View Full Version : Jane Eyre, more than a love story?

03-15-2008, 05:38 AM
My essay question is: Jane Eyre is more than a love story. Do you agree?

I do indeed agree, as I believe it is also an emotional journey towards happiness, equality, autonomy and freedom.

I am able to answer the question, however, I would really appreciate some help with finding relevant quotes in order to back up my agreeance.

Thank you.

03-25-2008, 07:21 PM
When I read the book I was so UN-attracted to Rochester. He was a heartless (remember how little illegitimate hurting Adele is starving for fatherly affection, and he's a jerk who brushes her off just because she is a bastard when he could have well fathered plenty himself?), hypocritical (you know how he picks on his wife for being of questionable character....and he had 3 lovers--whom he promptly abandoned...different rules for rich men, though...), and terribly selfish. And I thought he loved Jane BECAUSE she was pure, and good-hearted, with a steel spine (good moral character) and a sharp mind. He wasn't attracted to her because of "chemistry"[email protected]#[email protected]# That was what his OTHER 3 girlfriends were---they should make a movie on THEM if they want "chemistry"!!! And Rochester's total odiousness comes out in the scene after the aborted wedding, when he talks so disparagingly and heartlessly about the mistresses he dumped (the nice one, not Adele's mother) and his horrible wife--and so self-pityingly of himself--giving himself every excuse. He's a total wretch. If Jane let him (as he has had for the past 10 years) have his way, she would have damned him.
For the first time, he loved someone (again in his self-devouring ravenous selfish love) that had a grain of real love in it--something bigger than chemistry--actually seeing the value in a human soul. (He isn't attracted to her body but to her soul!! There was no "chemistry"!!!!) If this had gone the way of his past 3 loves, he would have just sunk deeper into his byronic and totally bratty (devilish) misery. He'd have cut a fine figure in (CSLewis's THe Great Divorce) Hell, full of the remains of people who are eaten up with their own selfish narcissic misery--with not one last spark of real love left (and plenty of stuff they call "love" that is just torment and cruelty).

Anyway, Jane loves him more than she loves herself--and is the first girl willing to put Truth before her own passion or happiness or pity for him. (He even works off of woman's pity---and I think in the story, Charlotte Bronte made a point that all his "mean" and shallow mistresses and wife are only portrayed that way---through his eyes. With the exception of Adele's mother, the rest of them were probably much like Jane, and fell for him out of love and attraction and pity. He probably pulled the whole "I can't live without you" card before on the other woman as well--and doubtless meant it then.)

That is what makes that scene so dreadful. It is like he is burying himself in more and more lies, and begging Jane out of all her compassion and love to destroy herself with him. Its lies from hell that are coming out of his mouth. All blameshifting and denying the sacred personhood and humanity of the girls (2 other mistresses) he's ruined, as well as the wife he has wronged. She sinned like him, but was probably as tormented as him, and probably was once as he was.

Anyway, I think Jane pitied him very much, because she KNEW he wasn't as victimized as he made himself out to be. It is like watching a drowning man cling to a lead weight as he sinks down. I mean he was victimized--by his own sin and the Devil, but most of all, by himself.
Charlotte Bronte was following the Gothic tradition of the Byronic Hero, but here she turned it on its head a little by showing us how his "byronicness" is an odious thing, and his soul is chained to it and he is sinking.

Interlude: St. John Rivers. Its a very interesting twist here. First you think, "Oh, he's the opposite of Rochester". And of course no one can stand him, and modern audiences think "See! Priggish Moral Pastor v. Byronic debauched Hot guy! Cool movie!" That wasn't the point. In Charlotte's world, St. John Rivers would be considered very attractive, so she went to greater lengths to show his sin than she would have today in our culture.
As the story progresses, you realize the St. John RIvers and Rochester are very much alike. Neither of them has repented, and Rochester with his Byronic guilt-shifting and Rivers who thinks God must agree to his will.... They both have, at root, pride and unrepentence. Rivers wants someone who will think his ideas&wishes are God's (which he wholeheartedly believes himself. That is his greatest sin. Remember when he is turning down the cute girl who likes him and he is struggling? There is no mention of being obedient to Christ's will or loving CHrist. It is "MY noble goals and MY heroism and MY missionary feats....")

They are really the same. Rochester wants to kill God (by rejecting morality) for "love" which he destroys in his very ravenous devouring. St. John has recreated God as his means to glory, and mistakes his own voice for the ALmighty.

