lthough Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre seem to differ in almost every aspect, both include scenes in which a young girl encounters an older man falling off a horse. In these scenes the proud man humbles himself to the girl and gains her sympathy. The scenes exemplify relationships atypical relationships between men and women that contrast with the stereotype of the Victorian gentleman.
Carroll and Brontë demonstrate how the humbling of a man makes him more desirable for women. In Through the Looking Glass, a knight tries to take Alice as a prisoner and falls off of his horse. She feels sorry for the him and worries that he might be injured, but it does not occur to her that he could harm her. She notices only the knight's good qualities. When Rochester falls off of his horse in Jane Eyre, Jane reacts similarly. She helps the larger and stronger Rochester. Both girls, who feel compassion for the men they encounter, consider the humbled man as a person rather than a threat.
The speech, actions, and descriptions of the knight and Rochester illustrate their characters. The knight approaches Alice aggressively, but his repeated attempt to capture Alice despite his fall show his foolishness and harmlessness. His cry of "Ahoy! Ahoy! Check!" seems amusing and silly. The description of the knight's "kindly smile" and "mild blue eyes" increase his appeal. Rochester appears as a more sombre character, and his constant questioning reveals his hostile nature while his command over his dog and his effort to stand on his injured foot show us his power. Jane describes him as having a "dark face, with stern features and a heavy brow", which make him seem even more domineering.
Neither the knight nor Rochester conform to the ideal of the model Victorian gentleman, who showed patience, tenderness, and concern towards others. He tried to avoid being an inconvenience to others and concerned himself with making those around him feel comfortable and at home. ("Newman on the Gentleman"). By trying to take Alice prisoner, the knight more than inconveniences her, while Rochester's aggressive questioning of Alice hardly seems tender. Both men behave in an assertive fashion which was uncharacteristic of gentlemen of the time. Both books show that arrogance and pretentiousness attracts women much less than a humble honest character. Rochester and the knight become likable only after they have been humbled. Carroll and Brontë reveal in a small way the need for equality between men and women in successful relationships.
Content last modified December 1993