream. When the voice of a servant, Mrs. Fairfax, awakens
  4. 4. 4|Page Jane, Rochester imagines her thinking "My fine visions are all very well, but I must not forget they are absolutely unreal," and finding a task to complete to ensure she does not slip back into daydreaming (3.22). This suppression of day-dreams reflects the trend of Jane learning to suppress her passions over the course of the novel. After a turbulent childhood, Jane fulfils a Victorian ideal of womanhood, and grows more graceful and composed as she completes her education. Despite her placid exterior, Jane still maintains a wild and active dream life According to Maurianne Adams, Jane even pays "inordinate attention to the details of her dream life" (85). Jane's dreams thus reveal the raw emotions she attempts to mask in order to be an ideal Victorian lady. When Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield, Rochester takes interest in three watercolour imaginative landscapes she painted while at Lowood school. They reveal her great awareness for dreams. Jane describes the drawings as visions of her "spiritual eye" and notes, "The subjects had indeed risen vividly on my mind" (1.242). Rochester declares, "I daresay you did exist in a kind of artist's dreamland while you blent and arranged these" (1.244). The first painting shows a ship's mast a bare hand, and a bracelet rising out of a turbulent green sea. The second painting is of a wind-rustled hill below a night sky in which a cosmic female form is visible. The third is a monumental bleak human head rising out of the ocean, supported by hands and resting on an iceberg. Adams argues that the pictures represent the scope of Jane's unconscious life. In the first two, the mast, arm, and the hill are Jane's consciousness, while the submerged ship and body and the faint cosmic woman are her consciousness. The third image, "depicts the icebound landscape of Jane's despair" (Adams 85). Jane's dream art may thus reveal the extent of her suppressed, passionate, unconscious. Besides providing glimpses into the unconscious, dreams in Jane Eyre can also serve as "presentiments," or warnings of future events. As Homans notes, Charlotte Brontë often uses the gothic form of literalizing, or making some aspect of the dreams come true. A dream in Jane Eyre can serve as a general symbol. Jane believes the superstition of her old governess Bessie, that "to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to one's self or one's kin" (2.6). Indeed, the day after Bessie dreamt of a child, Bessie found out her sister was dead. Dreams can also serve as complex representations for events in Jane's life. In volume two, chapter six, Jane herself begins having dreams about children. Gilbert and Gubar argue that these dreams correspond to the increasing apprehension Jane feels towards a romance with Rochester. After taking an idyllic walk around Thornfield with Rochester, Jane has an initial series of child dreams: ". . . during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a dream of an infant: which I sometimes hushed in my arms,
  5. 5. 5|Page sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched playing with daisies on a lawn; or again, dabbling its hands in running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me" (2.141). In accordance with Bessie's beliefs, Jane's visions bring her trouble. Jane wakes up from one of her dreams to the murderous cry of Bertha Mason, Rochester's mad wife whom he keeps locked in the attic of Thornfield. The day after that, Jane finds out that her cousin John has died and her Aunt Reed lies on her deathbed. After Jane and Rochester become engaged, Jane has another pair of child dreams. During the first, Jane experiences "a strange, regretful consciousness of some barrier" dividing Rochester and her (1.268). She dreams that she carries a bawling child on an unknown road, and Rochester walks ahead of her. She tries to catch up to him, but her entreaties are muffled and her steps slowed, and Rochester walks farther and farther away. In the second dream, Jane images the destruction of Thornfield. She wanders around the ruined estate, clutching the child because she "might not lay it down anywhere, however tired were my arms however much its weight impeded my progress" (1.271). As she struggles to climb a wall to get a better view of Rochester, the child clings to her neck, nearly strangling her. When she reaches the summit of the wall, she glimpses Rochester as a vanishing speck. The wall crumbles and she and they baby fall away as she wakes. These dreams may reflect a fear that Jane muffles from herself and others, namely that marrying Rochester will alter her identity. Homans suggests that the child of the dreams may represent Jane's love for Rochester, or "Mrs. Rochester," the new identity Jane will assume after marriage. Alternately, the dreams may represent Jane's orphan childhood, an alter-ego that Jane cannot free herself of, even with marriage to Rochester. In any case, the dreams give marriage-anxious Jane an uneasy "intimation of what it would be like to become other than herself" (Homans 155). Again in accordance with Bessie's prophecy, the dreams of children bring trouble. Jane wakes from the second dream to discover Bertha Mason tearing her wedding dress. Shortly thereafter, Richard Mason will break up Jane and Rochester's attempted marriage with the news that Rochester is still legally married to Bertha. The pair of dreams is also eventually literalized. The barrier separating Jane and Rochester in her dream represents Rochester's pre-existing marriage to Bertha Mason, a force that stands between Jane's union with him. Rochester riding away from Jane in her dream forewarns of his imminent separation from Jane. The dream of the destruction of Thornfield comes true when Bertha Mason burns down the estate. In volume three, when Jane returns to Thornfield and finds it "a blackened ruin," she remarks that part of Thornfield looks "as I had once seen it in a dream" (3.254).