So St. John Rivers wants to use Jane as well, by having a docile wife-worker who thinks he's God. She refuses that too. (Remember how she says, "I'll obey GOD! and give him my heart...I'm not giving it to you" and he's like "Give me your personhood and I'll reshape it. My will is GOD'S will....")
St. John is also killing God.

And Jane refuses that too. She refused both the Godless "Love" and the Loveless "God". (Neither of which are Christ, and both of which were very present in that age.)

Now comes Part Two: Repentance
1. Rochester thinks he's killed Jane. Finally for once in his life he realizes how destructive his own wonderful love is, and how he has been destroying all those he "loves". It is no accident that he is running after the madwife and shouting her name. Through Janes refusal and (what he thinks) death, he has come to realize his blindness and selfish devouring. He has recognized his madwife's personhood, and is treating her as a human again. The sad part is that she is lost, her soul is eaten out by hatred to him (which was partly his fault as well as hers) and commits suicide. He almost dies trying to rescue her. But it is too late. This is one of the saddest parts of the book. It recognizes that though we may come to repentance, those WE have helped "push over the edge" may not. Rochester's repentance is too late to save Bertha. (If he had repented earlier and taken care of her out of christian love--his first few years didn't count, that was stoic "poor little me, she DISGUSTING in her sin, I'm so good and taking care of her...." What can be more insulting than that?!---anyway, if he had repented and acknowledge her value as a human being earlier, she may have come to a peaceful end...probably still crazy, but peacefully so.). So Rochester damned Bertha, in a way, though of course it was her choice in the end.

Anyway, Rochester has finally realized his own sin, and his evil. He actually has finally repented. Before that, all his "repentance" was the sham fake kind, the byronic self-deprecating guilt (I'm sure the Devil has that) that is not repentance (recognizing the precious sanctity and the image of God in other human beings).

So Jane comes back. He's no longer cool and byronic, but a doddering, blind, impoverished man. But he's changed. He's lost all that stupid glamor which was his cage. He is free now--free from the prison of his old self. He is repentant.

Jane marries him, though he had fallen more passionately in love with many other women, and has alot of problems and psycho stuff from all his years of selfishness. He is only beginning to be good. But he is sincere for the first time in his life, no longer trapped in himself and his own self-pity.

2. And finally, we get a hint of St. John's Rivers repentance. It must have been a hard blow to him that the "degenerate" but repentant Rochester was more worthy than him. Jane, by her actions and her words, made it clear to him that he was not GOd. It took him a long time to swallow, and we are not sure if he ever did. But in the end he has finally become weak--wasted away. And he still writes letters to Jane....making us begin to wonder if perhaps under all his bloated egoism, he actually did love her in his cold way though choked by pride. And in the end, he is weak, and dying, with no fan club. ANd he says, "come lord Jesus, come quickly". He's finally calling out to Christ while in utter weakness. Perhaps he didn't repent of his pride....but the earnestness of his last letter seems to suggest that he has. I felt in it, a submission. He has come a long way.

black butterffl
04-25-2008, 02:55 PM
sorry for replying so late
but iwanted to say that in my opinion it's a story about winning batles more than romance
because as you can see, since th day she was born jane's life was filled with problems and sadness, frist because of her aunt ans cousin and then the school, and then the battle of winning rochster's heart
even thought she won it, another battle occured, the one where she she have to leave her love lifre behind...
many battels occured as you can see
so i think the best quote is : "the harder the conflist the more glorious the triumph"-Thomas Paine
because she always was happy everytime she overcomed a conflict, and the main one was getting back to rochester and getting his love back, and that was her greatest victory

04-25-2008, 03:18 PM
Yes, it's more than a love story. It's a perfect example of a soul's exploration, of conflicts, of the influence of the social environment, and the strength of everyone to overcome the obstacles and live her/his own life. Jane managed to escape the influence and persuasive eloquence of St John, she managed to find the will to distance herself from Rochester, until she was able to "find" herself and her strength. It is also about how important a person may be to another. Jane "saved" Rochester, after all.

black butterffl
04-26-2008, 10:08 AM
That's What I'm Talking :d !!

07-26-2008, 01:11 PM
I'd like to compliment you, DISSENTER, on the excellent depth of your ideas. However, I cannot agree with you on the character of Mr. Rochester. Allow me to show you my reasoning...

