The Realization of Passion in Jane Eyre



The Realization of Passion in Jane Eyre

It is believed that we are born with a predestined personality . Our spiritual
individuality is just as much a product of our genetic makeup as the color of our skin or
our eyes. With our soul firmly planted , we can then build upon this basis as we are
educated of the world. The social climate and cultural atmosphere shape our
personalities, however, it is the people in our lives who have the greatest influence.
Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre reveals this idea by the development of the
protagonist. Through a series of character foils , Bronte expresses her idea of
self-development and growth of the human spirit by contrasting passion with reason. By
my interpretation of the novel, Bronte suggests that in one’s life time, they will encounter
a number of people and experiences that will arouse enough emotion in them to have the
power to change their direction in life. St. John Rivers plays one of these life determining
foils to Jane Eyre. His confidence, devotion and reason intrigue Jane almost enough to
silence her inner passionate spirit , but it is the forces of nature that prove to be stronger
than human will.
The life path of a Victorian woman was somewhat limited in it’s direction and
expression of individuality. Jane Eyre strongly adheres to the Victorian morality which
was dominated by the Anglican party of the Church of England in which passion and
emotion were kept concealed. Jane’s instinct for asserting herself was stifled at an early
age and could only be expressed through defiance. The defiant declaration of
independence from Mrs. Reed , “You are deceitful”,(v.i.37) gives Jane the power of
freedom and opens up a life of “unhoped-for liberty”,(v.i.37).
Through the preceding years Jane develops into a highly educated, well spoken
and strong willed woman . She is taught to be patient and thoughtful during her years in
Lowood , and is introduced to the emotions of the heart and spirit in meeting Rochester.
Bronte makes an emphasis on the spiritual and supernatural atmosphere of
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Thornfield. The reference to the “Gytrash” and the mystical atmosphere she illustrates of
their first meeting in the woods (v.i.113) could suggest that she is playing upon natural
imagery and allusions to express the idea that Jane and Rochester are a destined, yet
mysterious match of the souls. “ I knew ...you would do me good in some way... I saw it
in your eyes when I first beheld you,” Rochester tells Jane. (v.i.152) and the use of the
repeated references to fire foreshadow and symbolize their growing passion for each
other. However, it is the symbolic interpretation of the lightning striking the
horse-chestnut tree in half that hints that their love will not evolve without a crisis.
( v.ii.259)
It is this crisis that throws Jane into the life of the Rivers family . Moor House and
the values of the Rivers are the mirror image of Thornfield. Where Thornfield was
mystical and romantic , Moor House has a comfortable and domestic setting. Jane’s
instant rapport with the “ spontaneous, genuine, genial compassion”, of Mary, Diana and
St. John allow her to feel at ease and safe. The contrast between Rochester and St. John
play a major part in the development of Jane’s self-fulfillment.
It is in Jane’s description of the two men that the reader gets the most tangible
picture of their contrasts. Bronte uses words such as “wild” and “moody” to describe
Rochester, whereas St. John is “compressed, condensed and controlled”, (v.iii.356).
A disciplined and educated missionary, he is focused on his one devotion and remains
static through-out the novel. His ambition drives him and does not believe in the
importance of revealing emotions. As Jane comes to know him , she senses that ,like her,
he seems to be not at peace. They are both restless and seeking the greater power that
rules them; for St. John it is judgment, for Jane it is passion.
Jane’s admiration of St. John is of his thirst for knowledge and his unresting
mind. She has the utmost respect for him and his devotion, and learns diligently and
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faithfully under him . However, it is in the contrasts between them that we see the true
nature of Jane. St. John’s moral beliefs suggest that he fears his own sexuality and views
female sexuality as a threat to his purity of vision.(Diedrick 1993) This is