harlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre epitomizes the spirit of a passionate heroine, desperately trying to reconcile her desire for love and acceptance with the religious and social doctrines of the Victorian era: "I was experiencing an ordeal: a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness burning! Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved, and him who thus loved me I absolutely worshiped: and I must renounce love and idol. One dread word comprised my intolerable duty — 'Depart!'" Throughout Jane Eyre, images help Brontë o portray Jane's passion as wicked. The relation of these facets to contemporary religious standards creates a compelling picture of feminine growth and morality.
Although Brontë attempts to show Jane's passionate nature as wicked, it is Jane's passion that creates her vivid and commanding personality. From the time of her childhood at Gateshead, Jane displayed a strong, unweilding constitution and an emotional nature. For example, after the incident of John's attacking her with a book, Jane comments, "my blood was still warm; the mood of the revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigor." As Jane grows into an adolescent, she again finds herself involved in very deep and conflicting emotions. Vivid metaphors and image such as this one of fire, which also create the passionate nature of the work, and drag the reader deeper into the narrative. "Fiery iron" and "blackness and burning" are both used to illustrate Jane's emotions at this point. Visions of fire also link Jane to Bertha. Both characters are repeatedly involved with fire, especially in regards to Rochester, relating either to an internal "fiery" passion or through the physical setting of a fire.
Fire imagery permeates the three characters that tell Rochester's tale about the early days of his marriage, in the bedroom blaze which Jane saved Rochester from, in the language that both Rochester and Jane use in describing their emotions towards each other, and in the final fire that destroyed Thornfield Hall, crippled Rochester, and killed Bertha. The image of fire might symbolize signifying first sinfulness, then rebirth. Since the passionate love that Rochester and Jane first held was sinful, it was accompanied by images of fire and
burning--possibly a portrait of Hell. After Jane leaves Thornfield, and her "burning" desires for Rochester are somewhat subdued, the next and final image of fire occurs. In the fire that destroyed Thornfield, Rochester proved his worthiness to Jane by attempting to save Bertha from the blaze. A feat that indicated that he had tempered his "burning" passions regarding Jane and Bertha and atoned for the wrongs that he had perpetrated on the women in his life. Shortly thereafter, Jane and Rochester reunited and each proved to be reborn, Jane after undergoing her own final period of personal and spiritual growth, and Rochester after facing his vices and rescinding his sinful nature.
Brontë, though ocasionally critical of religion in Jane Eyre, still strong adheres to Victorian morality. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, English life was dominated by the views of the Anglican party of the Church of England and its several dissenting denominations. They formed the dogmas that were to serve as the backbone of Victorian life. In Brontë's subtle condemnation of the passionate and lustful natures of Jane and Rochester, she adheres to evangelical doctrines which strongly advocated moral purity and zealous promotion of spiritually related causes. Contemporary religion and morality and her own strong beliefs, Brontë tempered the passionate nature of her novel by continuously revealing that heated emotions only led to ruin. Both Jane and Rochester were subjected to emotional and spiritual purgatory for their immorality and the pair was allowed solace only after achieving spiritual rebirth.
Content last modified 1993