Mr. Rochester is anything but heartless (his apparent unkindness to Adele is a mere result of his feeling of guilt about being with her mother, his anger at her dropping Adele on him though he claims she is not his child, and his natural disposition. Why should he love Adele? She is not akin to him, and she only brings unpleasant recollections. However, on the more practical level, Mr. Rochester’s generosity in taking her is obvious. What claim has Adele upon him? Only the claim of Mr. Rochester having spent a few months with her mother. Yet Mr. Rochester takes her, becomes her guardian, showers her with gifts—all that to a girl whom he might have despised for being her corrupt mother’s daughter. It becomes clear that Rochester accepts the possibility that she might be his child, and does all he can for her. True, there are no effusions of love towards her, but his actions show that he has compassion and is not selfish.)
I see Mr. Rochester as a man who is strikingly alike to Jane before she underwent the schooling at Lowood. He leans his entire nature towards another human being; it is for him insufficient to trust to God and to himself. He does not hold with Helen Burns’s belief that “if all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.” He is exactly like Jane, when she says that if others don’t love her, she’d rather die than live, for she cannot bear to be solitary and hated. Rochester needs the love of another human being; he cannot survive without it. Indeed, his entire story is the story of a man desperately searching for affection and love, at no matter what cost. Ambition, mercenary interest, and the desire for worldly accomplishments and a position in society are never thought of—they are thoroughly absent from his nature, which is frank and forthcoming. He cannot live without love. His entire life, he dreams of and longs for someone whom he can adore, to whom he can devote himself, with whom he can be happy, with whom he can celebrate God, and with whom he can pass life, as an equal. His nameless bliss is to be loved as he loves—his eternal search is for a woman good, innocent, loving. (You’re wrong in thinking that he looked for “chemistry” in anyone, his mistresses included. His desire was never for beauty and sexuality. He was always looking for a soul akin to his. His love to Jane was indeed the first real love—because he never loved anyone else.) Surely such a wish is one of the most pure wishes of the human heart!
Let’s go back to the beginning—his marriage with Bertha. His search for an earthly companion begins there. His avaricious father and worldly brother arrange a marriage for money. Rochester obediently goes to Jamaica to pick up his bride. We know that Rochester was never a tame, obedient man; he was also not interested in the pecuniary side of the matter. Why, then, does he go? He hears of Miss Mason’s beauty, and mistakenly assumes that virtue must come with it. He goes. He sees a striking woman—tall, magnificent, commanding, accomplished. The woman flatters him and seems to desire and love him. Isn’t that what he’s searching for? Further piqued by competition and remembering that it’s the wish of his family, he marries her.
At once he sees his mistake. He wanted virtue, modesty, benevolence, refinement, cleverness, goodness—the qualities he found in Jane. He is shocked, disappointed, repulsed. Not because doubts are cast on her character, but because he found no love but a low, base, obnoxious mind. His life is tied to such a woman, whom he cannot love, because she is incapable of love and cannot excite pity, being crude and vulgar and exacting. Yet he does not complain, tries to devour his disgust, and does not seek divorce.
Next, Bertha is declared mad. Rochester cannot live without love, and cannot be legally torn from the depraved woman, his wife. In his despair, he almost commits suicide, but finally goes abroad. He engages mistresses. By the laws of the society, that is wrong, but doesn’t everyone have a right to live happy? Because of his obedience to his father, society denies him happiness. What person can live without it? Rochester cannot, and he tries to find love, though he doesn’t know where to look for it.
Comparison between Bertha and Rochester is impossible. Rochester makes it clear that he does not hate his wife because she is mad, but because she is trite, vulgar, and coarse. Such he never was. Bertha did not need to sin like Rochester in her youth—unlike him, she was unmarried.
Rochester loves Jane. It is the sole influence on his actions. His error is that he wishes so much for what he loves that it does not matter how he attains it. It is in this that he eventually repents. Instead of grasping, he pleads God to give him the happiness he cannot live without…living without love is cruel, and some can never learn to do it.
St.John can. He is the polar opposite of Rochester, who must love, but has no other ambition. St.John is ambitious to the extent that never occurred to most others. He wishes to secure himself a throne in heaven, not only on Earth. Such boundless ambition allows no place for love. He does not need it.

07-27-2008, 11:24 AM
I’m sorry EugenieIsabelle, but I cannot possibly agree with you. I have been researching this for months and there is hardly anything positive about Rochester, I’m afraid… Charlotte was very subtle in her description of him, but nonetheless very deliberate.

