Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is another classic of nineteenth century English literature. The story opens with the orphaned young girl, Jane, fleeing her abusive and tyrannical family members who have taken her in after being orphaned. She flees to a new world with new possibilities and becomes a student and teacher before venturing off again and meets Mr. Rochester at Thornfield Hall.
There the two have a brooding romance. Rochester, much older than Jane, uses his age and experience to gaud the young and naïve Jane. They are both madly in love and Rochester proposes. However, Jane learns that Rochester is married to an insane woman still alive in Thornfield’s attic: Bertha. Feeling betrayed, yet again, she flees Thornfield and nearly dies as a wandering beggar until taken in by a missionary clergyman St. John Eyre Rivers and his sisters (who are related to Jane, unbeknownst to her at the time).
With the Rivers family Jane finally has some sense of a family life that she has always sought. She loves Diana and Mary but doesn’t love, in an erotic sense, St. John. St. John proposes to Jane and wants her to be his companion wife as he goes to India. She rejects. Jane wants passionate love. This enrages St. John. Jane leaves yet again and realizes she has always loved Rochester and returns to Thornfield.
Thornfield, however, is now in ruins. She meets a burned and blind man who tells her what happened. She realizes it is Rochester. Bertha burned down Thornfield and Rochester lost an arm and became blind trying to save her and others. “Am I hideous, Jane?” he asks. “Very, sir; you always were, you know,” Jane replies. Rochester proposes again. Jane accepts. Jane marries and has the family she was denied. The birth of her child restores sight and life to Rochester in a symbolic resurrection. The Rivers’ sisters and Jane and Rochester see each other frequently and St. John writes of his missionary work in India, eventually dying but having reconciled with Jane. What began in orphanage and loneliness ends in love and family. Forgiveness and compassion, Charlotte Brontë implies, is what brings life into the world. Case and point: Jane and Rochester and their child.
Hesiod, Paul Krause in real life, is the editor-in-chief of VoegelinView. He is writer, classicist, and historian. He has written on the arts, culture, classics, literature, philosophy, religion, and history for numerous journals, magazines, and newspapers. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love and the Politics of Plato, and a contributor to the College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Diseases, Disasters, and Political Theory. He holds master’s degrees in philosophy and religious studies (biblical studies & theology) from the University of Buckingham and Yale, and a bachelor’s degree in economics, history, and philosophy from Baldwin Wallace University.
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