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Jane Eyre | Themes

Victoria Elliott | Wednesday September 07, 2011

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The plot has been constructed by Brontë in order to allow her to create not only an absorbing and suspenseful narrative, but also, of course, to allow her to explore several themes in interesting and often persuasive ways.

Love

Love is a strong theme throughout the novel, which is essentially a romance; it is also the aspect of the novel which is quintessentially Romantic, with a capital ‘R’, in that the love which Rochester and Jane share is an extreme emotion. Both of them confess to overpowering feelings which cloud their judgement, affect their health and drive their actions (again compare with Wuthering Heights or Austen’s Sense and Sensibility). Naturally, Jane is the one with the strength to prevent this leading to disaster – Rochester is firmly in the grip of his feelings for ‘Jane! My hope – my love – my life!’ This vision of love is very different from the pallid thing which St John Rivers suggests will follow marriage.

Love vs. Autonomy

Jane is initially presented as being a female who has a desperate need to be loved and to belong, after her unhappy childhood spent with the Reeds. It is a need which Brontë creates as seemingly destined to remain unfulfilled, given the early death of her only friend at Lowood, Helen Burns, to whom she confesses ‘if others don’t love me, I would rather die than live’.  Thus Brontë develops a suspenseful plot, one that will keep the reader wanting to read on. She embarks on a passionate description of the physical harm she would endure in order to ‘gain some real affection’, demonstrating her willingness to subjugate her own well-being and independence to gain the affection she had been denied. It is a characteristic which is in evidence in her relations with Rochester too: the master/servant dimension to their relationship that Brontë  creates is a marked one, as she continues to call him ‘sir’ and ‘master’ after he switches to her first name, and even...


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