Many themes, styles, genres, and modes of Victorian Literature are reflected in the works of the Bronte Sisters’, especially that of Jane Eyre. Common themes of victorian literature are shared with Jane Eyre. Food was a reoccurring theme of throughout many Victorian novels because of the hunger that many people faced in this time period. This theme is reflected in the vivid description of under nourishment at Lowood School in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Another common theme was women’s morality and sensuality.
Before the publication of Jane Eyre, women were simple and genuine under the expectations of society, the “wife and mother from whom all morality sprang” (Lowes). After this novel was published, the “new woman” became predominant who was based off the main character, Jane, who was independent, strong, forward, and radical in the sense of marriage and contraception opinions. The theme of sex scandal goes along with women’s morality and sensuality because it, also, went against the prior conservative social expectations and beliefs for women. This theme started to become common in victorian literature.
An example of sex scandal is in Jane Eyre when Jane got involved with Rochester, her wealthy boss, and ended up marrying him. Jane Eyre is written in first-person from the point of view of Jane. The genre of Jane Eyre can be classified as many different types; Romance, Mystery, and Gothic Fiction. It can be considered a classic romantic novel because of the passionate relationship that Jane and Rochester form. It is a mystery in the sense that throughout the book, Jane suspects something about Rochester and his past based on the incident of Grace Pool accidently setting his bed on fire in a drunken state and not getting fired for it.
She then discovers the secret of his past that he has a wife, Bertha, who has one mad and was the one who set his bed on fire. It is considered Gothic Fiction because of the supernatural and fantasy elements that Charlotte Bronte includes (http://www. shmoop. com/jane-eyre/literary-devices. html) Through Charlotte’s unique writing style, she incorporates “fantasy elements in Jane Eyre through references to fairy tales, prophetic dreams, mythic imagery, and extraordinary plot twists,” (Shwingen).
An example of the mythic imagery is shown through Charlotte’s emphasis on the image of passion. Jane was always a passionate and emotional character since she was a child. Charlotte writes about Jane after her cousin hits her with the book, “my blood was still warm; the mood of the revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigor. ” The image of her warm blood and her intense anger compared to that of a revolted slave shows Jane’s great emotion even as a child.
This image is emphasized through imagery when Charlotte writes of Jane’s feelings for Rochester as “fiery iron” and “blackness and burning”. These figurative images of a fire portray to the reader the intense passion that Jane has for Rochester. Fire is another image that Charlotte writes about throughout the novel; “in the bedroom blaze which Jane saved Rochester from, in the language that both Rochester and Jane use in describing their emotions towards each other, and in the final fire that destroyed Thornfield Hall, crippled Rochester, and killed Bertha,” (Vaughon).
In Vaughon’s opinion, this imagery of fire and passion was Charlotte’s way of emphasizing the unethical and sinful love that Jane and Rochester shared with each other based on the fire of hell. As said before, in Victorian times, this relationship would be considered scandalous not only based on the difference in their classes, but also because they believed in purity. Charlotte goes against the traditional beliefs with her imagery of passion and lust between Jane and Rochester. Charlotte’s writing style is generally educated, complex, and emotion filled.
Most of her sentences are contain numerous adjectives and sensual images. Her unique style may be overwhelming for some readers, but it’s powerful and strong. The reader is able to identify with Jane Eyre as a character through the complex sentence structure that is filled with emotion and imagery. (http://reviewmaterials. tripod. com/english/jane_eyre. html) According to George P. Landow, Jane Eyre is divided into five distinct settings. The story starts off when Jane is a child living in her relative’s, the Reed’s, house in Gateshead Hall.
Then she is sent to Lowood school and has many experiences there with Miss. Temple, Helen Burns, and Mr. Brocklehurst. After eight years in boarding school, she lives at Thornfield as a governess to Adele. This is where she falls in love with her boss, Rochester. Then she moves out after he discovery of Bertha, Rochester’s mad wife. She is then taken into the Moor House by her cousins, the Rivers. In the end, she is reunited with Rochester at the Ferndean Manor. Each setting of the book has it’s own unique mood in strong relation to the characters present at each place. For example,Robert B.
Martin points out that the setting of Thornfield is much more personal than the two preceding settings at Gateshead and Lowood because of the connection Jane makes to Rochester and the connection Rochester has to Thornfield (George P. Landow). In chapter 11, Mrs. Fairfax first makes mention to Rochester when she says, “Great houses and fine grounds require the presence of the proprietor”. Because Mrs. Fairfax said this, Jane felt as though it was not alive unless Rochester was present which is strongly connected to how Jane felt lonely and down because when he was not there.
This connection between character and setting reflects the complex mood of Thornfield depending on whether Rochester is there or not. When he is away on a trip, the mood is somber and desolate because the reader can understand and feel the longing that Jane has for Rochester and the loneliness she feels in the huge, empty house. When he is there, the mood changes to exciting and intimate because of the strong feelings that Jane has toward him and the liveliness that she associates with the house. Charlotte Bronte does a great job with reflecting the characters in Jane Eyre to the reader through her writing.
One very unique and interesting character is Bertha, Rochester’s insane wife. The Victorians during the nineteenth century had a fascination with health, sometimes greater than that of politics, religion, and Darwinism. They believed “an interdependent mind-body connection gained strength, and many people saw physical and mental health as being interrelated rather than separate entities,” (Sonja Mayer). According to Mayer, these attitudes of the time are reflected in Bertha’s character through her mental illness and the physical threat she puts on Rochester.
Compared to Jane, Bertha is her opposite and portrayed to the reader as a monster. Rochester “describes her as having ‘red balls’ for eyes, a ‘mask’ instead of a face, and ‘bulk’ instead of an attractive form like Jane,” (Sonja Mayer). Jane is strong in body and mind. She endured the unhealthy conditions at Lowood where many students had died and survived through cold and hunger when she had ran away from Thornfield and lived outside. Her mental strength is shown through her courage as a child with her evil aunt, bullying cousin, and hypocritical head master.
She stayed true to herself and motivated to be successful as a woman in this time despite the difficult situations these people had created for her. In contrast, Bertha is portrayed by Rochester as having “gone mad”. The Victorians would view this as a lack of mental strength. She, also, poses a threat to Rochester physically by her acts such as setting his bed on fire while he was sleeping, lunging at him and Jane in the room, and actually succeeding in burning down the house at the the end of the book. Rochester is depicted as the ideal hero of the Victorian times.
He is very romantic and charming which adds to the gothic style of this novel (Lowes). Despite his charm, there was much controversy over Rochester’s character in Victorian times. English law at the time said that a man whose wife became insane could not get a divorce. To deal with his problem, he put his wife into confinement, locked in a room with a servant to care for her. He then proceeded to almost partake in bigamy by marrying Jane. Many Victorians of the time questioned why Jane would ever go back to such a man. (http://reviewmaterials. tripod. om/english/jane_eyre. html) The character of Jane isn’t the traditional heroine of the time. In many romantic novels of the Victorian era, the heroine was beautiful. Jane is described by Charlotte as “simple and plain”. She also differs from the traditional heroine in her strength as a woman. Charlotte created a woman character that was equal to the male character. Jane is not equal in status or class, but in emotional strength and maturity. This went against society’s beliefs of the time because Victorians traditionally believed that women were not capable of strong.
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