  6. 6. 6|Page Jane has another symbolic dream the night she decides to leave Rochester and Thornfield. In this dream, she has returned to the red room of Gateshead. As she looks up at the ceiling, it turns into clouds. A human form reminiscent of the cosmic woman in Jane's imaginative watercolour painting appears. Jane recounts, She broke forth as never moon yet burst from cloud: a hand first penetrated the sable folds and waved them away; then, not a moon, but a white human form shone in the azure, inclining a glorious brow earthward. It gazed and gazed on me. It spoke, to my spirit: immeasurably distant was the tone, yet so near, it whispered in my heart — "My daughter, flee temptation!" (3.43) Again, Jane's emotions are reflected in her dream. Its decreased foreboding corresponds with Jane's release from marital apprehension as she decides to leave Thornfield. Again, the dream provides foreshadowing. The rising woman prefigures the spirit that later re-unites Jane and Rochester by inexplicably transmitting their messages, "Jane! Jane! Jane!" "I am coming: wait for me!" to each other over dozens of miles (3.300). Jane's dreams can also directly depict her emotions. In Chapter 7 of volume 2, Jane hears that Rochester will marry Blanche Ingram, and she dreams of Blanche "closing the gates of Thornfield against me and pointing me out another road" while Rochester smiles sardonically (2.108). This dream reveals Jane's unhappiness at the prospect of Mr. Rochester marrying Blanche. In chapter 5 of volume 3, after her separation from Rochester, Jane recounts her recurring dreams "dreams many coloured, agitated, full of the ideal, the stirring, the stormy &mdsh; dreams where, amidst unusual scenes, charged with adventure, with agitating risk and romantic chance, I still again and again met Mr. Rochester always at some exciting crisis; and then the sense of being in his arms, hearing his voice, meeting his eye, touching his hand and cheek, loving him, being loved by him &mdsh; the hope of passing a lifetime at his side, would be renewed, with all its first force and fire" (3.135). These dreams reveal the love Jane maintains for Rochester, and prefigure her return and subsequent marriage to him. While Jane has a vibrant dream life, she is usually able to differentiate distinctly between waking life and dreaming, even in ambiguous situations. Twice, Rochester and his servant Mrs. Fairfax unsuccessfully attempt to convince Jane that her sightings of Bertha Mason are dreams. One night, shortly before Jane discovers Rochester's room is ablaze, she hears a "demonic laugh" emanate from her keyhole (295). Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane that the laugh she perceived was not real by saying "you must have been dreaming" (2.4). Jane remains unconvinced and replies heatedly, "I was not dreaming" (2.4) Another night, Jane wakes to find Bertha tearing her wedding dress. Rochester assures her that her vision was "half dream, half reality," claiming that the woman Jane saw was Grace Poole and that her state "between sleeping and waking" caused her to envision the Grace in a hideous form (2.277).
