assion fills Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Jane's relationship with Mr. Rochester overflows with emotions — both joyful and sad. By creating an emotional see-saw from the encounters between Jane and Rochester, the novelist indicates that these intense emotions define true love. Brontë's emphasis on the importance of passion in a good relationship adheres to some of the doctrines of the Evangelical religion, which dominated the Victorian age. This branch of Protestantism stressed imagination, intensity and emotion prompted by the "necessity of emotional comprehension of one's own innate depravity and Christ's redeeming sacrifice"( "Evangelical Protestantism"). Under this influence, emotions became a proper subject for the arts ("Emotionalist Moral Philosophy,"). Jane's initial reaction to the interest of a man indicates the level of passion (and thus of true love) she is experiencing.
When St. John asks Jane to marry him, she replies calmly and thinks: "But as his wife--at his side always, and always restrained, and always checked--forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital--this would be unendurable" (359). Clearly St. John does not meet Brontë's standards for true love, since Jane's passion would dwindle and die if she married him. When Rochester first shows indications of affection to Jane, the reaction is quite different. Not only does Jane's passion consume her, but Rochester similarly intense emotion. "'I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their expression and smile did not (again he stopped) did not (he proceeded hastily) strike delight to my very inmost heart for nothing....My cherished preserver, good night' Strange energy was in his voice, strange fire in his look" (133). In this passage, the reader can almost hear Rochester stumble over his words and gasp for breath as he tries to restrain his feelings for Jane. The key element of the encounter, however, reveals itself in Jane's overwhelmingly emotional response.
To intensify the significance of Jane's reaction, Brontë uses a metaphor to liken Jane's intense happiness and simultaneous confusion with the tossing and uncertain voyage of a ship. Jane slips from joy to insecurity and back, just as one might toss back and forth in a turbulent sea. "I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning dawned, I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy. I thought sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah; and now and then a refreshing gale wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the bourne; but I could not reach it, even in fancy, a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove me back. Sense would resist delirium, judgment would warn passion" ( 133). The intensity of this passage makes clear not only Jane's love for Rochester, but that the match would be a good one (according to Brontë) since neither party feels compelled to hide or restrain the passion within them.
Content last modified December 1993