Both Jane Eyre and Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" have ties to a notion prominent in England in the nineteenth century: emotionalist moral philosophy. This belief underscored the importance of sympathy in human dealings. In Victorian times, the word 'sympathy" possessed a "magical significance" and meant, not feelings of pity, but a "particular mixture of emotional perception and emotional communication" . Because of the writings of such philosophers as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Adam Smith, the revolutionary idea that emotions share equal rule with reason soon supplanted the classical hierarchy of reason dominating the will and passions. In the minds of most writers and philosophers, emotions became the basis of moral beings. The sympathetic imagination, "whose job it is to make us feel the effects of our actions upon others," should guide people's actions. While Jane Eyre affirms this belief, Carroll's rhyme calls it into question. Not until Rochester feels the hurt his selfishness has caused Jane does he find redemption. The Walrus and the Carpenter, on the other hand, continue their acts of cruelty, whether they feel sorry for the oysters or not.
Last modified 25 November 2004