Essay about Jane Eyre: The Freedom of Love
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Parallel to many of the great feministic novels throughout literary history, Jane Eyre is a story about the quest for authentic love. However, Jane Eyre is unique and separate from other romantic pieces, in that it is also about a woman searching for a sense of self-worth through achieving a degree of independence. Orphaned and dismissed at an early age, Jane was born into a modest lifestyle that was characterized by a form of oppressive servitude of which she had no autonomy. She was busy spending much of her adolescent years locked in chains, both imaginary and real, as well as catering to the needs of her peers. Jane was never being able to enjoy the pleasures and joys that an ordinary and independent child values. Jane struggles…show more content…
Additionally, the Victorian period recalls devotional qualities to God, an extreme respect for family life, and high ethical standards. Each of these elements plays a vital role in Jane’s “quest.” Gothic novels rather, mainly include dark, menacing characters and architecture. Bronte’s use of gothic suggestions in Jane Eyre help the reader understand the complex influences at work that affect Jane during her search for self-worth. Bronte, however, intentionally evades many of the clichés of Victorian fiction, which would have prevented Jane’s lengthy journey towards independence. It becomes evident throughout the course of the novel, Jane Eyre is not a typical Romance piece that reinforces the accepted conventions of most women of the Victorian period. Thus for the 1800s, Jane Eyre proves to be a revolutionary novel and paves the way for many feminist books to come. It would be used as a new way of thinking and realizing ones true potential. Jane became a role model for women in modern-day society. It has been seen that women in recent romance novels or other pieces of literature have strived to become independent or have a sense of self-worth. In the novel, Nectar in a Sieve, written by Kamala Markandaya, both Rukmani and Ira both search for independence. Unfortunately Ira struggles to do so and ends up becoming a prostitute. Rukmanis’ efforts are better than Ira, but are overshadowed for all her work is dedicated towards
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?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 Bronte 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”.
Bronte, then, demonstrates throughout the progress of the novel, but particularly at this 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 Bronte, 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”. Bronte 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. ” Bronte, 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 Bronte’s time, it is only the love between the apparently mismatched Jane and Rochester which proves true. What is important to Bronte, therefore, is not outward ppearances, 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.
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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 Bronte is also making a subtle protest against the rigidity, and at times artificiality, of social convention. While not suggesting or condoning bigamy, Bronte 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
Author: Kimber Trivett
Love in Jane Eyre
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