he radically different tones of "Tithonus" and Jane Eyre perhaps result from competing philosophies prevalent in the nineteenth-century England. New theories on evolution, for instance, might account for the feelings of despair in "Tithonus." These new scientific theories, which "displaced man's world from the center of the universe," overturned conventional Christian beliefs and made man's existence seem rather trivial. With time and space now immeasurable, man was about as significant as grasshoppers. The myth of Tithonus, then, was a fitting subject for the time. In contrast, Brontë expounds Christian beliefs in spite of these scientific changes. Although Jane Eyre frequently attacks the hard-headed and uncaring Evangelicals like Brocklehurst, Brontë nevertheless seems deeply affected by some Evangelical beliefs, which spread quickly in England between 1789 and 1850. The Evangelicals, for instance, denounced the importance of church rituals and doctrines for salvation, preferring instead "personal conversion based on emotional, imaginative comprehension of one's own innate depravity and Christ's redeeming sacrifice". This is just the kind of conversion that Rochester experiences. The optimism of this belief, in which the individual controls his own salvation, flies in the face of evolutionary theory. It declares each person's significance and therefore confronts the scientific changes of the time.
Last modified 1996