  7. 7. 7|Page Jane outwardly accepts this reasoning, but reflects, "satisfied I was not (2.278)." Clearly, Jane can distinguish well between dream and reality. Jane also emphasizes the distinction between dream and reality when she and Rochester first become engaged. Rochester becomes giddy at the prospect of marriage, and he speaks of his love for Jane in exuberant terms. "You are a beauty, in my eyes; and a beauty just after the desire of my heart, — delicate and aerial" (2.221). Jane quickly refutes him on the grounds that his statements belong in the dream world, not the world of reality. She rejects the idealized future he imagines for them, calling his musings "a fairy tale &mdsh; a day-dream" (2.220). She brushes off his compliments of her beauty, saying "You are dreaming, sir &mdsh; or you are sneering" (2.221). Dreamlike states intrude upon Jane's waking life only on momentous occasions. When a gypsy fortune-teller who later proves to be Rochester in disguise demonstrates uncanny knowledge about her life, Jane loses her scepticism for the supernatural and falls into "a kind of dream" (2.98). After the gypsy woman analyzes Jane's physiognomy in a "rave of delirium," Jane wonders, "Where was I? Did I wake or sleep? Had I been dreaming? Did I dream still?" (2.102). In another instance of dream confusion, the day after Rochester asks Jane to marry him, Jane wonders "if it were a dream" (2.217). For Jane, confusing dream and wake requires an event of great magnitude. Dreams in Jane Eyre thus serve several complex functions. They forewarn Jane of trouble or good fortune, and reveal Jane's passionate inner self to the reader. They can serve as general symbols, interpretive representations, or direct reflections of Jane's emotions. Despite their prevalence, Jane tries to separate her dreams from her waking life, and in her novel, Brontë maintains sturdy barriers between England and "dreamland." Passage study St. John Rivers – pgs 352 to 353 (“St. John was not a man to be lightly refused… my changeable green eyes the sea-blue tint and solemn lustre of his own”) This passage describes the subduing effect that St. John has on Jane and her passionate nature. Brontë uses language to convey his coldness e.g. Jane says she fell under a “freezing spell” in his presence, which suggests that her natural warmth and vivacity are being frozen, and the use of the word “spell” suggests that this is beyond her control and she is powerless to escape his influence. It seems that St. John views Jane as an individual who he can mould to his own interests, which he knows he cannot do to either of his sisters, as Jane says of Diana (she was not painfully controlled by his will; for hers, in another way, was as strong). Here the “she” in Italics conveys a sense of helplessness, reinforcing the idea that Jane herself is being manipulated by St. John’s iron will although she can see that others are not. It is interesting that Jane uses the word “painfully”, and this suggests
  8. 8. 8|Page that Jane finds submission to be metaphorically wounding because it is not really in her nature, for we have seen in other chapters that she is accustomed to being headstrong and passionate (e.g. when she hurls the slate around Helen Burns’ forehead into the fire because “the spectacle of her sad resignation gave me an intolerable pain at the heart”). Jane compares St. John’s kisses to “marble kisses or ice kisses”, which evokes his detachment from earthly attraction and feeling. We can see in his steadfast refusal to allow his love for Rosamond Oliver to develop that he does not care for love on this earth and instead longs for the rewards that he believes await him in heaven. When he asks Jane to marry him and accompany him to India, we know that he does not do so because he loves her (she tells Diana that he does not care for her “one whit”) but because he wants to properly fulfil his task and desires her assistance. Brontë often uses marble and ice imagery in relation to St. John, describing his forehead as “still and pale as white stone”, which evokes his inflexible nature and iron will, as well as his refusal to submit to real human emotions. In this passage Jane’s sense of imprisonment because of St. John’s power over her is presented, and she says that she felt as though his kiss “were a seal affixed to my fetters”. This metaphor presents Jane as a slave bound in a chain or shackles, showing that St. John and his oppressive attention have trapped her and forced her to submit. This also calls to mind Jane’s words some pages later when she tells him that she cannot marry him and compares her mind to a “rayless dungeon”, suggesting that she has become a prisoner to his demands and principles. The use of the word “rayless” indicates that all of Jane’s natural hope and gaiety are being quashed because of his serious and controlling nature, which is, as outlined earlier, a major focus of this passage. Sample essay 1 How does Brontë present independence through the character of Jane Eyre? One of Jane’s most striking and noteworthy qualities is her fierce independence. She is, in her own words, “a free human being with an independent will”, whom “no net ensnares”. She is able to live aside from the society of others, and their scorn is of little importance to her. This ‘freedom of spirit’, although to some extent natural and inborn, as we see from Jane’s outbursts against the Reed family near the beginning of the novel, is nourished by the education she receives at Lowood, and blossoms at the school. For much of the novel, Jane is not capable of true material independence, her poverty and the societal constrictions of the time upon what women could do, mean that she is required to be dependent on others: firstly the Reed family, then Lowood, and finally Mr Rochester. Physical independence, then, is denied her to a large extent. She is not free, as Rochester is, for example, to roam around Europe, and do as she wishes, her independent spirit, then, must express itself in different ways. In the course of much of her conversation with Rochester, we see instead an
