Love of Jane + Rochester in ‘Jane Eyre’ (English Literature AS) Flashcard Example #49762

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Angela Carter’s comments on love in ‘Jane Eyre’
“For Jane Eyre love is a means of existential definition, and exploration of the potential of her self, rather than the means of induction into the contingent existence of the married woman, as it had been for the previous heroines of the bourgeois novel.”
First Meeting (Gytrash)
While walking to Hay to deliver a letter, she comes across a “Gytrash,” an apparition or spectre from English folklore, taking the form of an animal- it’s said that if it looks you in the eye, you’re warned the death of a relative or friend. Jane sees a horse and its rider slipping on ice, and a mythic feeling gets cast on the start of a relationship- fiends and ghouls have filled Jane’s head, and it’s here she meets her own Byronic hero, Edward Rochester.
First Meeting (Power Structures)
Jane Eyre’s not smitten at once, but she’s thrilled- he needs active assistance, and for a while she can leave behind her passive, dependent, feminine status to be his crutch, his rescuer from the ice. When Rochester claims to Jane that “necessity compels me to make you useful,” he’s foreshadowing his ultimate physical dependence on her, and many critics have argued that this incident helps to establish equality between the two characters. The master’s weak while the servant’s strong, and Jane limits his powers further by emphasising the fact that he’s neither handsome nor heroic-looking. She’s drawn to him nonetheless. Jane and Rochester meet over ice, while later she finds the fires lit at Thornfield where the grates had stood empty; under Rochester’s power she will begin to melt and unlearn much of her Lowood reserve.
Attraction of the Byronic hero for Jane
in the conversations in the study, Jane finds her new master to be a grim and unfriendly man, but its this rough demeanour that appeals to one who wouldn’t know how to handle grace, or elegance, or politeness. Rochester is only himself, and refuses to play a part; Jane, who’s sick of hypocrisy after her time at Gateshead and Lowood, has had enough of the pretences people assume to conform. Rochester speaks freely, so Jane feels she can, too; she finds it a relief and a jolt to find someone so comfortable as an outsider, considering the grief it’s caused her. The Byronic hero for Jane represents a rejection of a society she mistrusts because of its patriarchal tendencies, its religious orthodoxy, its gender inequality- what could be more appealing for someone who feels so stifled by the order of the world in which she lives, to have permission to turn her back on it to some extent?
Rochester looks at Jane’s artworks
In looking at her work, Rochester recognises in Jane an equal, someone with the same complexities and intensity and passions of him in spite of her plain and demure demeanour, and there’s an intimacy to the fact that he gets to see into her soul so early in their time together, like uncovering a nakedness or a raw wound. Jane expresses her most authentic self through that which she draws, the strange, violent subjects of drowned men and icebergs, and early in their relationship, Rochester gets to see them- to him, immediately, she becomes more than the “poor, obscure, plain and little” woman others might see her as being, and instead is an individual with whom he can spar verbally, with whom he can speak freely, someone as complex as him, who may finally be someone to accept his complexities as a result.
Rochester confides in Jane
It’s Jane who gets to see a more intimate side of Rochester in Chapter XV, as he confides in her about his relationship with Celine Varens, and then is saved by Jane from his burning bed, a literalisation of his sexual indiscretions and excess- it’s a scene foreshadowing Jane’s role, perhaps, in channeling Rochester’s sexual profligacy into a properly domestic, reproductive passion by their time married at Ferndean. Of course, many critics have noted the strangeness of the fact that Rochester should choose to divulge all this to a sexually inexperienced young employee, potentially a contributing factor to Elizabeth Rigby’s assessment of the novel’s unwholesome “coarseness of language and laxity of tone,” but it could just be part of the confessional, private nature of the developing relationship between Jane and Rochester in which they feel they can and should reveal their secrets to each other to an extent, bearing in mind the way Rochester holds back the fact of Bertha at Thornfield.
Jane’s dreams
Rochester’s shown again to need Jane, who seems to know him better than he knows himself, while she dreams ambiguously of what might be between them, in an extract which might excite a psychoanalytic critic- while Jane sleeps, she feels herself “tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy,” with her subconscious warning her that their relationship might be a rocky one, but lined with a happiness, a chaos of passion and delirium over which she should maintain her sense and judgement, in spite of the difficulty of this.
Rochester dressed as the gypsy
We get the sense of a connection between Jane and the fortune-teller, which draws Jane into the magical web weaved by Rochester’s words, and proves his ability to look almost directly into her heart so she feels an “unseen spirit had been sitting for weeks by my heart watching its workings and taking record of every pulse.” Given the class differences between he and Jane, Rochester can’t reveal his feeling for her in plain English, but must keep his words, like his face, veiled; he too has a witch’s skill to be able to peer deeply into women’s hearts, extracting their secrets, understanding with Jane slowly the affection she feels for him, hidden behind her composure and the professional way in which she tries to communicate with him. As gypsy woman, Rochester breaks gender boundaries and further aligns himself with mystical knowledge- he allows himself to break the rules of social conduct to which he’d normally hold himself as he plays a role, and in doing so is able to express his own secret desires and passions (i.e. a love for Jane) and elicit the same kind of intimacy from others.
