Perfection and Darkness: Choice in Jane Eyre

analytical Essay
3094 words
3094 words

Perfection and Darkness: Choice in Jane Eyre

When reading Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, I find myself cheering for Rochester. After finishing the book, I ask myself why Jane chooses Rochester over St. John. After all, Rochester has a "mad" wife, Bertha Mason, locked in the attic of Thornfield Hall at the same time that he is proposing marriage to Jane. He has a ward living with him, possibly the offspring of an illicit affair with a French dancer. He is arrogant, pushy, and basically ill-tempered. St. John, on the other hand, is well mannered, respected, and has a promising future. To answer my own question, then, it is essential to look at how each man fits the idea of masculinity in Victorian society, at how each man relates to Jane, and at why Bronte creates her two leading men to be such extreme opposites.

St. John Rivers exhibits all of the qualities of a respectable Victorian man. His father "was a plain man enough; but a gentleman, and of as ancient a family as could be found" (Bronte 383). St. John's father, although a gentleman, had lost a great deal of money "by a man he had trusted turning bankrupt" (384). In short, St. John's station in life is one of a gentleman, although he lacks an inheritance of any kind. As he describes himself to Jane, "since I am poor and obscure, I can offer you but a service of poverty and obscurity... for I find that, when I have paid my father's debts, all the patrimony remaining to me will be this crumbling grange" (395-396). St. John sees his financial situation as a virtue. It is obvious that his financial situation does not distress him; he still goes to college and becomes a minister. In his account of his personal life he leaves out nothing. His past is known, an...

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...ropriety of the typical Victorian man.

Works Cited

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. Michael Mason. London: Penguin, 1996.

Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and The Nineteenth-Centurv Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

Harmon, William, and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996.

Peterson, M. Jeanne. "The Victorian Governess: Status Incongruence in Family and Society." Suffer and Be Still: Women in the Victorian Age. Ed. Martha Vicinus. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973.

Roberts, Helene E. "Marriage, Redundancy or Sin: The Painter's View of Women in the First Twenty-Five Years of Victoria's Reign." Suffer and Be Still: Women in the Victorian Age. Ed. Martha Vicinus. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how bronte creates her two leading men to be extreme opposites in victorian society.
  • Analyzes how st. john rivers exhibits all of the qualities of a respectable victorian man. his father was plain, but had lost money, and his place in victorian society was secure.
  • Explains that st. john's social standing is not the only feature that makes him the perfect victorian man. his physical demeanor denotes the victorian ideas of strength and honor.
  • Analyzes how bronte places st. john on a divine level by describing him as greek god, but she is careful not to raise him fully to that level, because it would forfeit his christian humility.
  • Analyzes how st. john's warm, generous, and charitable ways seem genuine when he rescues jane. jane describes him as "incommunicative, reserved, abstracted, [with] a brooding nature."
  • Analyzes how helene e. roberts points out the stoicism expected of men at the time by citing the painting woman's mission: companion of manhood.
  • Analyzes how the man's upper lip curled a moment, his mouth compressed, and the lower part of his face unusually stem and square.
  • Analyzes how st. john's stoicism and restraint, as well as his social position and statuesque physical appearance, help to make him a model of the ideal victorian man.
  • Analyzes how bronte borrows on the victorian ideal to create her stoic hero, st. john rivers, so edward rochester is left as the anti-hero.
  • Analyzes how the man's jetty eyebrows, square forehead, decisive nose, grim mouth, chin, and jaw matched his physiognomy. he was broad and thin, but neither tall nor graceful.
  • Analyzes how rochester's physical description is darker, almost sinister, when compared to st. john’s golden demeanor. his lack of physical beauty humanizes him.
  • Analyzes how rochester realizes that he is not the statuesque beauty ideal for victorian men like st. john. his arrogance, along with his overwhelming passions, has earned him the description used by many scholars.
  • Analyzes how the two prominent male characters in jane eyre are meant to be complete opposites. they differ socially, physically, and emotionally, but the largest disparity comes in their relation to jane.
  • Analyzes how jane's friendship with st. john transforms from passive to active. jane refuses to marry rosamond because it interferes with his missionary work. bronte makes an obvious statement about christian faith by punishing jane
  • Analyzes how edward rochester is the antihero of jane eyre. he is physically imperfect and more emotionally substantial than his victorian foil.
  • Analyzes how the two marriage proposals show a trait common between the suitors: both men are manipulators. st. john is manipulating jane to serve his career and keep up social appearances, while rochester manipulates in the hopes of finding real love.
  • Analyzes how rochester sweeps jane up with a passion of which st. john is incapable, but there is something else that aids him: equality.
  • Opines that they can set you on your task from hour to hour; stand by you always; help you from moment to moment. in the village school, they found you could perform well, punctually, upright, and labor uncongenial to your habits and inclinations.
  • Analyzes how charlotte bronte sympathizes with jane, who realizes that a marriage of utility is not one of equality and love. st. john's greatest compliment to jane is that she is "docile, diligent, disinterested, faithful, constant, and courageous."
  • Analyzes how the noblest qualities of edward rochester are his willingness to see jane as his equal.
  • Analyzes how charlotte bronte advocates equal status in marriage. jane refuses st. john because of his blinding christian ambition and strict victorian ideals. edward rochester's passion and sensuality is preferable to the staunch propriety of the victorian man.
  • Describes the works of charlotte bronte, jane eyre, and sandra gubar. the madwoman in the attic: the woman writer and the nineteenth-centurv literary imagination.
  • Explains that roberts, helene e., "marriage, redundancy or sin: the painter's view of women in the first twenty-five years of victoria’s reign."
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