  9. 9. 9|Page intellectual independence, a freedom from the strictures of society and the expectations of others. She, a “free born creature”, does not give in to the urgings or pampering of men, as perhaps Georgina Reed or Blanche Ingram might, but remains true to herself throughout the course of the novel, recognising the superficiality of much of what ‘society’ values. During the course of their preparing for marriage, Jane demonstrates to Rochester her freedom from reliance upon gifts and trinkets and the expectations of others, himself included. When, for example Jane greets Rochester the morning after their agreement to marry, he speaks to her of the jewels, the “heirlooms for the ladies of Thornfield” that he is sending for, to give to her. Instead of reacting with delight, and perhaps greed, blinded by the vision of jewels as a conventional girl of the time, perhaps, would be, Jane sees through their superficial gaudiness, and replies only “jewels for Jane Eyre sounds unnatural and strange”. Again, she rejects his description of “delicate and aërial”, dispensing with the need for false flattery, and terms herself instead “puny and insignificant”, and insists on Rochester’s remembering that she is only his “Quakerish Governess”. One could say, then, that what Jane ultimately displays is independence from deceit, and an unconditional acceptance of the truth. In fact, in this passage, Brontë portrays very strongly the contrast between truth and pretence, lies and reality, both in the languages she uses, and the form of the conversation. She alternates, paragraph by paragraph, Rochester’s dressed up and perfected statements and compliments, with Jane’s disparagement and baring of the truth in each instance. Thus we have the happy vision of “Fairfax Rochester’s girl-bride” contrasted with Jane’s protestation that “human beings never enjoy complete happiness in this world”, and Jane “attire[d] in satin and lace” revealed in reality as an “ape in a harlequin’s jacket”. The very structure of Brontë’s writing here seems, then, designed to pit pretence against truth, and thus to demonstrate that Jane, in fact, is not reliant upon Rochester’s flattery. Indeed, she tells her reader that she is made “uneasy… because [she] felt that he was either deluding himself, or trying to delude [her]”, and, even more tellingly, she says to Rochester “I love you most dearly: far too dearly to flatter you. Don’t flatter me.” Jane’s independent spirit exhibits itself all through her relationship with Rochester, leading right up to their marriage, but never so strongly as when she forces herself to leave him after the discovery of Bertha Mason’s existence. She speaks of the “inward power; a sense of influence, which supported me”, and which fires her determination to be free from the whole situation, despite the love which ties her back. Even when Rochester threatens to “try violence” to keep her with him, Jane, instead of cowering or giving way in fear, does not weaken her resolve at all. She stands up to him, and speaks to him “soothingly”, treating him not as a master to be feared, but almost as a child to be calmed down and quieted. At this point in the novel, however, Brontë portrays Jane’s independent spirit almost as a fault in her character. Her fierce rejection of reliance upon anybody compels her to leave Rochester and Thornfield, but against her own wishes and against the interests of her own happiness. “I do love you,” she tells Rochester, “but I must not show or indulge it, and this is the last time I must express it.” This aversion to ‘indulgence’ in her love is the same quality as the aversion to flattery and pretence expressed in the other passage. Such has been here upbringing and education (excluded and forced
  10. 10. 10 | P a g e to independence by the Reeds, and having learnt the value of truth from Helen Burns at Lowood), that she is evidently afraid to indulge in things that might make her happy, such as love and jewels, and although modesty and being ‘down-to-earth’ are admirable qualities, Brontë portrays Jane here as almost too independent, bringing herself further unhappiness by her refusal to give in to her love. Rochester, by contrast, represents the tempestuous bonds of love, which have bound him to Jane; made him dependent upon her. He lacks Jane’s self control and will power, which enable her to be separated despite his love, and give an outwards appearance of calm, whatever she might be feeling inside. By contrasting Jane’s fairly calm and unshakeable conviction that she must leave, with the flawed Rochester’s wild and passionate entreaties to her to stay, Brontë paints a picture of Jane as morally upright, and steadfast to her moral convictions in spite of the pain that they bring her. She uses the language of quiet sufferance, describing Jane as “calm”, “soothing”, and “resolute”, all positive values, thus suggesting that her independence from Rochester is something to be admired, rather than a true flaw. Jane, then, while never able (until nearer the end of the novel) to live a truly independent life, is nonetheless fiercely independent in spirit and morality. She does not rely upon or succumb to the temptations of jewels, or love, or villas in the south of France, all of which Rochester can give her, but instead remains true to herself, and dependent only upon her own convictions, that which she knows is right. Nor, however, is she quashed by his threats of violence, or the volatile temper, refusing to give in and forfeit her freedom and the independence from, and equality to Rochester that she assumes as her right. Such is Jane’s independence, that she is free also from reliance on flattery and pretence, preferring instead truth and honesty. She has, as it were, cut herself off from the constrictions of what might be considered normal for a girl in her circumstances, in sharp contrast to Céline Varens, for example who laps up, and indulges in, the attention and jewels lavished upon her by Rochester. Through this comparison in particular, Brontë also succeeds in intimating Jane’s faithfulness, in contrast to Céline’s infidelity, although as we see further on in the passage, Jane has no illusions even about love. “I suppose your love will effervesce in six months, or less”, she tells Rochester, stating the truth plainly and almost insensitively, showing once again, that she is not reliant upon false hope or dreams of everlasting love. This is, perhaps, what makes Jane Eyre such a strikingly independent feminist character: her rejection of the accepted, and perhaps expected, dreams of ‘finding her true love’, and ‘living happily ever after’. Although she has no independent means of living, and is therefore reliant upon Rochester to a certain extent, and although she clearly does love him, their relationship is obviously going to be entirely equal, and on her terms: she refuses to give in to male domination, living and thinking as a “free-born creature”, not some pale and pathetic wife following trembling in her husband’s footsteps. “You seem to submit,” says Rochester, commenting on these admirable qualities, but “I am influenced – conquered”.
