ane Eyre ends with a spiritual revelation. The change in Rochester echoes the change in Tennyson. "You think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog" he confesses to Jane, "but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now" (p. 393). God appears at last to Rochester in the form of the fire — an instrument of "divine justice" — which destroys Thornfield (p. 393). Rochester's newly found faith and his ensuing change of character make possible his marriage with Jane. The discovery of God, then, ties together all the loose ends of the novel, fulfills true love, and closes the book with an overall affirming message that two impassioned souls can unite in marriage after all, if the Lord wills it. A couple of contrasts with Tennyson, though, seem obvious. For one, Charlotte Brontë reveals God to her readers through symbolism, whereas Tennyson finally uncovers a divine plan in the various meanings of the word "type." Secondly, Brontë has God play an interactive role in the external, material reality, whereas Tennyson must search internally for God's revelation. For him, God exists as a "far-off divine event." If Tennyson had lived in the world of Jane Eyre, he probably would have not spent so long struggling with Hallam's death.
Typology, however, is not altogether absent from Brontë's novel. This "elaborate system of foreshadowings (or anticipations) of Christ" plays a crucial role in Tennyson, as we have seen. But it also plays a part in Jane Eyre. Helen Burns acts as a typological figure just as Hallam does. Like Hallam, this precocious girl who espouses Christian doctrine and seems closer to God than any of her evangelical teachers trods the earth "ere her time was right." She is too good for the world. We can view her death as a sacrifice because it teaches Jane a powerful lesson in faith. Her tombstone reads, "Resurgam," or "I shall rise again," confirming her status as a Christ figure, as well as foreshadowing Christ's second coming (p. 72). That two works as different as In Memoriam and Jane Eyre contain the elements of typology should not surprise the reader. Typology, after all, had an "enormous influence on medieval Europe, seventeenth-century England, and Victorian Britain" ("An Introduction to In Memoriam" ). At the time of Tennyson and Brontë, it proved a fundamental principle for the Evangelical Protestants, a minority party of the Church of England but a dominant force in English life between 1789 to 1850. The Evangelicals used this system to relate Old Testament figures and events to the New Testament. Eventually typology crossed into the art and literature of the era as well, providing these forms with an "imaginatively rich iconography and particular conceptions of reality and time" ("Introduction").
Content last modified May 1994