oth Carlyle and Brontë warn their readers against idolatry. Carlyle condemns the voting populace of idolatry, just as Bronte stresses the danger of Jane idolizing Rochester. However, whereas purely religious motives drive Bronte's interest in this theme of idolatry, Carlyle wishes to communicate a political message and ultimately denounce democracy.
In "Hudson's Statue" (sitemap) Carlyle questions the populace's authority to vote and the subsequent legitimacy of the elected leaders with bitter sarcasm: "Are these your. . . Great Men?" He answers for them that these leaders elected by the people are "worthy of no worship," thereby accusing the people of idolatry. They have put their faith in leaders who do not deserve worship. Carlyle continues by preaching that "our first want. . . is that of a new, real Aristocracy" to replace the poorly elected "extinct imaginary one of title." In other words, the people of England, having fallen away from God, need to direct their worship away from false idols to the real God who deserves worship. Their choice of the aristocracy, and symbolically of the populace of British statues, reveals their "horrible idolatry" of "ugly columns and images . . . of real evil"(317). Carlyle condemns the people of worshipping false gods and subtlely deems them unfit to vote because they are unable to vote for the true "God".
The controversial 1832 Reform Act, which extended the power of voting to "those lower in the social and economic scale and add 200,000 to 300,000 voters to the rolls" profoundly disturbed England, and particularly Carlyle, even twenty years later when he wrote "Hudson's Statue." Convinced that only those who could cast an educated vote should vote, Hudson pounded his fists in disapproval of the masses abusing their new right to vote. The election of these "idols" to positions convinced Carlyle that the people in general were unfit to choose a leader for themselves and that inevitably they would fall into idolatry. Therefore, Carlyle concluded that giving the people the right to vote was a mistake from the beginning. Ultimately Carlyle condemned democracy, which allowed this sort of chaos to fester and led to a government filled with ignorantly-elected officials who did not deserve to hold office.
Like many other Victorian authors, Carlyle received training in techniques of biblical interpretation, but even after abandoning faith in God "which shaped his basic attitudes toward the world of man and nature," these attitudes, as well as these learned techniques, remained ("Invented Grotesques"). Carlyle applied one of these learned techniques, called biblical typology, to his work "Hudson's Statue". As one of the great sage writers, Carlyle takes on the judgmental position reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets and condemns the people for "abandoning the ways of God" (" The Genre of Sage Writing,"), or more specifically, abandoning God in worship of false idols. After interpreting the seemingly ordinary idea of a statue for Henry Hudson in the context of a larger theme, Carlyle wins the reader over to consider, at least, his bold condemnations and assertions. Carlyle establishes a solid justification for judging. Only after developing this ethos with his readers does he proceed to reveal his opinion concerning the voting populace's idolatry.
In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë also warns man of falling away from God by worshipping false idols. However, Brontë's purpose lies simply in promoting genuine Christianity in an age in danger of losing sight of God. Unlike Carlyle, Brontë, who had not abandoned her faith in God, does not use Christianity as a means to an end, be it political or otherwise.
In Chapter XXV, Jane realizes that "my future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol" (241). Jane has made an idol of Rochester, just as the people of "Hudson's Statue" have made idols of undeserving gods rather than the true God. Brontë, then, also condemns idolatry; after Jane realizes her sin of idolizing man, she knows it is her duty as a faithful Christian to leave Rochester, so that she can again bask in the light of God. After removing her idol Rochester from obstruction of God, Jane would be able to see the Truth.
A biblical context may help the reader understand Brontë's point of view in Jane Eyre. In Exodus 20:vs. 2-5 of the Bible, God decrees the Ten Commandments, in which he declares "I am the Lord your God . . . You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I . . . am the Lord your God." Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 10: vs. 14 of the New Testament, Paul writes "Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry." Brontë's faith in the Bible and in God motivated her, then, as she wrote of Jane's struggles with idolatry.
To emphasize Jane's mistake of idolizing Rochester further, Brontë uses the point-of-view and concludes Chapter XXV from the point of view of an older, wiser Jane reflecting back on her young foolishness. Reminiscing on her past, she clearly realizes her unhealthy obsession with Rochester. The future Jane realizes that "in those days" she could not see God for her idol. No longer in the midst of those days, Jane receives authority to objectively mull over actual circumstances without the chaos and whirl of emotions. Through this point of view, Brontë herself speaks to the readers and warns of idolatry. This passage also reveals the urgent danger in which Jane has unknowingly involved herself.
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