  11. 11. 11 | P a g e Sample essay 2 How are the ideas of love and relationship portrayed in Jane Eyre? Jane Eyre is fundamentally a novel about the conflict between love, and the artificial context of relationship, which introduces impediments and pain to what should be pure and unconstrained. It is the pain of love forbidden by the constraints of societal morality which drives Jane to leave Thornfield Hall, and it is love’s attraction which pulls her back there at the end of the novel, overcoming this barrier. The love that blossoms between Jane and Rochester is in many ways the strongest and most lasting impression given by the novel. It is, however, a paradoxical attraction in that it causes Jane, and probably Rochester (although the first person narrative means we cannot be sure of his feelings except through his own expression of them), as much pain as it does joy. Jane, nursing her secret love for Rochester, is hurt so much by his supposed engagement to Blanche Ingram that she decided to leave Thornfield, and the man she loves, in order to escape the pain. In the passage in the novel where she presents Rochester with this decision, the pain is clearly and emphatically expressed. Jane tells Rochester that “it strikes me with terror and anguish to know I absolutely must be torn from you”, and she equates the “necessity of departure” from his presence to the “necessity of death” itself. Jane and Rochester’s relationship is a deep and intrinsic attachment, binding them together “as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame”. Clearly, then, this love is no superficial romantic attraction, as is perhaps the relationship between St John and Rosamond Oliver that we come across later in the novel. It is also, as this image of mutual attachment suggests, a relationship of equality. “I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart!” Jane cries to Rochester: the kind of declaration she would never make to St John, though the situation in this passage, and that in the part of the novel where St John proposes to Jane are very similar. For the relationship between the two cousins is everything Jane and Rochester’s isn’t. Whereas in the latter relationship Brontë demonstrates a heartfelt passion, through which “my spirit addresses your spirit; just as if… we stood at God’s feet, equal”, the former is empty of all such emotional value. It is just as St John says – “I claim you – not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign’s service”. Between Jane and St John there can be no true love, for the his heart is given to God and to his missionary calling, leaving him with cold eyes and heart which sees only Jane’s “human weakness” and her use only for “labour, not for love”. Rochester, however, understands her spirit and her soul, through the knowledge of which she, though “poor and obscure, and small and plain” becomes “as [his] own flesh”. Through her love for Rochester Jane flourishes both in confidence and appreciation of life. The timid, proper young girl who arrives at Thornfield, though she might accidentally admit she finds her employer “not at all [handsome]”, would never make the passionate declarations of emotion that we see in this passage, nor would she be bold enough to dismiss one of far higher social status as “inferior”. Brontë, then, demonstrates throughout the progress of the novel, but particularly at this
  12. 12. 12 | P a g e emotionally intense point in the narrative, the energy, confidence and passionate belief that love can nurture. The relationship proposed by St John Rivers, however, would sap Jane of every quality granted her by her love for Rochester. She speaks of going “to premature death”, and St John calls her “docile”, intimating the loss of that precious spirit and independence which makes Jane as a literary character of the time so unique and special that would occur were she to acquiesce to his request. Under the conditions of this relationship, all the “forms of love” become something to be “endure[d]” rather than treasured or enjoyed, and the “spirit” which makes Jane and Rochester’s love so passionate and authentic is “quite absent”. Given the importance of Jane’s independent spirit both to herself and to Rochester, this fate is clearly intolerable, as Jane herself admits. Whereas for Rochester, who loves her, she is “my equal… and my likeness”, for St John, who cannot, she can only ever be as a “good weapon” is to a soldier: a role she will not willingly play. We can see, then, the fundamental fire and passion that drive Jane and Rochester together, and which are utterly absent between St John and Jane. This authenticity of love is the quality to which Jane, and through her Brontë, ascribes the highest importance. The relationship between Rochester and Blanche Ingram, though in terms of social position, wealth and upbringing a perfect match, is an empty, hollow semblance of love. Its falsity and fickle nature are exposed by Rochester himself when he speaks of the “coldness from both [Miss Ingram] and her mother” that he receives after their hearing of his supposed poverty. The very use of the word ‘coldness’ here evokes the sense of barren, false love