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lthough it somehow sounds commonplace, Jane Eyre and In Memoriam are love stories: tales of kinship, affection, suffering and loss. Jane Eyre's relationship with Edward Rochester is the central organizing relationship of the novel, likewise for Tennyson and Hallam. Both writers employ biblical typology in relation to the objects of the protagonists' desire. Both Tennyson and Brontë use typological imagery and depict tensions in human relations; yet they do so with strikingly different effects, exploring the stress which mortality (Hallam) and fallibility (Rochester) place upon these relationships. Tennyson transforms Hallam, of course, into a sacred or prophetical type. Though Hallam was a real person, his essential being is transformed here into an idealized, almost mythic representation of a human being.

The application of typological imagery to Edward Rochester is entirely different. As Landow notes, "Rochester's misapplication of scriptural texts exemplifies a far more common use in fiction of prefigurative symbolism" (Victorian Types, Ch. 3). Rochester, then, is anything but idealized. His dubious religiosity provides a subtext for the novel which orients the reader greatly towards a contrary application of typological imagery. These differences in the use of biblical typology are central to the respective writers' resolutions of this relationship conflict. Tennyson writes In Memoriam to trace the complex path of his crisis of faith over the death of Hallam. The return from doubt requires the formulation of a unique conception of the cosmos. Such uses of typology occur directly in response to the scientific and religious climate of the time.

Brontë, who also desires to understand human existence, makes a different imaginative leap to express her beliefs. She seems more philosophically divided on this subject in the end because although Jane situates her resolution of the conflict here on Earth, she is pulled by the more ideal type, evinced in St. John Rivers, towards a "heaven-centered" conception of the cosmos.


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Content last modified May 1994