Let’s start at the beginning of his story:
He says his father was avaricious and wasn’t going to leave him any money. He was going to leave everything to his brother Rowland, who was the eldest son, when he died. It may seem very unfair to us now, and indeed Rochester had a reason to feel wronged (and that often occurs in plays: Shakespeare’s King Lear and Schiller’s Die Räuber are good examples of that), but nevertheless it was and still is an inherent part of the noble and high-middle class ends of society. They still leave all to the eldest son; the rest has to look after their financial needs on their own or count on the mercy of their elder brother to care for them. So it is unfair, but it is not unnatural. And calling his father avaricious because he practised that too, is also unfair. Fortunately for Rochester, he does inherit everything because his brother was still unmarried when he died.
Like most of nobility and higher-middle class Rochester’s ambitions only consisted of having enough money to live lavishly and consequently to keep up the honour of his old name. In that, the brothers of the really rich had to secure a wealthy marriage so as to not disgrace the family name. Work was certainly out of the question. So Rochester goes to Jamaica, examines the wife that his father secured for him and consents. It is only after the honeymoon that her really vile nature and the roots of it (her family) become apparent. You say he didn’t seek divorce. Indeed he didn’t, but the question is: why? He did try to live with her, he indeed swallowed his disgust, but was not able to anymore and was so desperate that he considered suicide. Then the question is, why did he not consider divorce? The answer lies in the fact that he only had £30000 (an equivalent of £1586517 and $3173034). Divorce in the days that Rochester would have sought it, and in the days Charlotte lived, - before 1857 - was unbelievably expensive and reserved only for the unbelievably rich. A man could only divorce his wife when she had committed adultery. That wouldn’t have been a problem, because she had been unfaithful, but now comes the catch: this had to be done by Parliamentary Act. So a man had to be able to prove that his wife had been unfaithful, and so, essentially, the debate in public would largely end up as a debate between the husband and the man his wife committed adultery with. On top of that two witnesses were required. He would have had to invest an amount of the £30000 in it, if not everything. And so it wouldn’t have been possible for him to keep up the family name, nor family honour. In order to attaint a divorce he would have had to hire a lawyer and so on and probably would have had to pay his in-laws for breaking the contract. Considering that his only riches consisted out of the £30000 dowry (probably so high because they wanted rid of here) the family would have even been able to claim it back. What would he have done if the parliament had made a decision not in favour of him? He would have dishonoured his name in a public debate, and his father and brother would probably have disowned him. He would have ended up with nothing, and o shame, would have to go to work to earn his money. So in other words he didn’t seek divorce because he couldn’t, not because he was a good man. He did think about his social status, he did have ambitions, though different ones from St John, because Rochester had money, whereas St John didn’t, on the contrary, he had debts to pay off his father made. After the time Bertha was declared mad Rochester was certainly not able to divorce her, as she was sane when she married and she cannot be considered as compus mentis (committing adultery voluntarily) when she has been declared mad.
The fact that he needs to fall in love with Jane and not, for example with Blanche Ingram, is significant, because at the time he proposes he says: ‘Man, meddle not with me,…’ Jane’s fate is ironic as she doesn’t have anyone to meddle she knows of. So, sadly, in comparison with Ingram, who has a brother who would be in charge of the marriage contract, Jane doesn’t have anyone to take under scrutiny Rochester’s reputation and past. Luckily for Jane Richard Mason hears of it through her uncle in Madera, and prevents the bigamous marriage.
The reason for him caring for Adèle is not that he is compassionate! He makes her his ward because it is his duty. Mistress-mothers often left their children on the hands of the respective fathers. Fathers were solely responsible for their off-spring, not mothers like now. When a divorce took place it was even very common that the children were taken from the mother and placed with the father who could even prevent the mother from seeing them. Rochester had to take care of Adèle, and there is no doubt that he really does show affection, but I would rather say from a feeling of sadness that he lost the mother than of pure love. The only time he ever participates in something with Adèle and shows real affection is at the time she gets her ‘cadeau’ and dances around in her pink dress. He calls her ‘a miniature Céline’. Adèle says: ‘Elle faisait comme cela’ (she did like this, obviously making a dance move) and he says: ‘Et comme cela’ (and like this, obviously making another dance move). Yet he only ‘enjoy[s] the caress as Pilot would [have], nor so much’. In other words he really kept Adèle with him because she looked like her mother and reminded him of her, and of course because as a man he was expected to look after his daughter. Nothing more, nothing less. When he has discovered Céline was just being in-love and not love, he sends Adèle off to school, because it is only after loosing Jane he realises that his way of loving is not loving at all, but merely buying loyalty.
