‘Above all, Jane Eyre is a love story’
How far do you agree and in what ways do you agree with this view?
There is no doubt that the theme of love is prevalent throughout Jane Eyre. However, Bronte seems to place more emphasis on Jane establishing her true identity and creating herself as an individual in a society that presents many obstacles on her way to achieve this. Jane Eyre is a journey of selfhood, and love is used more as a challenge to this quest that Jane eventually masters.
Jane doesn’t find romantic love until she meets Mr Rochester. However, from their very first meeting it is clear that the central issue is the differences between their positions in society. Jane is ...view middle of the document...
Jane points out that Rochester may intend to marry Blanche ‘for family; perhaps political reasons; because her rank and connections suited him’. Mrs Fairfax encapsulates the injustice nature of the Victorian era when she tells Jane: ‘Gentleman in his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses’ and also: ‘Equality of position and fortune is often advisable in such cases’. Jane is neither equivalent to Mr Rochester in position nor fortune. Although she is equal to Rochester on an intellectual level, their love for each other at this point cannot materialise because of Jane’s low position in society and the fact that she has no money to her name. Before Rochester’s proposal, Bronte is much more concerned more about the injustice nature of society, as opposed to the painful experience felt by Jane because of the depth of her love for Rochester, as she witnesses the growing relationship between him and Blanche Ingram.
Even when Mr Rochester proposes to Jane there is still an element of inequality and mastery which is predominant right up until Jane leaves him. There is certainly no feeling of love, as Bronte creates the impression that Rochester still physically masters Jane; when shopping for dresses in Millcoate, the language that Bronte uses powerfully suggests Rochester’s ownership of Jane: ‘chain’, ‘circlet’, ‘clasp’, ‘load’ and the possessive ‘my Jane’. Rochester also tells Jane that ‘all the ground I have wandered over shall be re-trodden by you’. These images, as Diane Roberts highlights in ‘Jane Eyre Revolutionary’, all signify that Rochester is trying to morph Jane into an ideal that she clearly doesn’t want to be, and until he recognises that Jane is not a ‘doll’ whom he can control, they cannot be equals. Even before the wedding, Jane describes Rochester holding her with an ‘iron grip’ to suggest the power over which Rochester has over Jane. It is clear that Bronte has stripped away the love and romance from the relationship to highlight the fact that Jane and Rochester cannot possibly marry as unequal as they both are.