that Jane finds so wrong and unnatural, enough indeed to declare to Rochester that she would “scorn such a union”, in which one member could “sneer” at the other, and not “truly love her”. Brontë also explores the other extreme: a relationship based not on societal grounds, and divorced from physical attractions, but one formed solely of what St John calls “a mere fever of the flesh”. He himself tells Jane that while he “love[s] Rosamond Oliver so wildly”, he nonetheless knows that “her promises are hollow – her offers false”, and although Jane at first attempts to drive the two together, to “advocate their union”, and see that love fulfilled, even she eventually comes to the understanding that the same must be true of this ‘love’ as would be between herself and her cousin: that St John’s heart is already committed to his divine mission, and cannot be shared with any woman. Any love he offers must therefore by empty, and after St John’s hollow proposal of marriage, Jane again demonstrates her hate of such a false love. “I scorn your idea of love,” she tells St John, “I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer.” Brontë, then, gives us four different models of love, but only one blossoms with the true fire of passion. Paradoxically, the relationship between Jane and Rochester is perhaps the most outwardly unlikely. Unlike the perfect physical pairing of St John Rivers and Rosamond Oliver, or the seemingly likely social match of Rochester and Blanche Ingram, or even the union of the dutiful, adventurous Jane with the intelligent, committed, honourable St John, none of which would be unduly surprising in a novel of Brontë’s time, it is only the love between the apparently mismatched Jane and Rochester which proves true. What is important to Brontë,
  13. 13. 13 | P a g e therefore, is not outward appearances, but inner reality. Between Jane and Rochester, as Jane herself declares, it is not class speaking to class, or beauty to beauty or wealth to wealth, all superficial, coincidental qualities, but “spirit to spirit”. In contrast, however, to this deep seated, natural attraction, is placed the fundamentally unnatural barrier of marriage: both the imagined marriage to Miss Ingram, and the real one to Bertha Mason. That a previous marriage, and especially such a hostile, unloving, empty one as that between Rochester and Bertha Mason should stand in the way of such a love as Jane’s is ultimately (in the context of the novel) a testimony to Jane’s moral strength, but Brontë is also making a subtle protest against the rigidity, and at times artificiality, of social convention. While not suggesting or condoning bigamy, Brontë nonetheless demonstrates within Jane Eyre the triumph of natural love over the unnatural impediments admitted to the ‘marriage of true minds’ between Jane and Rochester Sample Essay 3 With reference to one or two passages from ‘Jane Eyre’, explore the way Brontë presents Jane as a narrator The primary and most basic narrative feature of Jane Eyre, published firstly as an ‘autobiography’, is the novel’s first person narration, given by the eponymous character. Obviously, in presenting this narrator as a woman, Brontë creates from the outset a sense of defiance of Victorian societal convention, but in telling the story through one character, Brontë is also able to give a reality and vitality to the story, as well as to manipulate the timeframe of the narration, and control and direct the reader’s impression and understanding of other characters. Sandra Gilbert sees Jane Eyre as “a distinctively female Bildungsroman”, in which Jane “struggles from the imprisonment of childhood toward an almost unthinkable goal of mature freedom”. Although this representation of the novel is true as far as the main body of the narrative is concerned, the issue is complicated by the intervention of the mature Jane in the sentiments of the child she is describing, in sentence such as “such dread as children only can feel.” Yes, we do see Jane mature through the novel, but the fact that the whole story is being told by a narrator who speaks to us disrupts the progress of a pure Bildungsroman, by introducing the mature Jane early on in the novel, rather than only at the end, after the “struggle” has been overcome. In this way the timeframe of the narration - that is the point in time from which Jane is telling us the story - is made uncertain throughout the novel. Is Jane reminiscing, and looking back over a life already lived, or is the reader privy to her immediate experiences, as the events unfold around her? Only at the very end of the novel are we given any definite indication of the timeframe the story. At the very beginning of the chapter entitled ‘conclusion’, Jane delivers what is perhaps the most famous line of the whole novel. “Reader, I married him,” she says, pinning down for certain the time from which Jane is speaking - her ‘present’ (that we reach at the end of the book) - as some time after the events took place. She qualifies this, saying “I have now been married ten years.” We now know, then, that the main events of the story are removed from Jane’s present by a considerable length of time, but as the novel is read, especially for the first time when the reader is unaware of this timeframe, Brontë presents Jane’s narration in such a way as to bring the story as much
