[Adapted from Victorian Types, Victorian Shadows: Biblical Typology in Victorian Literature, Art, and Thought, 1980. Full text]
Whereas Jane's citing the death of the first-born children of Eygpt makes an explicit judgment on her own romantic idolatry, Rochester's citation of scripture demonstrates a complete lack of self-awareness. After Jane leaves her room convinced that she has disobeyed God's commandments, he tries to convince her to go away with him, and he tells her that he does not "mean to torment you with the hideous associations and recollections of Thornfield Hall — this accursed place — this tent of Achan . . . — this narrow stone hell, with its one real fiend, worse than a legion of such as we imagine" (ch. 27).
In mentioning Achan's tent, Rochester condemns himself by admitting more than he realizes, for Achan was the Israelite who disobeying God's command that no Jew should take spoil from conquered Jericho, brought disaster upon his people. When Joshua prostrates himself in the dust before God's ark, the Lord informs him that He will no longer "be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed among you" (Joshua 7:12). When Joshua urges Achan to glorify the Lord with his confession of guilt, he admits that he has hidden gold, silver, and "a goodly Babylonish garment" beneath his tent. Thereupon, the Israelites punish the source of their alienation from God and consequent military disaster by stoning Achan and his family to death and then burning their bodies. Rochester, who still refuses to see that he has done anything wrong in trying to marry Jane while his first wife still lives, believes that Thornfield Hall is a "tent of Achan" only in so far as it contains the evidence of crime. Furthermore, Rochester, who has failed to learn from the story of Achan that God punishes severely, still believes he can evade all consequences of his acts. Thus, in a manner quite common in works whose characters misapply types to themselves and their situations, Jane Eyre uses such symbolism to convict Rochester of both sin and lack of self-knowledge. By placing these contrasting citations of types within a few pages of each other, Brontë manages to define the spiritual condition of her two main characters at a crucial point in the narrative. Moreover, by having Rochester describe Thornfield in terms of stone and fire- that is, as "a narrow stone hell"- she reminds her reader of Achan's fate and, as it turns out, also makes that fate a partial type of Rochester's.
Last modified 1998