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onceptions of ideal love come under scrutiny in Jane Eyre, which, like Tennyson's "Tithonus," presents a character who strives for immortality; both writers establish a framework in which the ideal of immortality comes into conflict with a keen awareness of mortality: inevitable physical death. In Jane Eyre Brontë explores immortality using a different progression. Idealized human characters pre-configure the afterlife, particularly Helen Burns and St. John Rivers. The subject of immortality especially refers to the missionary Rivers. Often, Jane's own down-to-earth sensibility functions as foil for this immortal character type. She feels drawn to this ideal essentially from the moment she arrives. Yet, immortality, as embodied in Rivers, never evokes images of warmth during Jane's stay at Marsh End. From the beginning, Brontë casts this ideal in cold imagery.

Unlike Tithonus, Jane seemingly resists this Faustian quest for immortality. Why, then did Brontë write the final two paragraphs of Jane Eyre, in which Jane speaks with effusive warmth of this cold, unkind image of immortal man? In the end, it seems that Tithonus turns his focus back towards life on earth and Jane gets lost in idealized interpretations of human experience.


Website Overview Charlotte Brontë

Content last modified May 1994