  14. 14. 14 | P a g e into the reader’s present as possible. Even within the last passage, Jane narrates experiences ten years old as if they were present ones, in part by using present tenses, such as “[they] were both of that… order of people, to whom one may at any time …”. The use of “may” rather than “could” suggests a current opinion: a thought in the present, and when placed in the context of Jane’s description of past events, it gives the reader a sense that the events are happening now, as he is reading. At the beginning of chapter eleven, after Jane’s departure from Lowood, she tells the reader “I sit in my cloak… I am not very tranquil in my mind…” Again, this use of the present tense creates a sense of events being present: happening as the reader reads, but also confuses the course of the narrative, and confuses the sense of time. Tension is thus created between what a reader who has already read the novel knows to be the overall timeframe, and the individual pockets within that timeframe where events seem to be present ones, and indeed, although in using a first person narrator Brontë does give a great deal of life and emotional strength to the novel that it might otherwise be lacking, there are times like in these pockets of present tense, when we are encouraged to step back, disentangle ourselves from Jane’s perspective, and evaluate events for ourselves. One such instance occurs in that passage where Jane, having departed from Lowood, awaits her carriage to Thornfield: the next stage of her life. “A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play,” she tells the reader. This statement is particularly revealing of Jane as a narrator, because she admits that this is only a “novel”, and thus reminds the reader that it is not a genuine experience. She continues, however to narrate, speaking directly to the “reader”, despite having stepped out of the main narrative for the duration of the passage. Jane thus proves herself independent of the narrative construct of the novel, in a way that the other characters in this novel (and characters in a story narrated by an omniscient third person narrator) cannot be. In including these brief interludes, Brontë presents Jane as a real person, free from her “story”, which is in reality simply a narration within the larger context of Jane’s speaking to the reader. An original, intended reader in the late 1840’s would have seen Jane Eyre as an autobiography, so the presentation of Jane as a ‘real live’ person, telling her story in the wider context of a present, ongoing life, would have been stronger. Even for modern readers, however, who are aware of the work’s fictitious nature, Jane’s addressing of the reader in such direct sentences as “reader I married him,” and even more so in questions such as “You have not quite forgotten little Adele, have you reader?” creates the image of Jane as a very real, living narrator. These questions in particular, in their invitation of a response, draw the reader further into a sense of dialogue with a real person independent of the novel. Brontë reinforces this presentation of Jane by conveying her narrator’s keenness for her audience – the reader – to evaluate, and make up its own mind about the events that she recounts: “Why did I not spend these sweet days of liberty with [Helen]?” she asks, encouraging the reader to think for himself, rather than simply depending on the narrative for information. There remains, however, some tension and uncertainty in parts of the novel, as to whether the events of the story are being narrated by the experienced, mature Jane of ‘ten years later’, or the inexperienced girl of the story’s present (but the narrator’s past). An example of this might be the narrator Jane’s empathy for characters such as Mrs Reed, which is at odds with the child’s perception. She asks “how could she really like an interloper not of her race?”, but the reader is left uncertain as to who exactly is uttering this sentiment – the present Jane, or the child in the narrative. This setting at odds of the two separate entities – the character and the narrator – reinforces the sense of tension generated by the uncertainty of timeframe: the distinction between the two becomes blurred, which helps the narrative to be more present and easier for the reader to relate and connect to. This uncertainty of time also lifts the