Why is Rochester attracted to Jane?
She doesn’t cause him problems, and doesn’t inflict any burdens on him other than that of his own desire for her- while Bertha, Blanche, and his mistresses have all wanted something from Rochester, Jane has been perfectly content to satisfy herself
Some critics could argue, though, that marrying her would mean he gains power over her all the same- does he want her to depend on him as her husband, so he can control her? Or could it be, more optimistically, that he simply likes having her as an equal, someone with whom he can be himself, and not just a master?
Rochester seems to look for the direct opposite of Bertha Mason, “the antipodes of the Creole,” as he searches for a wife, because of the negative experiences he’s had to endure while wed to the madwoman from the West Indies- in spite of this, he takes “mistresses” who for the Victorians would have been fallen women, likened to prostitutes, the very opposite of the virginal, pure woman he says he seeks.
Lightning strikes the chestnut tree
While Rochester pours out his love against the nightingale’s song, a romantic scene set for Jane to swoon, he still needs to realize that Jane will only love him in return if he treats her with respect- his proposal is genuine, but it’s built on a secret, and therefore enslaving, dishonourable and shallow. Bronte’s use of pathetic fallacy seems to convey this, as at the end of the chapter, the chestnut tree under which Rochester proposed now ails, “writhing and groaning” in the roaring wind. Thunder and lightning crack and clash, so Jane and Rochester are forced to race back to the house in the pouring rain; the relationship has reached the zenith of ripeness, and a fallow, tragic time is on the way, symbolised by this raging storm. During the night, lightning splits the great chestnut tree, foreshadowing the separation that will soon befall Jane and Rochester- it’s a shame for the reader that as soon as Jane finds her “Eden,” she seems set to be driven from it.
Morality vs Passion
Important for the reader’s understanding of Jane’s own character that even though her paradise withers and sours, she’s not driven from it, but instead she chooses to leave- it’s not an easy decision, because it means forsaking her true love and a life she might have led with him, but she’s not willing to let herself be his mistress and live sinfully at Bertha’s expense. She’s in love, irrevocably, but her morality wins out- Bronte seems to want to make it clear that this isn’t a comment on any weakness of her love, but of the strength of her own sense of self that she chooses it over a love she clearly cherishes, to a point when it causes her genuine physical pain.
Jane leaves Thornfield
“Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning!” is how she describes the torment of making the decision, wherein the sparseness of the language and the vivid imagery drawing on classic depictions of hell as the fiery consequence of immorality give the reader an insight into Jane’s deeply felt dilemma. She’s so overwhelmed that she can barely think; reasons and language begin to break down for her, but she retains enough sense to refer to Rochester as her “idol,” bearing in mind all the time that the Bible exhorts followers to turn away from them.
Role Reversal at Ferndean
This is why, in their reunion at Ferndean Manor at the novel’s end, Jane and Rochester are finally able to be together. They can create in the thick, dark woods surrounding the building a “private island” in which only they exist, in which thoughts of a mad ex-wife have perished with Thornfield in a purifying fire, in which Jane is now the stronger of the pair, willing to let Rochester lean on her for support and guidance through their lives together. It’s interesting, for a relationship constantly plagued by issues of equality and power dynamics, that Jane at its end uses language that Rochester used in the past for her- he becomes a “wronged” bird, a “caged eagle,” and for once he’s chained while she goes free. But she can liberate him too- while he once treated her as an object, a possession, he can now accept her independent subjectivity, an almost radical thing for a husband to do for his wife in Victorian times.
Rochester proposes at Ferndean
When he proposes to her again he says, “Never mind fine clothes and jewels, now: all that is not worth a fillip,” reminding us of how Jane in his first proposal was able to create a sense of equality between them both by moving the relationship from the material to the spiritual world, having them standing “at God’s feet” rather than the garden. It could be said that, like Jane, Rochester needed to pass through the Biblical “valley of the shadow of death,” through the fire, to become the perfect mate for her- his fire and virility are tamed, and he becomes the ideally docile husband, rather than only expecting her to be the ideally docile wife- he, of course, suffers more than Jane in his blinding, maiming, in his total isolation, because his sins were far greater than hears, but ensconced in the new world of Ferndean, the lovers can achieve a desirable spiritual isolation in which only they exist. He has atoned, and she forgives- they can be together now the barriers have faded away, dropped like shackles from the ankle of the slave. Finally, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester can be happy- as husband and wife, as soulmates, as equals.
Conclusion
Charlotte Bronte shows how, through loving, Jane finds something more important than a husband- she finds solace, and peace, and contentment in a world which for so long seemed so intent on denying these things to her. Charlotte Bronte shows how her relationship with Rochester allows Jane to love herself too- she’ll be consigned to no attic, to no margins, to no grief. She will find it within her to soar.
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