When you say ‘Rochester needs to love another human being’ you are right, but the question is what he is actually seeking in ‘love’. There are two parts of his life: before Jane and after Jane (BJ and AJ). BJ was a part where love equalled loyalty. All of whom wasn’t loyal to him, didn’t love him. His father didn’t because he refused him money, his brother didn’t because he went along with father, Bertha didn’t because she was unfaithful, Céline didn’t for the same reason. In looking for love he was really looking for a woman who would be blindly loyal to him. When he falls in love with Jane, he maybe is really in love, and having so much money he doesn’t need to care about a dowry, but essentially he takes someone who he expects to be blindly loyal to him because of the money he has. He is indeed, probably attracted to her because he feels akin to her clever spirit, but nonetheless, after the wedding was cancelled still believes that she will be his because of all the money that she must surely ambition. He tries to buy her love with gifts before the wedding and even after, like he thought he bought Céline’s love. Sadly he is mistaken. Somewhere after his tale of woe in chapter XXVII he realises that she will not come with him and that love, for her, is not connected with possessions you gain. He is this time really distraught, unlike when he saw Céline cheat on him. Then he was really angry and felt that she used him, whereas now he hasn’t really anything to accuse Jane of, and so needs to look at himself to see that he has really himself to blame. He realises that he doesn’t really love Adèle, as he now really knows how it feels to loose someone you love, and he sends her to school because he can easily miss her. He will, however, still do his duty towards her and pay for her schooling and receive her later at home, as a companion to Jane. In the AJ era love equals real, pure love between two souls and nothing more, as it should be. Therefore Charlotte gave Jane £5000 as a dowry, so not to say that she was easily attainable for Rochester because she would have a better life with him than without him. With her £5000 (an equivalent of £299141,41 or $598282,82) she could live comfortably on her own so there was no need for her to get married. Rochester also didn’t need any money to live really, so the only reason he could ask her was that he really loved her with his soul and not with his purse.
The nameless bliss that you talk about is only attained in the last chapter of the book, not before. Before the end, nameless bliss couldn’t have taken place because Rochester didn’t know what it was. With the first time Jane would have criticised him or maybe have looked at another man, he would have got tired of her and cast her off, like he did with Bertha, Céline, Clara and Giacintha. Later, his eyes have been taken away and his right hand is gone, so he cannot even write. Everything needs to go via Jane, his wife. He is now totally dependent on her and cannot even see if she’s disloyal to him or not… Not that it matters in the AJ era…
Rochester doesn’t trust in God at all. He only ‘began to pray of late’ in chapter XXXVI. In the BJ era he didn’t care for God as is illustrated in the fact that he wanted to commit bigamy in the church of all places and in his two citations of the bible which are very narrow-minded or incomplete and where he fails to see the real message he actually quotes.
The love-equals-loyalty principle does not come out of thin air. In chapter XIX Rochester says ‘Off ye lendings’, which is a sentence straight out of Shakespeare’s King Lear. I am working on a paper about the similarities between King Lear and Rochester, and it is clear that self-centred narcissistic Lear, who supposed loyalty from his daughters because he gave them his kingdom, posed as a model for Rochester who supposes loyalty from Bertha, Céline, Clara and Giacintha, the action of having the latter three as mistresses he admitted to be ‘the next worst thing to buying slave[s]’. The locking up of Bertha, then, doesn’t have to be seen as an act of mercy and love, but rather, seeing the improving state of psychiatric care then, as an act of refusal towards Bertha. To say that Rochester was really a kind man is not taking notice of the very important and very obvious King Lear allusion.
In the beginning, like many (I suppose women-) readers I was attracted to Rochester, but still saw his negative side. Now I have researched it I still love him, but the end gets more meaning now I can see the difference between the narcissistic BJ-Rochester and the lovely and lovable AJ-Rochester. That contrast becomes much more powerful than when you read him as a noble character from in the beginning, which is, by the way, totally false as illustrated here before.

07-27-2008, 07:12 PM
I agree with EugenieIsabelle to an extent - I believe, however, that Rochester needed to become helpless (in some way) towards the end for it to work fully - his love for her is completely overwhleming and all-consuming - this means God is squeezed out of the equation (Jane actually says this at one point about her own feelings - that Rochester began to mean more to her than God).

When Jane leaves Rochester he realises he cannot own her. Instead they must truly be equal - she returns to him a rich woman (I have issues with this, of course, but this is a specific line of argument) and he feels that he canot be all powerful and independant, and it is only through God that Jane returns to him. However, his crippled hand and eyesight are contributing factors as to why she didnt become another Clara, etc (the foreshadowing of his accdient in their 1st meeting conveys his need for spirtual/emotional help). In her leaving she shows him her independance and humanity's depednace on God.

I LOVE Rochester though - he is the consummate byronic hero, dark, sardonic, full of wit and passion and love - his 'foil' St John shows this so clearly and it is his defects that make him so loveable...Jane suits him, they make an excellent couple and I just wish things were as they are in books!