  15. 15. 15 | P a g e sentiment out of the main body of the narrative, and introduces an element of criticism into the equation. Jane, then, herself presents an alternative viewpoint: an understanding of the other characters as people in their own right, and thus encourages evaluation on the part of the reader. Also particularly suggestive of this tension are those passages where the reader, as an outside observer of the narrative, knows or perceives more than the girl who is taking part in it. One such example might be during Jane’s time at Lowood, where we are told that she “in [her] ignorance…understood [consumption to be] something mild, which time… would alleviate”. Here, in our knowledge of consumption as a serious complaint, and what that means for Helen’s chances of survival, we are in a position of superior understanding, which distances us from the younger character of Jane, in emphasising her existence only as part of the narrative, but which strengthens our image of the narrator Jane as a present person, through her own admission of former ignorance, which accentuates the difference between the two entities: past and present; the character Jane, and the narrator Jane. In the passage recounting Jane’s first real conversation with Rochester, we see another of these moments. A mature modern reader can see quite plainly that Rochester is drunk to some extent. His garbled similes, which describe himself as “hard and tough as an India-rubber ball”, but one with “one sentient point in the middle of the lump”, as well as the general unrestrained manner of his speech, suggests intoxication. Indeed, never again in the novel is Rochester quite so unreserved and “gregarious and communicative” as his is in this passage. Jane, however, inexperienced and innocent as she is, is unsure of the situation. “Whether with wine or not, I am not sure,” Jane tells us, betraying her ignorance of such things, and although she “think[s] it very probable,” there is still a feeling of uncertainty, which may be intentional on Brontë’s part, despite all the evidence in Jane’s description of Rochester’s behaviour which makes the reader so sure of his intoxication. This situation, however, is slightly different from the former one, in that a present tense is used. “I am not sure”, says the narrator Jane, showing that not only was the character ignorant of the true state of affairs, the present narrator is still uncertain of the truth, more so than the reader is. This strengthens the image of Jane as a real autobiographer, rather than an omniscient narrator that might seem too unreal and removed from human characteristics to establish an empathetic connection with the reader. Another way in which Jane is presented as a narrator is as the medium through which the other characters are created and presented. Unlike Jane, they only exist as a part of the story she tells, and so they have no independent representation outside of that narrative. They cannot talk directly to the reader, as Jane can, and so we see them only as they are seen by Jane. By presenting the other characters only through a narrator, Brontë introduces a bias towards Jane’s perceptions, sometimes even without the readers knowing it. Jane’s use of “preciously grim” to describe Rochester, for example, encourages the reader to see Rochester’s gruffness, and harsh reserve as positive qualities, by ascribing the idea of preciousness to them. In describing his eyes as “great, dark…fine,” Jane makes the reader’s image of Rochester much softer and more appealing than the short, ugly man that other characters within the novel might see. Likewise, Jane’s constant praise of Helen Burns as someone to be “cherished” inclines us to sympathy with the girl. We are shown only her good points and not the deficiencies to which Jane is blind, but which clearly exist, given the teachers’ frequent irritation with her. In presenting Jane Eyre as an autobiography, then, Brontë denies her readers a rounded representation of the characters in the story. This does not, however, detract from the ‘impact’ of the narrative in any way, as the reader is encouraged to empathise more with Jane: just as one would with a real person recounting their own experiences. In including Jane’s prejudices and biases in her narrative, therefore,
  16. 16. 16 | P a g e Brontë contributes to her presentation of Jane as a human narrator, one with whom the reader can empathise. We can, though, at times glean more of their characters than is presented directly by the narrator (as with Mr Rochester’s apparent drunkenness). In this way, although the ‘narrator Jane’ exists as a medium through which Brontë presents the other characters, in some ways our insight of their personalities and motivations can move beyond Jane’s narrative. The reader can make deductions and conclusions independent of what is given to him directly by Jane. Again, this reinforces the human nature of the narrator: that lack of omniscience which encourages an empathetic understanding of the Jane as a person, and thus encourages a closer involvement in the story on the part of the reader. Brontë, then, presents Jane primarily as a real person, to whom the reader can relate. As a narrator, Jane is clearly independent of her narrative, although this distinction is blurred slightly towards the very end of the novel, which contributes to the sense of conclusion to the story, merging the past and present to create a sense of certainty and thus finality in the timeframe. In presenting Jane as a first person narrator; in having her speak directly to the reader; and in presenting her as the medium through which we see the other characters, Brontë encourages an empathetic connection between the reader and the narrator, which strengthens the pertinence and reality of the story that Jane tells us.