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Themes in Jane Eyre

Themes in Jane Eyre

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Published by Daria DaDy
themes in Jane Eyre book
themes in Jane Eyre book

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Published by: Daria DaDy on Dec 14, 2011
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10/21/2013

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Themes in Jane Eyre
Passion, Dreams, and the Supernatural in
Jane Eyre
Introspection, half-belief in the supernatural, conflicting emotions, gushingdescription appear throughout Jane Eyre. Rochester's mention of prescience — bothforeshadowing and premonition — come up again and again throughout the work. "Iknew. . . you would do me good in some way . . . I saw it in your eyes when I first beheldyou," Rochester tells Jane. Both he and she believe implicitly the things they read in eyes,in nature, in dreams. Jane has dreams which she considers unlucky, and sure enough, illfortune befalls her or her kin. When she is in a garden which seems "Eden-like" and ladenwith "honey-dew", the love of her life proposes to her. However, that very night the oldhorse-chestnut tree at the bottom of the garden is struck by lightning and split in half,hinting at the difficulties that lie in store for the couple.The turbulent exploration of Jane's emotions so characteristic of the text reveals some of Brontë's most prevalent ideas — that judgment must always "warn passion," and that thesweet "hills of Beulah" are found within oneself.As Jane grows throughout the book, one of the most important things she learns is to ruleher heart with her mind. At the pivotal point in the plot when Jane decides to leaveRochester, she puts her love for him second to the knowledge that she cannot ethicallyremain with him - the "counteracting breeze" once again preventing her from reaching paradise. Only when Rochester has become worthy of her, and judgment and passionmove toward the same end, can she marry him and achieve complete happiness./Charlotte Brontë, like her heroine, traveled to wondrous lands within the confines of her own head. While Jane, engrossed in Bewick's History of British Birds, was mentallytraversing "solitary rocks and promontories", her creator might have been calling to mindmemories of her own sojourns in imagined lands. By the time she was a teacher at theRoe Head school, Charlotte and her brother Branwell had been writing stories and poemsabout an African kingdom called Angria for many years. While she was away at theschool, the fate of the inhabitants of the country lay in Branwell's hands, which made her very nervous, as he was given to intrigue and violence. She was unhappy with her situation, loathing the available company and describing herself as "chained to this chair  prisoned within these four bare walls," and so her happiest hours were spent in the wildlandscapes of her mind. "What I imagined grew morbidly vivid," she says, and indeed her visions of Angria are almost more real to her than what is actually happening around her."All this day I have been in a dream, half miserable and half ecstatic: miserable because I
 
could not follow it out uninterruptedly; ecstatic because it shewed almost in the vividlight of reality the ongoings of the infernal world. (She sometimes referred to Angriaas"infernal" or below.") When pupils or fellow teachers interrupt her reveries she isfurious, saying once, "But just then a dolt came up with a lesson. I thought I should havevomited."About 1839 Brontë finally left Angria, saying 'still, I long to quit for a while that burningclime where we have sojourned too long . . . The mind would cease from excitement andturn now to a cooler region, where the dawn breaks grey and sober and the coming day,for a time at least, is subdued in clouds " (all materials from the Norton critical edition of Jane Eyre). Though she did at last consent to leave her imaginary world behind, it playedsuch a large part in her child and early adulthood that there is no doubt her recollectionsof time spent there affected Jane's experience.
Passion versus Judgement in Jane Eyre
Brontë describes Jane's thoughts in terms of nature imagerythe night Rochester's bed was set on fire. After he thanks Jane for saving his life and she is about to leave, shenotes a "strange energy in his voice" and a "strange fire in his look" (133) and still holdsher hand. Mr. Rochester finally relaxes his fingers, lets her go, and leaves not only Jane but the reader thinking that perhaps he has fallen in love with her. The diction and picturesque images in this passage paints a picture of Jane's inner struggle between passion and judgment. Brontë uses "billows", "unquiet", and "counteracting" toemphasize the struggle within Jane. On the other hand, words like 'surges", "wild", and"freshening" create a feeling of freedom and joy which seems to be repressed by thisother "counteracting" force. Jane's "freshening gale" created by delirium and passion blows in the opposite direction of the "counteracting breeze" of judgment and sense.Thus, these images along with the diction, paint a picture of an inner battle between judgment and passion.
Spiritual Revelation in Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre ends with a spiritual revelation. The change in Rochester echoes thechange in Tennyson. "You think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog" he confesses to Jane,"but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now" (p. 393).God appears at last to Rochester in the form of the fire — an instrument of "divine justice" — which destroys Thornfield (p. 393). Rochester's newly found faith and hisensuing change of character make possible his marriage with Jane. The discovery of God,
 
then, ties together all the loose ends of the novel, fulfills true love, and closes the book with an overall affirming message that two impassioned souls can unite in marriage after all, if the Lord wills it. A couple of contrasts with Tennyson, though, seem obvious. For one, Charlotte Brontë reveals God to her readers through symbolism, whereas Tennysonfinally uncovers a divine plan in the various meanings of the word "type." Secondly,Brontë has God play an interactive role in the external, material reality, whereasTennyson must search internally for God's revelation. For him, God exists as a "far-off divine event." If Tennyson had lived in the world of Jane Eyre, he probably would havenot spent so long struggling with Hallam's death.Typology, however, is not altogether absent from Brontë's novel. This "elaborate systemof foreshadowings (or anticipations) of Christ" plays a crucial role in Tennyson, as wehave seen. But it also plays a part in Jane Eyre.Helen Burns acts as a typological figure  just as Hallam does. Like Hallam, this precocious girl who espouses Christian doctrineand seems closer to God than any of her evangelical teachers trods the earth "ere her timewas right." She is too good for the world. We can view her death as a sacrifice because itteaches Jane a powerful lesson in faith. Her tombstone reads, "Resurgam," or "I shall riseagain," confirming her status as a Christ figure, as well as foreshadowing Christ's secondcoming (p. 72). That two works as different as In Memoriam and Jane Eyre contain theelements of typology should not surprise the reader. Typology, after all, had an"enormous influence on medieval Europe, seventeenth-century England, and VictorianBritain" ("AnIntroduction to In Memoriam" ). At the time of Tennyson and Brontë, it proved a fundamental principle for the Evangelical Protestants, a minority party of theChurch of England  but a dominant force in English life between 1789 to 1850. TheEvangelicals used this system to relate Old Testament figures and events to the NewTestament. Eventually typology crossed into the art and literature of the era as well, providing these forms with an "imaginatively rich iconography and particular conceptions of reality and time" ("Introduction").
The Mind-Body Connection in Jane Eyre
In"Victorians and Their Attitudes Towards Health"Laurelyn Douglas '91 arguesthat health obsessed the Victorians even more than religion, politics,and Darwinism. During the nineteenth century, the belief in an interdependent mind-body connectiongained strength, and many people saw physical and mental health as being interrelatedrather than separate entities. The Victorians belived that the fit body represented superior  physical and mental health.These attitudes explain why Jane Eyre presents both Bertha's insanity and the way she burders Rochester in physical terms. In fact, he must struggle to overpower his wife physically.

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